Choosing the Right Mental Health Care Plan for You

Mental Health

Tammy George

parent explaining a mental health care plan example to teenager

A mental health care plan (MHCP) is often the start of a person’s journey to better mental health. Prepared by a GP in consultation with the patient, a plan provides a personalised, structured approach to gaining the best outcome for their short and long-term mental health.

What is a Mental Health Care Plan?

A mental health care plan lists the treatment options and services that will help them achieve the patient's goals. Also known as a mental health treatment plan, a GP designs a plan when referring a patient to a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or occupational therapist (providing psychological services). Anyone with a mental health condition diagnosed by a doctor can receive an MHCP to access the mental health services they require. A plan can help the patient feel supported and in control of their mental health. 

What’s Involved in a Mental Health Care Plan? 

A GP will complete several steps in preparing a mental health care plan or mental health treatment plan. Assessing the patient will include:

  • Recording the patient’s consent for collecting and sharing their health information with other healthcare providers,
  • Learning the patient's history, including psychological, biological, and social aspects,
  • Conducting a mental state examination,
  • Assessing other risks and comorbidity,
  • Making a diagnosis, and
  • Listing an outcome measurement.

A GP may ask the patient to schedule a second appointment before deciding whether an MHCP is right for them or what to include in the plan. Some GPs ask patients to complete a questionnaire to gather all the information they require or to get a better understanding of a patient’s mental space.  

The MHCP will include:

  • Diagnosis and details of the assessment conducted with the patient,
  • Referral and treatment options discussed with the patient,
  • Psycho-education so the patient and carers learn about symptoms, causes, and treatments,
  • Agreed goals of what should be achieved with the treatment and the course of action to achieve those goals, and
  • Plan for any crisis intervention if a relapse occurs (if required).

An MHCP doesn’t expire, and the referral to other healthcare providers is valid until the number of sessions has been used. Midway through the treatment, a GP may review and update the plan depending on the patient's progress and may extend the number of sessions if needed. 

Benefits of a Mental Health Care Plan

A patient can gain several benefits from having a mental health care plan prepared by a GP, including:

More Affordable Access to Services

An MHCP provides access to up to 10 individual and 10 group sessions with a mental health professional each calendar year, but patients are referred for up to 6 sessions at a time, with the possibility of adding more if needed. The appointments can be claimed on Medicare, so part of the cost will be covered, and if they bulk bill, there may be nothing to pay. Health professionals set their fees, so when making the appointment, ask how much is covered and how much you will pay out of pocket for each session. If you have private health insurance, check with your insurer if your policy covers any costs. 

professional explaining what is a health care plan to the patient

Proactive Patient Involvement 

During the appointment with the GP, the patient is asked what they want to achieve from improved mental health. Getting patients to think about what long-term mental health can look like gets them involved in setting goals and increases their compromise and motivation to work towards bettering themselves. 

Feel Supported

Poor mental health can make some people feel isolated and unsupported, but until a physical injury, mental health concerns aren't visible. However, a mental health plan gives patients a diagnosis and roadmap for getting the support they need to achieve their goals. Having a plan to navigate can make a big difference to a person’s wellbeing and hope for the future; with goals in place, there is something to aim for and proactive steps to take.

Knowing Where to Go for Help

For many people with poor mental health, the major problem is not knowing where to go for help. They may not know which service provider they need - is it a psychologist or psychiatrist? An MHCP includes details of the service provider that can benefit them the most and may include contact details of providers in the patient’s local areas.

Monitoring Progress

An MHCP can include seeing different support service providers so the plan and the GP can tie them together and ensure the patient’s progress is being monitored. Tracing a patient’s progress towards the goals outlined in the plan will help determine how much more support is required or if they have achieved the goal(s) set out. 

Important Contact Information

An MHCP can provide contact details for the patient should they require emergency assistance. Having a plan and contact details in writing makes it easier for a person to reach out when they are struggling.

Different Types of Mental Health Treatment

A mental health plan can include recommendations to various service providers depending on the patient's needs. The three main professionals a GP will refer to include, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers.  


A psychologist is an expert in human behaviour and can help people transform how they think, feel, behave, and react to a situation. A psychologist can help children with behavioural issues or learning difficulties as well as the elderly grieving the loss of their partner. Common examples of patients they see include those going through:

  • Mental illness
  • Sexuality issues
  • Postnatal depression
  • Mental health following chronic health problem
  • Addiction or substance abuse
  • Dementia
  • Loss following a natural disaster


A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who diagnoses, treats and prevents mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders. They usually treat patients with severe mental health conditions, including: 

  • Severe depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder   

Social worker

A social worker can help a patient with short-term counselling and discuss their circumstances, including:

  • Mental health concerns
  • Family or domestic violence
  • Personal or family crisis
  • Impact of a natural disaster
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Caring for someone with a mental health disorder can be difficult, both emotionally and financially. Often, a carer will initiate a GP visit to obtain an MHCP because they have recognised their friend or loved one needs help. A parent can apply for a mental health plan on behalf of their young child, but an older child will need to see a GP for assessment. 

When a carer can’t work due to caring for a loved one with a mental health condition, the carer may be eligible for financial support through Centrelink.

parent talking to son about engaging in a mental health care plan australia

Support Services

You don’t need to wait for a mental health plan or to see your specialist before opting for services that may assist you. There are online and telephone-based services that can help. 

Beyond Blue - a 24/7 mental health counselling service available online or by calling 1300 224 636. 

Headspace - a mental health support service for young people aged 12 to 25 and their families, focusing on early intervention. Available online or via the phone on 1800 650 890 from 9 am to 1 am, 7 days a week and in person at centres around Australia.   

PANDA - supports the mental health and wellbeing of expecting, new, and growing families with information, services, and programs with a national helpline (Monday to Saturday) on 1300 726 306.  

Lifeline - 24/7 confidential support for anyone experiencing a crisis available via online chat and telephoning 13 11 14. 

Employee Assistance Program - most medium to large employers in Australia offer their staff access to an EAP. The Program allows employees to access a counsellor or psychologist in face-to-face or telephone appointments at no cost.

If you or a loved one thinks they need a Mental Health Care Plan, make an appointment to see your GP. If pertinent, ask for a long appointment so you have enough time to discuss your concerns and the GP has time to collect the information they need to decide the best course of action for an MHCP.

Additionally, as a valued HIF member, you have exclusive access to free mental health support through our partnership with Best Doctors. This service is available to all HIF members aged 18 years and older on any level of active health insurance cover. Take advantage of this opportunity to receive expert mental health advice and support.

You can also check how our Hospital Psychiatric Services cover can support you or your loved ones in dealing with psychiatric, mental, behavioural, or other concerns. From schizophrenia to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, we've got you covered. Find out which level of Hospital cover includes these crucial services. Don't wait, prioritize your mental well-being now!

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

Category:Mental Health

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