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Psychiatrists are doctors who have trained to become mental health specialists, specialising in biologically influenced mental health disorders due to their training in biology and medicine. Psychiatrists are appropriate for referral for severe mental health disorders and specialist disorders such as ADHD, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.

Psychiatrists can help with:

  • severe or biological mental health difficulties
  • diagnosis and treatment
  • prescribing medication.
Boy in grey tshirt talking to psychiatrist

Why refer to a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who have specialised in mental health, and as such work in biologically influenced or extreme mental health disorders. They can prescribe medication if it is helpful for the mental health difficulty a young person is experiencing.

Overcoming barriers to accessing a psychiatrist

Many psychiatrists work in private practices and accessing them can be costly. Long waiting lists for appointments can also be a significant barrier to accessing them for help. Seeing a psychiatrist is sometimes necessary for the diagnosis of more difficult mental health problems, which can sometimes cause difficulties for a young person when this is a requirement accessing disability support payments.

A psychiatrist working in a public hospital or mental health centre is usually free of charge. But psychiatrists who work privately may ask clients to pay each time they visit. Some psychiatrists work under a Medicare scheme to assist with costs which means that the sessions may be free or that only the gap between the rebate and the session cost has to be paid. If the young person is financially in no position to pay for the session, the gap between the session cost and the rebate can often be negotiated. Ask them how much it costs before each visit, and how much you'll get back from Medicare. Psychiatrists in private practice sometimes bulk bill.

All mental health related Medicare services are limited to a maximum of 10 individual sessions per client per calendar year, with a review by the referring GP or practitioner after the initial six sessions have been completed.

Find out more about the Better Access scheme.

Accessing a psychiatrist

The most common way to access a psychiatrist is via referral from a GP. The young person can see their doctor and get an initial assessment, and if the GP believes the involvement of a psychiatrist will assist they will make a referral.

To find mental health trained GPs visit a Headspace centre, or use the beyondblue search tool to find local practitioners.

Resources for young people has a range of fact sheets and information that can help a young person understand the role of psychiatrists and how to access them.

Next steps