Information for members about the response from the Australian Government to the Review of Mental Health Programs and Services

27 November 2015

The Government’s response to the National Review of Mental Health Programs and Services, which was conducted by the National Mental Health Commission in 2014, was released yesterday. The response seeks to deliver system change over the next three years with the 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) playing a central role in the reformed architecture for mental health service delivery.

The Government’s response acknowledged the effectiveness and importance of the Better Access Initiative and psychological services will continue to be provided through Better Access.


Coping with extreme and distressing events like violent conflict, terrorism and war

19 November 2015

Extreme and distressing events like the recent violent attacks in Paris and Beirut are powerful and upsetting incidents. Even following these events from a distance on the media can be distressing.  Below are some helpful resources for responding to these events, looking after yourself after a crisis, and for helping children to deal with frightening events.


Unsolicited email from Workplace Options

18 November 2015

Members are reminded to treat with great caution any unsolicited offers they receive. Frequently these phishing emails pretend to be from or to represent a trustworthy organisation and try to trick people into giving out their personal details - including bank account details with the intent to steal money. If the offer seems too good to be true - or somewhat suspect - chances are it probably is.

Members' attention is drawn to recent offers from an American company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, called, or trading as, Workplace Options which invites members to receive referrals (often urgent ones) for its “worldwide” EAP program.

The initial solicitation to the member, however, might come from a person in a country other than the USA – for example India, Portugal or the UK. Members could be sent a suite of contractual documents usually governed by the laws of the United States which often seek a great deal of personal and/or professional detail. Part of the contract offer might require the Member to provide all bank account particulars for Workplace Options “Finance Department” at an address in London, UK.

There is other concerning material:

  • the email and attachments make it clear that the company is a foreign company – that is, not Australian-based (there is no ABN and it appears that there is no Australian subsidiary);
  • there is no contact street address or phone number in Australia;
  • the author of one email states that she can be contacted via other staff in offices in the USA, UK, Portugal, Singapore, India, France, and Ireland, who despite the massive range of time differences, will directly transfer the call to her; and
  • the mode of salutation to the recipient member or the email’s grammar regularly contains basic errors.

Advice to members

The APS advises members who receive this offer to ignore it.

If you are suspicious of an email or any other unsolicited communication refer to the following websites or



2015 APS Board of Directors election results

5 October 2015

An election for the APS President-Elect and two General Director positions on the APS Board of Directors was held by electronic voting and postal ballot, and the results were declared at the 2015 APS AGM on 2 October 2015.

The successful candidate for the President-Elect is Mr Anthony Cichello MAPS. Following a 12-month term as President-Elect, Mr Cichello will assume the office of President of the APS from the AGM in 2016 for a term of two years.

As Mr Cichello was already a Director on the APS Board (with two years remaining of the three year term for which he was originally elected), his election to President-Elect produced a third vacancy for a General Director on the Board.  Therefore three successful candidates have been newly elected to General Director positions on the Board and they are:

  • Dr Felicity Allen MAPS,
  • Dr Michael Carr-Gregg MAPS, and
  • Dr Deborah Wilmoth FAPS.

Dr Carr-Gregg and Dr Wilmoth will each serve a three-year term and Dr Allen’s term is for two years (to fill the vacancy created by Mr Cichello’s election to President-Elect).


APS statement on the American Psychological Association Hoffman Review

15 July 2015

Following the publication of the American Psychological Association’s Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations and Torture, the Australian Psychological Society reiterates its 2007 Declaration on Torture.  The 2007 APS Declaration was developed in the context of the debate surrounding the APA’s policies on the involvement of psychologists in military and CIA interrogation techniques. 

Australian Psychological Society Declaration on Torture (2007)

  • Psychologists shall at all times comply with the Society’s Code of Ethics.
  • Psychologists shall not countenance, condone or participate in the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, in any situation, including armed conflict and civil strife.
  • Psychologists shall not provide any premises, instruments, substances or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or to diminish the ability of the victim to resist such treatment.
  • Psychologists shall not be present during any procedure in which torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened. 
  • Psychologists must have complete professional independence in deciding upon the care of a person for whom they are responsible.  



Email scam targeting psychologists

29 April 2015

Members' attention is drawn to an elaborate email scam targeting psychologists which has recently re-emerged. There may well be variations of this type of scam. The scam involves a person contacting a psychologist by email to inform him or her that he wants to book daily therapy for a group of 10 oil rig workers while they are on vacation.

After negotiating the level and type of services required in further emails to the psychologist, the person undertakes to pay the psychologist but is only able to do this through traveller’s cheques, sometimes via their employer. Ultimately the traveller’s cheques will be received by the psychologist, but are likely to be bogus. Once the psychologist receives the traveller’s cheques, the person then cancels the appointments and asks for a refund of the payment – most likely to another bank account.

Members should be extremely cautious if they are requested to make any arrangement that sounds like this, and they are strongly advised not to process such payments. To attempt to do so could potentially implicate the psychologist in the scam itself.

If you are suspicious of an email or any other unsolicited communication refer to the following websites: or


Clarification of Medicare provider information in the Psychology Board of Australia April newsletter

23 April 2015

The latest ‘Connections’ newsletter from the Psychology Board of Australia has an item titled ‘Eligibility requirements for psychologists under the Medicare Better Access initiative’ that requires clarification.

The newsletter states:

“Psychologists who are approved to provide Medicare psychological therapy services will now be required to hold general registration as a psychologist and a clinical psychology area of practice endorsement. Medicare is allowing grandfathering provisions for psychologists who are already approved to provide psychological therapy services on the basis of the previous Australian Psychological Society pathway. These psychologists may continue to provide these services for 12 months, after which time a clinical psychology endorsement is required.”

This statement has caused considerable concern and confusion, and two matters require clarification.

  1. There are NO changes to the Medicare provider arrangements for:
    • Psychologists who provide Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS items)
    • Psychologists who have an area of practice endorsement in clinical psychology and provide clinical psychology Medicare items (“Psychological therapy” items).

  2. The statement is ONLY applicable to psychologists who were assessed as eligible for membership of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists, and hence to provide Medicare clinical psychology items, and who did not subsequently gain area of practice endorsement in clinical psychology with the Psychology Board of Australia. These psychologists were legitimately transitioned into the ‘clinical psychologist’ category of the Medicare Better Access initiative under the rules that applied at that time. The principles of justice would indicate that they should be able to continue to provide these services. This issue has been raised with the Department of Health and they have agreed to investigate it further.

Any members who were assessed as eligible for membership of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists and who do not have an area of practice endorsement in clinical psychology with the Psychology Board of Australia should contact the APS Member Assistance Centre on 1800 333 497 or 8662 3300 (if calling from Melbourne).


Government announces new Primary Health Networks

14 April 2015

The Federal Government has recently announced the outcomes of a competitive tender process to select the organisations to operate the 31 new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that will replace the existing 61 Medicare Locals from 1 July 2015 (as announced in the 2014-15 Federal Budget). Most applications to operate PHNs were put forward as collaborative partnerships, or consortium arrangements, between several organisations. On 11 April the Minister for Health announced the lead organisation for the successful PHN bids, with further information about consortium partners yet to be released.

The Government has indicated there will be transitional period from April 2015, and comparable funding agreements put in place during the first year of PHN operation for services currently funded by Medicare Locals. However, it is unclear what these arrangements will mean in practice. As a result, many service providers (including those employed directly and under programs such as ATAPS and Partners in Recovery) have no information on whether their existing contracts with Medicare Locals will be continued beyond 30 June 2015, or in what form. Much of this detail will be subject to contract negotiations that will take place between PHNs and Medicare Locals over the coming weeks. The APS is continuing to seek further details and will keep members informed as these become available.


APS part of largest ever mental health delegation to Canberra

13 February 2015  

The APS was involved in the largest ever mental health delegation to Federal Parliament this week, meeting with more than 40 Members of Parliament and Senators, including Ministers and Shadow Ministers. The Mental Health Advocacy Day was organised by Mental Health Australia (MHA) of which the APS is a prominent member organisation and Lyn Littlefield is its Deputy Chair.

The delegation met with more than 40 parliamentarians across the political spectrum, advocating for strong policy commitment to mental health. In particular, the delegation called for the release of the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services, followed by consultation with the mental health sector about improvements to the mental health system. The delegation also advocated for a cross party commitment to a 10-year reform plan for mental health, as well as funding certainty for Australians using community-based services.

The day-long series of meetings was well-received by politicians, who were very interested in the issues raised around mental health.


Providing Medicare services in the new calendar year

29 January 2015

A number of members have rung with enquiries about the requirements under Medicare for managing clients on GP Mental Health Treatment Plans across the new calendar year. Some members are also receiving queries from referring GPs about whether the GP needs to prepare a new Mental Health Treatment Plan or provide a new referral when an existing client is going to continue to receive psychological services in 2015.

The requirements for Treatment Plans and referrals have not changed this year but there is often confusion amongst GPs and psychologists about how to interpret the requirements of the relevant Medicare item numbers.

Once an initial GP Mental Health Treatment Plan is in place, a new Plan should not be prepared unless clinically required and generally not within 12 months of a previous Plan. The GP can provide ongoing management through the GP Mental Health Treatment Consultation and Standard Consultation items, as required, and reviews of progress through the GP Mental Health Treatment Plan Review item. At these GP appointments, the GP can provide the client with a new referral for psychological services if the GP considers that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).

In summary, clients who were being managed by their GP under a Treatment Plan in 2014 who need to access further referred services during 2015 do not need to have a new Treatment Plan prepared unless required by the client’s clinical condition, needs or circumstances. There is also no need for a new referral unless the client has already received the number of sessions that was stipulated on the 2014 referral. If a client enters 2015 having used up all previously referred services, then the GP can provide a new referral if they consider that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).

It is important to note, that once the Treatment Plan is in place, the GP can use the referral process to access continued psychological services for the client (up to the calendar year maximum)– similar to a referral to any specialist.  


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