Should I see a psychologist online? (August 2020 edition)

This article is to help you decide whether to see a psychologist online, in Australia, given the COVID-19 situation in late August 2020. It’s not about “is online therapy any good” — it is good and we’ve talked about that in other posts. This is about “can I afford it”.

First, if you can afford to pay for psychology without Medicare’s help then you can skip this discussion and just do it. Paying privately for psychology is often a wise decision that gives you a lot of value for your money, in terms of improving the quality of your life. If you can afford it, you should take advantage of your fortunate situation.

Second, if you’re in Victoria or you’ve had to self-isolate, skip to the end of the post. You can access extra help that makes this much easier.

If you need Medicare rebates to make psychology affordable, here’s what you’ll need to think about:

  • how many sessions might it take for me to improve?
  • how much do I want the option of having some sessions in person?
  • do I live in Victoria, or have I had to self-isolate since June 2020?

Because as it stands, Medicare will give rebates for online psychology the same as in-person sessions. But they’ve only allowed this up to 30 September 2020. They will probably extend, but there are no guarantees.

Here are some of your options:

Cram as much therapy as you can into September

There are still five-ish weeks to go. If you get moving, you can probably fit 6 sessions into that time. That’s enough to make serious progress on some kinds of mental health issues. Especially if you do work on your own between sessions.

You might have to change psychologists in October, if you still need support and the government doesn’t extend rebates for online sessions. Think about whether you’re ok with that. If you’re in the middle of a lot of psychological work, it can be distressing to have to explain all your stuff to someone new.

There are plenty of good psychologists, so you’ll still be supported if you have to change to a new one. Use this to your advantage by learning as much as you can from one psychologist, then getting a fresh perspective from a second psychologist if you still need help.

Postpone your sessions until the government announces something

If you need some certainty about post-October mental health support, you can wait a bit before starting treatment. Especially if your situation is complex or you’ve had issues for a long time, this could be you.

Don’t just kick the can down the road! This is not an excuse to do nothing now and make your mental health October’s problem. Use this time to look for psychologists who you might want to see, if and when online sessions are extended. Talk to them and figure out which psychologists seem like a good match for you.

It’s good to talk to psychologists who you don’t end up seeing for whatever reason. It’s not a waste of time. You learn something about psychology, and something about yourself, every time you do it. It helps you feel like you’re in control of your mental health situation.

Look for a psychologist who you can see online now and in-person later

This one can be tricky. Online sessions have been great because they’re not-only COVID-safe, but they let you choose from the best psychologists all over Australia, not just the best psychologist within driving distance.

A way to make this work is to expand how far you’re willing to travel. An hour’s drive might be too far if it’s every appointment, but easier to deal with if most of your sessions are online.

Get extra help if you’ve had to self-isolate

If you’ve had to self-isolate since June 2020 you can get online sessions until at least March 2021, and you can have an extra 10 sessions this calendar year.

This probably applies to everyone in Victoria as well as a few people in other parts of Australia. Getting a total of 20 sessions in calendar year 2020 will help you make serious progress on your issues, and deal with COVID stuff much better.

Note that “had to self-isolate” has a definition from the government. Things like quarantined after travel, possible exposure, suburb went into lockdown. Not, unfortunately, things like choosing to stay home to protect your elderly relatives etc.


The rules and regulations for Medicare rebates for psychology are changing all the time. We’re keeping pace with the changes so we can give you fresh and current advice about how to get affordable psychology support.

If you need to find a good psychologist to help you anywhere in Australia, fill out the quiz and let us know what you need. We’ll help you narrow down the thosands of options, cut the confusion, and find just the right support.

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