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Mental health patients forgoing vital sessions

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

Psychology Melbourne psychologist Jill Wright

A Victorian psychologist fears mental health patients are missing out on invaluable group sessions because many GPs don’t know they exist.

Psychology Melbourne director and principal psychologist Jill Wright said only 2.5 per cent of the 200 GPs the psychology practice surveyed in the past two years were aware their patients are entitled to 10 group sessions as well as their 10 counselling sessions in a calendar year.

“At the moment they are referring them for individual counselling and they are not referring them for anything else,” she said.

“GPs need to say - go and do a couple of classes and see how you feel. It can be a forward step into the whole area.”

Ms Wright said group sessions are
often wrongly considered to be group therapy but are actually psycho-education classes covering topics ranging from stress management to preventing self-sabotage, and men, sex and the internet.

“Most people are afraid of group sessions because they think it’s group therapy but that’s old fashioned,” she said.

“Today’s group sessions are psycho-educational and skills training – you leave your personal issues for individual counselling.”

Ms Wright said group classes, which include a PowerPoint presentation, a trained psychologist and an opportunity for questions and answers, offer a range of benefits, from enabling people to continue to work on themselves once completing their individual sessions while also helping to free up more time in the individual sessions.

“It’s a really valuable, effective way for people to start working on themselves,” she said.

“A lot of what you talk about in private individual sessions could be covered in group classes.

“It can also accelerate their counselling. Some people get more out of classes than the individual sessions.”

Under the Federal Government’s Better Access initiative, mental health patients receive subsidised access to mental health practitioners through Medicare.

Ms Wright said only a small number of private institutions and hospitals offer the group sessions due to the high work-load involved.

“Not many psychologists bother with them because they are a lot of work to do a group. We are one of the few private practices that offer them,” she said.

“It is such a valuable help to the client.”
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