If you claim an hour of counselling on your tax return, and you're in the 32.5% tax threshold, you'll get back over $35. You would be paying out of pocket $85 for the session. If you are earning to the maximum tax threshold at 45%, you'll get back almost $50, out of pocket only $70 for the session.
Based on my conversation with the ATO in 2018 August, it is possible to claim counselling services as a tax deduction provided there is reasonable justification for doing so. In my professional opinion, it is claimable in almost every case, though I encourage each person and their accountant to consider whether this applies to them. The basis for the claim could be as follows:
Through provision of these personalised counselling services and inclusion of evidence-based practice, the service provided is intended to assist clients enhance their own wellness in the short and long-term. The increasingly understood biopsychosocial model (Engel, 1977) has encouraged research which demonstrates a connection between mental and physical wellness; the mechanism is explained in part by Oakley (2004). Because of this connection, working on mental wellness through couselling services generally enhances work productivity, reduces sick days, and reduces work absences (Nunes, Richmond, Pampel, Wood, 2017); it also enhances the likelihood that the client will be able to contribute to society in general, and reduces the client’s likelihood of requiring government assisted healthcare (both physical and mental health-related).
Hence, these costs to the client are a viable tax deduction depending on accounting and tax regulations in any given year. You can cite this professional opinion and reference the articles noted above if ever needed as justification.
Getting a rebate may be important for you. However, if you focus on getting the lowest cost, that might be traded for something very important - the value of your results. Research shows that you will get more value if you have a good feeling about the person providing services....... such valuable outcomes can often be much more important than cost. I am a counsellor with specific training in counselling as well as psychology and research, however I am not a registered psychologist. What does this mean for you?
Though I do not have access to Medicare rebates (which require you to get a refarral from a doctor), you can see me without having to see a doctor first, so it may be simpler and a better use of your time - a more direct path to me.
While many counsellors are highly qualified, the government has not included counsellors for Medicare rebates - this continues to be discussed and challenged within the government and professional counselling bodies. If you need a Medicare rebate, you would need to see a doctor and get a formal referral to a registered psychologist which is initially for 6 sessions and then you would see the GP for a review before another 4 with the psychologist (maximum 10 per calendar year).
Psychologists occasionally bulk bill, while many psychologists charge a gap above the rebate for each session (which is understandable, because it is a lot of commitment to training).
Private health extras often pay somewhere between $30 to $80 per session to see a psychologist. More recently, BUPA has agreed that certain counsellors will be included in similar coverage (information link button below). PACFA member counsellors who register can offer funded counselling services form July 2018 onwards. This will provide people with a wider choice of partly funded services. It is anticipated that other health funds will follow because Bupa is one of the private health leaders.
Counsellors, psychologists, and psychotherapists are meant to assist you to find your own path to cope, understand, and/or develop new ways of being that work for you. So what’s the difference?
Academically: a key difference is the level of qualification and the role of AHPRA in registering and applying standards that the psychologist has to meet each year. For example a counsellor or psychotherapist does not have to have any qualification to call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist; a psychologist must have completed 6 years of specific study to call themselves a psychologist. However, a counsellor or psychotherapist may have excellent qualifications and abilities - it is important you check qualifications for all psychologists and counsellors, and pick one who resonates for you most. I have had a total of 8.5 full time years training in university, most of that in counselling and psychology.
There is also a difference between counselling and psychotherapy, but they overlap a lot. Primarily, counselling is more "present" focused on today's challenges and psychotherapy delves into earlier life experiences and how they've influenced us today. My style incorporates both approaches as needed by each client.
As long as your counsellor or psychotherapist is registered as a professional member of a reputable counselling or psychotherapy association, they are also required to meet stringent standards for academic training and experience, are fully insured, and are bound by a strict code of ethics meant to protect and benefit clients.
Professionally: Psychologists may place emphasis on strict diagnosis and assessment which also may or may not be more appropriate for you. However, some psychologists choose not to diagnose at all. Some people work better with a diagnostic style and others like the flow of a counselling or psychotherapy session - it is important to go with what resonates for you.
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