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How to find the right counselling support

02 September 2021

DFV 9

Mental health experts can help us work through problems including the financial stress we may suffer because of Covid lockdowns, addiction, relationship breakdown and more. We've put together the sorts of specialist services you could access, including counsellors and counselling.

One of the ways you can start to reduce financial stress is to look at your budget - or make one - and work out where you can prioritise your spending and make savings.

Seek financial support

Mental health and finances are two areas that often go hand in hand. When you are dealing with financial stress around COVID-19, job loss, natural disasters, addiction, illness or family changes, it can take its toll on your mental wellbeing. In these scenarios, it can be wise to speak to a specialist who can assist with the practical side of financial planning, as well as taking care of the emotional.

Some great resources include a financial planner or counsellor, or a qualified money coach. They will be able to help you with things like creating a budget so you can prioritise your spending, as well as making a plan to pay off any debt. By acting in these areas, it can lift an enormous load off your shoulders and give you back some headspace.

Not in the position to pay someone to help you sort out your finances? The good news is, there are some free resources that can get you started in the right direction. Financial Counselling Australia provides free and confidential access to financial counsellors, while the National Debt Helpline offers free counselling to those who are in debt due to abusive situations and other difficult situations. The Davidson Institute also has some great free resources for getting in control of your finances.

Asking for help isn’t always easy — especially if you’ve struggled to feel heard or supported in the past. But remember, big changes often start with the smallest steps. Finding the right person with whom to talk can start with just talking to someone. Maybe it’s confiding in a friend that you’re struggling with, or telling your doctor what’s going on, or even making a call to a free helpline like Beyond Blue. Just by starting the conversation, you’ll likely feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. And those people may be able to point you in the right direction of a mental health professional — which will give you the momentum to keep moving forward.

Confiding in others – especially someone outside your friends and family - can be hard to do for all sorts of reasons, but when you’re going through tough times an outsider may offer you an outlet that’s yours. This can mean you have somewhere safe to reach out to and where you’ll usually get objective advice. It also means you and your family don’t have to carry the burden of whatever you’re experiencing alone. Depending on your situation, the different perspectives they bring may even help you see things in a new light.

It’s great to have friends and family to lean on, but even the most skilled listeners have their limitations. Some situations call for professional guidance from mental health practitioners. Whether it’s a counsellor, therapist or psychologist, they will be able to hold space for you and listen with an impartial-yet-caring ear. Not only that, they will be able to provide guidance and support to help you heal and move forward.

Whether you’re in the midst of a challenging situation or are simply being proactive about your mental health, here’s some guidance on finding mental health and well-being support.

Understand your needs

Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counsellors, social workers… there are many different professions where listening and offering mental health guidance is part of the job description. However, they all support their clients and patients in quite different ways. As overwhelming as it can be, it’s important to understand the difference so you can find the right professional for your needs.

Psychiatrists are medical professionals (ie. doctors) who specialise in mental health. If you are seeking a diagnosis or medication for a mental health condition, you would need a referral from your GP to see a psychiatrist. Meanwhile, psychologists and psychotherapists are quite similar in that they will both listen to your situation and offer emotional support and guidance. However, while therapists tend to draw more heavily upon talk therapy, psychologists often incorporate other strategies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or mindfulness. You can generally see either a psychologist or psychotherapist without a referral and may be able to access bulk-billed appointments through the Government’s Mental Health Treatment Plan.

Contrary to popular belief, counsellors and therapists are quite different. Not only do they go through different pathways at university, but they each serve unique roles. Counsellors tend to work with clients on more short-term and specific issues (for example, relationship problems) and help with problem-solving. Meanwhile, therapists tend to have longer-term relationships with their clients, so that they can identify patterns and provide ongoing support.

Like counsellors, social workers are also a great resource if you’re going through a tough time. However, they tend to have more of a community focus, so you are more likely to see them working for a hospital, government or church than privately.

Check local networks and directories

Once you know what type of professional you need, it’s time to find the right person or organisation. So, where do you start? While a Google search of ‘therapist/counsellor/psychologist’ + ‘your area’ is always a good place to begin, this isn’t always going to filter through the best or most experienced professionals. It will just show you the ones who are best at marketing!

The good news is, there are some helpful directories that can help point you in the right direction. These will show you what professionals are operating in your location, and the areas that they specialise in (for example, family conflict, financial abuse or relationship issues.) That way, you can narrow down your search and save yourself some time and energy.

You can find a list of mental health directories below:

www.psychologytoday.com/au/counselling

www.goodtherapy.com.au/

www.emhprac.org.au/directory/

www.directory.wayahead.org.au/

Consider telehealth

Can’t find any suitable mental health practitioners in your area? Perhaps you live in a rural area, or everywhere in your city has a months-long waitlist? The good news is, thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are still hundreds of options at your fingertips. Telehealth (virtual healthcare consultations done via the phone or camera) are on the rise in Australia. The good news is, many of these organisations also offer bulk billing if you access it through the government’s Mental Health Plan.

Telehealth can also give you options for support if you have mobility issues, or aren’t able to leave the home due to an abusive situation (however, if this is the case, please consider contacting the police or a crisis service as soon as possible) Most providers have measures in place to ensure your safety and anonymity and some even provide chat services for an extra layer of discretion.

Some reputable Australian telehealth mental health services include:

www.coviu.com/

www.beyondblue.org.au/

www.mindspot.org.au/

www.stride.com.au

Ask for recommendations

Online reviews are often a great place to start when it comes to finding reputable service providers. However, when it comes to mental health, the nature of it means that reviews can be clouded by bias and don’t necessarily reflect on the practitioner. If you are relying on reviews, try to look for common themes rather than taking one particular review as gospel.

Often, asking around for recommendations can give you a head start in finding the right support. If you have friends or family members who have sought out mental health assistance, you may find it helpful to ask who they saw. They will be able to share their learnings and experiences and potentially introduce you if it’s a good fit. Your GP should also be able to give you recommendations from their network of mental health providers.

Facebook groups can also be a great resource for finding recommendations, and you can often find these by searching ‘mental health’ and ‘your area.’ However, if you are in an abusive situation and your abuser has access to your account, be sure to be careful when carrying out this step.

Shop around

Finding the right mental health support is much like dating. You often have to see a few people until you find the person who is the exact right match for you. It’s important that you feel safe and comfortable confiding in this practitioner… and on the flip side, they need to feel confident that they can assist you. So, don’t feel like you have to settle on the first mental health provider you book in with. Be sure to shop around and compare your options until you find someone who perfectly fits your needs.

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