Jump to content

Types of health professionals

On this page
On this page
On this page
On this page

There are many types of health professionals who may be involved in your treatment, and it’s important to know the differences of what they offer. 

Face-to-face options can vary from: 

  • appointments in person, online, or via telehealth with your GP to share what’s happening and to discuss your options 
  • referral from your GP to a psychologist or psychiatrist, which can also be via telehealth or face-to-face 
  • local or online community support groups, peer support, group programs and other support services 
  • accessing state or territory community mental health services 
  • in rare circumstances, in-hospital care.  

The level of support you need will determine the type of service and health professional that will be best suited to you.  

The following health professionals can provide an initial mental health assessment and help you plan your next steps. You may be able to access them for free or at low cost, though private services often incur a larger out-of-pocket fee.  
Learn more about costs for different services.

General practitioners (GPs) 

A GP can help with an initial assessment, offer advice and treatment options, provide referrals for more specialised care if you need it, and help you plan your next steps. You will likely discuss your medical history, current symptoms, and your support network with your GP, as well as how you’re going with your treatment plan at future appointments. 

Your GP can help you prepare a mental health treatment plan. This can provide a referral for Medicare-subsidised sessions with a psychologist. 

If healthcare costs are a concern for you, tell your GP. They can consider any free or low-cost services available in your community. The availability of low-cost appointments varies by location, so it’s worth asking your GP what help you might be eligible for.  

It can be helpful to find a GP and GP practice you are comfortable with and who you can return to for ongoing care. Seeing the same GP or GPs within the same practice means they get to know you well and are better able to support you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your current GP about your mental health, you can make an appointment with another one at the same practice, or find a new practice. You can also contact a service you would like to access and ask them how their services work.  

Learn more about how to prepare for your first appointment



A psychologist can help with assessment, diagnosis and treatment for a broad range of mental health challenges. They will usually conduct a series of therapy sessions, and may ask you detailed questions about your life, relationships, and wellbeing. They will use this information to work with you to develop treatment strategies and monitor your progress.

You will most likely see a psychologist following a referral from your GP. This is usually part of a mental health treatment plan, which allows you to access Medicare-subsidised sessions. Medicare subsidies are higher for sessions with a clinical psychologist than one who is generally registered. Clinical psychologists specifically train in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness.

Your GP will likely suggest one or more psychologists you can see, or you can find psychologists in your area through the Australian Psychological Society.

You can also see a psychologist privately, without a referral from your GP. In this case, you would not be able to receive a Medicare rebate to help with the costs. A private health insurance plan may cover some of these services.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in mental health. They assess your mental and physical symptoms to make a diagnosis, and work with you to develop a management plan for your treatment and recovery.  

Psychiatrists help people with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addiction. They can provide psychological treatment, prescribe medications and perform medical procedures for more severe conditions.  

A psychiatrist can also: 

  • provide urgent care for a sudden mental illness 
  • help you to manage a long-term mental health condition 
  • provide advice about lifestyle changes 
  • work with you individually, or with you and your partner, family or carers 
  • provide second opinions and advice to other doctors and health professionals 
  • refer you to other health professionals 
  • admit you to hospital if required. 

A psychiatrist can be particularly helpful if your mental health condition: 

  • is complex or difficult to diagnose 
  • involves suicidal ideas or plans 
  • is severe or happens suddenly 
  • needs medication that only a psychiatrist can prescribe 
  • isn’t responding to standard treatment through your GP 

You will need a referral through your GP to receive a Medicare subsidy for your appointments with a psychiatrist. 

Other support options

You may also see a variety of other mental health professionals, depending on your situation and the advice of your GP or psychologist.

You can find social workers in hospitals, welfare agencies, community outreach centres, and in private practice.  

A mental health social worker can help you work through mental health challenges. They can help you manage social and environmental aspects such as relationships and living situations. They may apply a mix of strategies to help you do this, including behavioural therapy, problem solving skills, and social skills.

Mental health occupational therapy can help if you experience mental health conditions that affect your ability to function as you would like in everyday life.

Mental health nurses are specially trained to support people experiencing mental illness. They work in hospitals, mental health centres, and specialised care facilities. They may care for people in their homes or out in the community. They usually work with other mental health professionals to conduct assessments, give medication, and help with treatment programs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners work with communities, families, and individuals. 

They may work individually or in teams with other health professionals. They can provide a range of services, depending on where they are working and their specific skills. This could be clinical services, community services, mental health programs, or education.

Peer support workers are also known as lived experience workers. They have first-hand experience of mental health challenges. They support others by drawing on their own life experience, use of services, and journey of recovery. 

The role of peer support workers depends on the service in which they are working. This varies from direct support for individuals and groups to working with government to improve services.  

You can access peer support online via support groups, forums, and webchats. You can also find them through mental health services in your community. 

There are many more professionals that fall under ‘allied health’. They may be part of your treatment team and provide support or help manage your experience.  

Allied health covers many different areas. This includes: 

  • counselling, to help with a variety of issues related to your wellbeing, such as relationships 
  • drug and alcohol workers, to assist with managing harmful use of drugs or alcohol 
  • nutritionists and dieticians, to assist with healthy eating 
  • speech pathology, if you have speech, language, or communication difficulties, and 
  • physiotherapy for pain and movement problems.

While there is a variety of health professionals who could support you, it’s important to find the right fit for you. Just because you started with one person doesn’t mean you need to stay with them. Your health professional should be someone you trust and feel comfortable with, so take the time to find the right one.

Mental health professionals receive specific training and qualifications for their role. You can usually find the credentials of the professional you are receiving treatment from online.

All GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health nurses must register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). AHPRA handles the regulation and accreditation of health professionals in Australia. You can check that your mental health professional is registered on the AHPRA website.

Social workers aren’t registered with AHPRA. A professionally trained social worker will be a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers (The AASW). You can check if they have registered for an AASW Trade Mark, and ask to see their Trade Mark Registration Certificate. You can also check their registration on the AASW's public register.