20 March 2020
Australia’s peak body for psychologists, the Australian Psychological Society (APS), has today called on the Federal Government to urgently make the COVID-19 telehealth psychology consultations available to all Australians.
APS Chief Executive Officer Frances Mirabelli said the current restrictions on telehealth items should be lifted immediately, to allow psychologists to continue to safely treat all of their clients during COVID-19 outbreak.
“Under the current restrictions on telehealth, psychologists can only see clients by telephone or videoconference if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, are in isolation, or are in a specific ‘at risk’ group, such as the elderly.
“This puts both psychologist and client at risk, and is clearly not acceptable.
“Psychologists urgently need access to telehealth items for all of their client consultations, in order to reduce their own risk of contracting COVID-19, and potentially spreading the virus further.
“The Federal Government’s own recommendation is that all Australians practice social distancing to minimise spread of the coronavirus. It therefore follows that psychologists should be minimising face-to-face contact with their clients at this time.
“Unfortunately under the current restrictions, this is not a viable option,” she said.
Ms Mirabelli said Australians who may be at their most vulnerable could be missing out on psychological therapy, just when they need it most.
“Australia’s psychologists are being forced to choose between continuing to provide services to their clients, risk infection and further spreading of COVID-19, or simply ceasing providing services to their clients altogether.
“We do not want to see psychologists’ clients missing out on their consultations, particularly during a time of such uncertainty that we already know is leading to increased anxiety and overwhelming the community,” she said.
Ms Mirabelli praised the government for its efforts in the wake of the outbreak, but said more needed to be done.
“We were pleased to see the government move swiftly to open up telehealth consultations to ensure the protection of vulnerable patients and continuity of care, just last week.
“However, it is now clear that this is not going to be enough.
“This is the Federal Government’s opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to our nation’s mental health,” she said.
The APS has a number of resources available to assist Australians in managing their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, including advice for maintaining your mental health during social isolation, and tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety.
Visit www.psychology.org.au for more.