frequently asked questions

What is a psychologist?

Psychologists study the way people feel, think, act, and interact. Through a range of strategies and therapies, they aim to reduce distress and enhance and promote emotional wellbeing. Psychologists are experts in human behaviour, and have studied the brain, memory, learning, and human development. Psychologists can assist people who are having difficulty controlling their emotions, thinking, and behaviour. This includes those with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, serious and enduring mental illness, addictive behaviours, and childhood behaviour disorders.

All psychologists have undertaken at least 4 years of university study plus a period of 2 years of supervised practice.

All psychologists are legally required to be registered with the national registration board - the Psychology Board of Australia, in the same way medical practitioners must be registered. This means they must be competent and follow a strict Code of Conduct.

Not all counsellors or therapists are registered psychologists. Seeing someone who is registered ensures you receive high quality ethical treatment.

what is a clinical psychologist?

Clinical psychologists are psychologists who are registered psychologists, and have undertaken advanced study and training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioural and emotional disorders recognised by an endorsement in clinical psychology by the Psychology Board of Australia. Clinical psychology is a science-based profession which integrates theory and clinical practice to understand, prevent, and relieve psychologically based distress or dysfunction. Clinical psychologists have undertaken at least 6 years of university study plus a post-university registrar program of advanced supervision and practice.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

A psychologist and a psychiatrist both have training in diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems. 

Psychologists' treatment consists of psychological interventions only, whereas psychiatrists typically use medication as the primary approach to treatment. Psychiatrists do have some training in psychotherapy and some make extensive use of psychological interventions. Some conditions, such as psychotic disorders and bipolar mood disorders are usually best treated with medication under the supervision of a psychiatrist. Clinical psychologists may contribute to treatment of these conditions but will usually recommend the involvement of a psychiatrist.

Do I need a referral from a GP to see your clinicians?

There is no general requirement for a referral. However if you would like to access rebates under Medicare, you will need to obtain a referral from your GP, psychiatrist, or paediatrician.

Your referral will include the preparation of a Mental Health Treatment Plan or Mental Health Care Plan. You should book a longer appointment session with your GP to enable time for this. 

Private health funds often cover psychological and social work treatment under 'extras'. You will need to check with your health fund about whether you can claim your psychological treatment on your private health cover.

What mental health problems can be treated under a Medicare referral?

The following mental health problems can be treated under a Medicare referral:

  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit Disorder
  • Bereavement disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Co-occurring anxiety and depression
  • Depression
  • Drug Use Disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobic disorders
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sexual disorders
  • Sleep problems.

A Medicare referral/Mental Health Treatment Plan entitles you to:

  • Up to 10 individual sessions in a calendar year. Your referring doctor will assess your progress after the first 6 sessions, and can request an additional 4.
  • Up to 10 group therapy sessions in a calendar year where such services are available and seen as appropriate by your referring doctor and the psychologist/social worker.

You are "committed to evidence-based best practice". What does that mean?

At Melissa Kent Psychology, we are committed to treating mental health problems using evidence-based best practice. Evidence-based treatment involves integrating the best available treatments with each client's individual needs. Best practice involves checking that we are giving you the services that benefit you.

​We like to describe our approach as knowing what works best for which problems, and knowing how to tailor treatments to each individual's needs and preferences.  We will discuss treatment options with you so you know what to expect, and feel positive about the approach. We take the time to try and ensure the type of treatment being offered to you makes sense to you, and that you are willing to do the things required as part of the treatment. We regularly check in with you about how whether the treatment we are providing is helping you grow and thrive.

We demonstrate our commitment to keeping up to date with what works best, by regularly attending training workshops, and being highly trained in a number of evidence-based treatments.

What is Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a relatively short term, focused approach to the treatment of many types of emotional, behavioural and psychiatric problems. The application of CBT varies according to the problem being addressed, but is essentially a collaborative and individualised program that helps individuals to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and learn or relearn healthier skills and habits.

​CBT has been practised widely for more than 30 years. It has been researched extensively, and has demonstrated effectiveness with a variety of emotional psychological and psychiatric difficulties. For more information about CBT, visit the website of the Australian Association for CBT (AACBT).

Melissa, Kathryn and Sacha all use CBT in their work with clients. To make an appointment with one of them, contact us now.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive-behavioural treatment that was originally developed by Marsha Linehan in the USA, to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population.

DBT targets 4 areas of difficulty:

  • Emotional dysregulation (up-and-down emotions, extreme emotions, mood-dependent behaviour)
  • Impulsive behaviours (acting without thinking)
  • Interpersonal conflict and stress
  • Being out of touch with self.

​These behaviours are decreased and replaced with more effective skills, which are learned and practised in and between sessions. 

Research has shown that DBT is effective in treating a wide range of mental health problems such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. Research has also shown DBT to be effective in reducing suicidal behaviour, non-suicidal self-injury, psychiatric hospitalisation, treatment dropout, substance use, anger, depression, and improving social and global functioning. 

DBT is Melissa's area of special interest, training, and passion. 

​To read more about DBT, you can visit Behavioral Tech's website.

Melissa is intensively trained and experienced in DBT; supervises, teaches and trains DBT; and is currently completing a PhD in DBT. You might say it is her passion. To make an appointment with Melissa for DBT, contact us.

Do you offer a complete DBT program?

Melissa offers individual DBT and DBT Skills Training Groups. For more details about our DBT Skills Training Groups, you can visit here.

What is Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy for PTSD?

Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD. The therapy allows you to work through painful memories in a safe and supportive environment. It also allows you to participate in activities you have been avoiding because of the trauma.

Throughout treatment, you will learn about PTSD: its causes, symptoms, and the reasons you are continuing to have symptoms. During the second and third sessions, you will start the “in vivo” and “imaginal” exercises. These steps will begin a process of recovery and improving the quality of your life.

Individuals with many different types of trauma have experienced positive results with PE. This includes traumas related to combat, sexual assault, childhood abuse, natural disasters, and accidents. PE is most effective when you are committed and motivated to engage with all aspects of the treatment. This commitment involves attending all sessions and completing “homework assignments” between sessions.

PE typically lasts 8-15 sessions. The exact length of time is determined with your therapist. Each session is approximately 90 minutes in length. You and your therapist may meet once or twice per week.

For more information on PE, you can visit the US Department of Veterans Affairs website. It's important to note though, that although this overview describes PE for combat-related trauma, PE is effective for all kinds of trauma including physical violence, sexual violence, childhood abuse and neglect, natural disasters, victims of crime etc.

what is the dbt prolonged exposure protocol (dbt pe)

DBT PE is the latest development in the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It has been well established that many people with BPD also have symptoms of PTSD, however these symptoms are not traditionally targeted in DBT. DBT PE was developed to treat PTSD in people with BPD using PE, once behavioural stabilisation has been achieved using DBT.

Melissa is currently the only clinician in Australia who has undertaken intensive training in DBT PE. You can make an appointment with Melissa by contacting us.

What is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)?

​IPT is an evidence-supported, time-limited psychotherapy method that focuses on universal life problems related to change, loss, and conflicts in relationships. These problems are often involved in the onset or recurrence of some mental health problems, especially depression. Because relationships are essential for survival, growth, development, and health, therapy that centres on interpersonal experiences can be powerfully helpful to clients who become emotionally unwell in the context of stressful life events, and those who experience recurrent episodes of depression.

Life events that typically trigger depression include the death of a loved one, life transitions, and interpersonal conflict.  IPT involves helping the client identify patterns in communication and relating to others that may influence their symptoms and vice versa, change the patterns when necessary, and utilise social support.

This easy to read article from Psych Central gives some examples of how IPT can be effective.

Melissa and Sacha use IPT in their treatment of clients. To book an appointment, please contact us.

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

ACT  (pronounced as the word "act") is a type of psychotherapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life. ACT has been around for a long time but seems to be gaining media attention lately. Categorically speaking, ACT is a form of mindfulness based therapy, theorising that greater well-being can be attained by overcoming negative thoughts and feelings through mindfulness and acceptance. ACT also involves helping you make decisions and take actions that will help you move towards a life worth living, based on your values. 

This article is quite lengthy, but gives a good overview of ACT.

All of the clinicians at Melissa Kent Psychology have experience in ACT and may use it with their clients. Please contact us to make an appointment.

what is family based treatment for anorexia (the maudlsey model)?

The Maudsley model of treatment for Anorexia is an evidence-based treatment. It usually lasts for one year and involves 15-20 sessions. There are three phases involved in the treatment, and it involves parents playing an active and positive role in helping restore their child’s weight to normal levels expected given their adolescent’s age and height; hand the control over eating back to the adolescent; and encourage normal adolescent development through an in-depth discussion of these crucial developmental issues as they pertain to their child.

More ‘traditional’ treatment of Anorexia suggests that the clinician’s efforts should be individually based. The Maudsley approach opposes the notion that families are pathological or should be blamed for the development of Anorexia. On the contrary, the Maudsley approach considers the parents as a resource and essential in successful treatment for Anorexia.

For more about the Maudsley model, you can visit Maudsley Parents - a website for the parents of children with eating disorders.

Kathryn has extensive experience in using the Maudsley model. To discuss undertaking this therapy with Kathryn, please contact us.

what is cbt-e for eating disorders?

Enhanced Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT-E) is a short-term, time limited, individual outpatient therapy for adults with eating disorders. It involves working one-on-one with a CBT therapist to uncover the factors that keep eating problems going – and then systematically together, tackling them in the treatment.

Consistently across research trials, CBT-E has been shown to be the most effective treatment for eating disorders in adults. For more information, see this article by Project Heal.

Kathryn is trained and experienced in delivering CBT-E. To make an appointment with Kathryn, contact us.

How long does treatment with a psychologist take?

This depends a lot on the nature of the problems being treated and the goals of treatment. For relatively uncomplicated problems with depressed mood and/or anxiety, with a background of generally good functioning, treatment can be quite brief (typically 4-6 sessions). Longer term treatment may be needed if problems are complicated by substance use, a long history of impaired functioning or significant trauma. Treatment goals can also affect the duration of treatment. When the goal is improved mood and/or better management of anxiety, treatment can be relatively brief. However, if the main goal is to improve interpersonal functioning or overcome problems with impulse control or some form of dependence/addiction, then treatment is likely to take longer.

Are some therapists better than others?

The evidence suggests that therapists are, overall, broadly equivalent in effectiveness. However, therapy is an interpersonal process and just as you don’t get on equally well with every person you meet, you will not get on equally well with every therapist. Therapy is often emotionally demanding and it is important that you trust your therapist and feel confident with her or him. There may be periods of doubt or distrust in any relationship but you need to generally feel that this is a person I can work with. In other words you do not need to find a great therapist, you need to find a therapist that is great for you. It could be anyone, so keep looking if you don’t get lucky the first time.

Copyright Melissa Kent Psychology