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Shepparton psychologists say extra sessions a “huge relief”

By Spencer Fowler Steen

Shepparton psychologists have welcomed the Federal Government's announcement of 10 extra Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions.

As of Friday, people across Victoria and Victorian-NSW border towns can access 10 additional therapy sessions if they have exhausted the first 10 subsidised sessions previously available.

Shepparton Psychologists Group co-ordinator and local clinic Pure Empowerment director Rachael Willis said it was a "huge relief".

“The more sessions people have, they better chance of becoming well or improving the quality of life,” she said.

Ms Willis said based on clinical guidelines, people required 12 to 18 sessions of psychological intervention depending on the severity of the mental health issue, with extra sessions making it less likely people would have issues later on.

“This was prior to COVID-19,” she said.

“Now with this pandemic, we have an added layer of stress and adjustment related issues that people also need to cope with.”

But Shepparton Medical Centre director Robert Campbell said the extra sessions would not help if there were no therapists available.

“There aren't enough therapist at the moment,” he said.

“It's wonderful the government is offering support, but it's not like the lamp from Aladdin where you rub it and out pops the genie.”

“There hasn't always been incentives for health workers to run services under government-subsidised programs and many have to incur out-of-pocket costs.”

Ms Willis said people in the region would have access to psychologists in other states via telehealth consults.

“A client can be in Shepparton and see a psychologist in Darwin, so it opens it up,” she said.

The 10 extra sessions are available to those living in Victoria or NSW border towns affected by public health orders restricting movement at any time between July 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, or were required to isolate or quarantine for up to 14 days.

To access the sessions, people must have already used their 10 Better Access sessions in the calendar year, have an existing mental health treatment plan and a referral from a GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician.

The extra sessions must be utilised by March 31, 2021.