Mental Health Care Plan: What Is It, Why Do You Need It, And How Do You Get One From Your GP?

Do you have persistent feelings of sadness, worry, uneasiness, or hopelessness? You may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder. The good news is you’re far from alone in this — one in five Australians live with anxiety or depression in 2023, making mental health care one of the biggest challenges we face as a unified community.

The most important step to navigating your mental health journey is seeking support and getting a personalised Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP). Getting a Mental Health Care Plan starts with something as simple as going to your trusted GP, and can make a huge difference to your state of mind, overall wellbeing, and day-to-day living — not just in the short term, but for the rest of your life.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about Mental Health Care Plans and how to get one from your local GP. We’ll answer the following questions:

What Is A Mental Health Care Plan?

A mental health care plan (or mental health treatment plan, MH plan, GP MHTP) is a document that your GP writes with you about treating a mental health condition.

It identifies what type of health care you will require and details what you and your doctor have agreed you are aiming to achieve.

FYI, in case you were wondering, this is what the document looks like.

Your GP will fill it out with you during your consultation.

A GP mental health treatment plan allows you to claim up to 10 sessions each calendar year with a Medicare registered mental health professional. This means that your GP may refer you to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or occupational therapist for an initial 6 sessions, with the possibility of 4 further sessions after a review.

For example, your GP may refer you for 6 sessions to see a psychologist for your anxiety. After Medicare rebate, you will be out-of-pocket $147.10 per counselling session when seeing a New Vision Psychology psychologist instead of $240 out-of-pocket.

After the first six sessions with Medicare rebates with your chosen mental health professional (e.g., clinical psychologist, social worker, group therapy), you can revisit your GP for a mental health review. They will assess your progress and, if required, refer you for 4 further sessions. They are Medicare-subsidised psychological consultations.

What Support Can I Get?

Mental health covers a broad range of things. Most mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, coping with substance abuse and suicide prevention, are covered in our mental health services Australia (click here to see the full range of services our psychologists offer).

Specifically under the scheme, the Better Access initiative covers receiving professional help for the following mental health issues:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Grief and loss
  • Panic disorders
  • Phobia
  • Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
  • Eating Disorders (such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating)
  • Sleeping problems
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug addiction
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Sexual disorders
  • Conduct disorder
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Co-occurring anxiety and depression

Please contact us for more information – our team is available to provide guidance and assistance on your mental health disorder.

If you already have a mental health treatment plan, contact us on 1300 001 778 to make an appointment with us.

How Do I Get A GP Mental Health Care Plan?

For individuals with a mental health condition, you and your doctor can create a mental health treatment plan to manage it and its symptoms.

Your mental health treatment plan will have goals agreed by you and your doctor. It will also detail treatment options and extra support services you may access (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, social workers).

To do this, you will need to:

  1. Make an appointment – when making an appointment with your doctor tell the receptionist that the appointment is for a mental health treatment plan. This will allow your doctor to set enough time for your appointment.
  2. See a GP – any general practitioner in Australia can write a mental health treatment plan with you. You can specify with the receptionist if you would prefer a male doctor or a female GP.
  3. Bring your Medicare card 
  4. Bring ID – if you are a new patient so that you can be set up in their system.
  5. Speak to your GP – discuss your symptoms, how you feel, what has been concerning you, and what you feel has affected your life. Your doctor may ask you to come back for a second consultation before deciding whether a mental health treatment plan is the right thing for you.

Once your doctor has given you a mental health care treatment plan or other General Practice referral, it means that you and your doctor agree on the type of care you will need to meet your needs and that you agree to seek support. This might also include a referral to another professional doctor in your local area that your GP recommends.

How Is A MHCP Different From A GP Referral?

A GP Referral explains to us why you are being referred, what type of treatment plan you are on (Initial, Review or Better Access) and the number of sessions you are eligible for with a psychologist (4, 6 or 10).

The referral also includes details of your GP, their provider number and signature. Your MHCP is not valid without these.

A Mental Health Care Plan features specific sections for the GP to fill out regarding your medical history and circumstances. It also specifies the Medicare item number, which tells your practitioner whether this is your initial mental health treatment plan or a review. It should be dated and signed by the GP.

How Much Does A MHCP Cost?

Most of the time, mental health treatment plans are free to get if a GP or Medical Centre is completely Medicare covered. With Medicare, some costs, like seeing certain specialists or other health professionals, can be rebated, as they will be charged separately. Your doctor will inform you of any costs when you get a Mental Health Care Plan. If you are unsure of what fees you may incur, consult your doctor.

Who Is Eligible For A Mental Health Treatment Plan?

A Mental Health Treatment Plan is available to those with a mental health disorder diagnosed by health professionals. This includes children, teenagers and adults alike.

Will The GP Select A Psychologist For Me Or Can I Choose One Afterwards

The GP may refer you to a psychologist nearby to treat your mental health issue, but you are welcome to conduct your own research.

Even if the referral has someone else’s name on it, you can still take that referral to a psychologist that you choose.

How Long Does A MHCP Last?

The Mental Health Care Plan provides you with up to 10 sessions that will be partially covered by Medicare per calendar year.

You will not receive all ten sessions at once, after six sessions, you will see your GP to get a mental health care plan review and they can refer you for more sessions if required. This is because a MHCP referral covers up to six mental health sessions at a time.

What Happens If I Got One Last Year But Didn’t Go See A Psychologist? Do They Expire?

A mental health care plan does not expire and a referral is valid until the referred number of sessions have been used up.

From the beginning of the calendar year, your MHCP resets to 10 further rebatable sessions. If you have a valid MHCP, you will be able to continue with your treatment without a new plan.

During your mental health treatment plan, your doctor may review your plan and update it according to your situation. Your doctor may provide you with an updated referral letter and maintain the original plan.

When Do I Need To Get A New MHCP?

Significant changes in your mental health may indicate that you need a new treatment plan. Your care plan should be regularly reviewed to ensure it is meeting your needs for mental health services.

How often a new plan is needed depends on the health care professionals involved. Mental health care treatment plans may be prepared every 12 months, and reviewed after three or six months by a doctor.

How Can I See How Many Sessions I Have Remaining?

To see your remaining sessions, login to your MyGov account and open your Medicare account. Go to “History and statements” and click “Medicare claims history”, and this will show your claims history.

I Need Support Right Now

You can call any of the following crisis lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

Need Help Finding The Right Psychologist For You?

New Vision Psychology can help with 5 convenient locations across Sydney