Welcome to OnlineCounselling.com.au, the first free counselling service in Australia to specialise in video-based, online counselling.
I'm Jonathon Walker, clinical psychologist from Melbourne and manager of the website. This is the second mental health service I've created to provide Australians with better access to psychologists and counsellors. The first project was Primary Care Psychology, a completely bulk-billed, counselling and therapy service founded in 2009. Up until recently it was the only bulk-billing psychology clinic in Melbourne, and is still going strong today. Not only does Primary Care Psychology offer bulk-billed clinic-based consultations, but also bulk-billed home visits throughout the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Primary Care Psychology operates under the Better Access Medicare initiative, which enables our clients to claim up to 10 psychology consultations per year with a GP referral. Outcome studies of the Better Access program support its effectiveness, but criticise its reach – people living outside metropolitan areas have difficulty accessing mental health services, and even within metro regions the more affluent suburbs have disproportionately greater access to more psychologists.
Primary Care Psychology was established to provide an affordable psychology service for all regions of Melbourne. Similarly, OnlineCounselling.com.au was created to provide accessible counselling services to people all over Australia who have difficulty attending a psychology clinic. No matter who you are or where you live, you can access our counselling services with an internet connection and a webcam.
Unfortunately, Medicare doesn't fund psychological services administered via telehealth video-conferencing, only face to face consultations. Lack of Medicare rebates created a challenge to provide a high quality counselling service that was also affordable – prior to 2006 when Medicare didn't fund any psychology consultations, only a small minority of the community could afford to pay $150 out-of-pocket per week to see a psychologist. With our goal of providing a free counselling service to all members of society regardless of socioeconomic status, we have found a solution that provides dual benefits for both our clients and our counsellors.
Firstly, our counsellors are 'provisional psychologists' – this means they have completed a four-year psychology degree, are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and are undergoing their final training before becoming a fully registered psychologist. Most medical professions have a period of internship, and psychology is no different.
Secondly, intern psychologists are happy to provide their counselling services for free, since they are required to accumulate several thousand therapy hours before becoming fully registered. Therefore, our clients have free access to counsellors with a four-year university degree, working under close supervision of a senior clinical psychologist. A free counselling service of this type is completely unique in Australia, and we are extremely pleased to have found a means to provide free online counselling for all Australians.
As a senior clinical psychologist and accredited supervisor I understand what qualities to look for in a counsellor. To register with AHPRA requires extensive study, supervision and experience, and a commitment to high ethical standards and continuing professional development. Apart from qualifications, knowledge and experience, our counsellors are chosen for their professionalism and warmth, and ability to engage with a client and provide effective support. If you have any feedback about our counsellors, either positive or negative, then you are welcome to contact me directly using the form below.
Furthermore, if you have any questions, concerns or queries then I am always available for assistance.
Again, welcome to OnlineCounselling.com.au, and I wish you a very pleasant experience with our service.