Criteria and Eligibility for AMHSW
In 2004, the Australian Government implemented the Enhanced Primary Care Program under which General Practitioners were able to refer patients with complex care requirements to a range of allied health services. Under this initiative social workers were recognised as one of the group of eligible mental health providers. In 2006, the Government introduced the ‘Better Access to Mental Health Care’ initiative, under which General Practitioners, Paediatricians and Private Psychiatrists could refer to suitably qualified and experienced allied health professionals namely: social workers; psychologists and occupational therapists for the provision of ‘Focussed Psychological Strategies’. This document explains the process which a social worker must undergo, should they wish to be considered by Medicare Australia as ‘suitably qualified and experienced allied health professional’.
It is vital that you read and understand the 6 AMHSW criteria that you must meet when preparing your application. This provides you with guidance when preparing for your application and as to the positions that you can include or not include. There are no exemptions given to the criteria required; all criteria must be met.
Referee statements, position descriptions and information in the online application process are essential for each position you choose to include.
Please refer to information below as to the 6 AMHSW criteria that must ALL be met to gain a successful outcome.
- Hold current membership of the AASW Join here.
- (a) Have at least 2 years’ full-time equivalent (FTE) post-qualifying social work experience* in a mental health setting within the last 5 years, totalling a minimum of 3360 hours. The AASW recognises that full time employment equates to the minimum of 35 hours per week, for 48 weeks per year.
* “post-qualifying social work experience” means only work experience gained as a social worker after graduating from an AASW Accredited Social Work program
- (b) An applicant must be able to articulate how their experience meets the AASW Practice Standards for Mental Health Social Workers 2014. You must demonstrate the use of Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS) in case examples from your mental health practice position/s.
- Applicants should be able to demonstrate at least 2 years’ full-time equivalent (FTE) post-qualifying supervision in a mental health setting/field within the last 5 years. Applicants should be able to show that they have been formally supervised, in line with the AASW Supervision Standards. Generally, supervisors should have a higher level of practice experience than their supervisees and should have some training in supervision. For the purposes of this assessment, the supervisor does not necessarily need to have a social work background but should have provided the applicant/supervisee with appraisal and assessment in relation to practice in a mental health field (e.g. psychologist, medical practitioner or a mental health nurse).
- Have met the Continuing Professional Development requirements
Demonstrate ability and knowledge of clinical Mental Health social work practice:
“Clinical social work practice is a practice specialty within the social work profession which is directed by the person-in-environment perspective. It aims to prevent, restore and ameliorate distress and suffering by providing therapeutic services to individuals, families and small groups. Clinical social work is informed by a wide range of theories (including sociological, psychological, feminist, critical and others) and requires the attainment of specialist competencies through supervised practice and/or post graduate training. Clinical social work functions within and supports the values of the larger social work professions, including a commitment to social justice and human dignity.” Oosthuysen, K. (2010).
Occupational recognition as a predictor of Australian clinical social worker’s occupational commitment, identification and turnover intention (PhD Thesis). University of Queensland, Brisbane, pp. 12–13.
Even though social workers may use a variety of interventions, for the purposes of registering with Medicare Australia, a suite of Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS) has been prescribed for working with people who have mental disorders or mental health issues. FPS are a crucial part of demonstrated clinical social work practice for AMHSWs. Applicants are not expected to be fully trained in all the FPS but are expected to demonstrate a diverse knowledge. It is important for applicants to be able to show that they are able to undertake an assessment of a person with a mental disorder or mental health issues as well as develop a treatment plan. Social workers are not expected or trained to diagnose mental illnesses. The applicant is required to analyse two case studies, from the available selection, and must include an explanation why the FPS have been chosen and applied.
- Verification of applicant’s Skills and Competencies in Practice. For each role you would like considered for your application, you will need to provide all of the following:
- Referee statement: You must provide the official AASW referee statement form completed, signed and dated by an employer or supervisor that validates your work and performance in a mental health setting/field using FPS. The form must also confirm the exact dates and hours per week of employment. If you are in private practice, your supervisor may not be able to validate your hours of practice. In this case, we will accept separate evidence of hours.
- Position description: an official agency position description on organisation letter head to confirm the key duties and responsibilities of the role.
- Curriculum vitae: the CV or resume allows our assessor to get an overall picture of your social work experience. Please ensure the dates align with all the evidence you provide.
The assessment of the criteria is determined from the date that the complete application was received.
What is a mental health setting/field for the purposes of the AMHSW credential?
Due to the diversity in mental health practice roles and settings, the AASW is not able to review or confirm that particular mental health positions will fulfil the practice requirements for your Accredited Mental Health Social Work (AMHSW) application. This can only be assessed as part of the AMHSW application process itself.
For guidance regarding mental health related social work roles and AMHSW career planning, we encourage applicants to please refer to the information below.
To meet the AMHSW practice requirements, your mental health practice role/s must:
- Comprise the provision of direct, evidenced-based therapeutic mental health service interventions (e.g. direct counselling and clinical interventions)
- Be informed by the 2014 AASW MH Practice Standards
- Involve the direct use of a range of Focussed Psychological Strategies funded by Medicare (FPS)
- Represent a substantial component or core component of your position.
To meet the AMHSW practice criteria, it is not sufficient that your social work position involves the provision of psychosocial support and/or case management for people with mental health issues and complex comorbidities. The AASW recognises that providing complex support to clients with mental health needs is common to many forms of social work practice, and such support, whilst valuable and often very clearly mental health focussed, is not akin to the delivery of the specific FPS therapeutic interventions that Medicare funds.
Whilst this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, the following are prime areas of mental health practice, which may guide your employment planning with respect to MH Social Work Accreditation:
- Public specialist mental health settings
- Community Mental Health organisations that provide therapeutic services aligned with FPS
- Counselling services through government agencies such as: Department of Veteran Affairs; Defence Force Australia; non-government organisations that specialise in sexual assault, grief, bereavement and or trauma services; government community health; or other relevant services offering treatment and support for clients with a diagnosed/undiagnosed mental health condition. The counselling experience must include a substantial proportion of work with clients who have high prevalence mental health conditions (i.e. depression and or anxiety)
- Specific and targeted counselling and/or clinical mental health services provided by Community Support Organisations
- Private practitioners who have substantial experience with people affected by mental health conditions
Whilst MH Social Work Accreditation requires a minimum of two years fulltime employment in an appropriate mental health role over the last 5 years, it is important to recognise that your initial roles in mental health may not meet the AMHSW eligibility requirements. Such roles (e.g. intake, case management, and other support services or programs for clients with a MH focus) are still highly valuable however, by providing a relevant baseline of skills and experience to assist you to transition into a more focussed therapeutic or clinical mental health role in the future.
We strongly encourage new graduates and those seeking to transition into mental health practice to consider the above information:
- With respect to their overall mental health career planning (e.g. how to build on your experience to move into a specific MH practice role)
- When assessing whether your current social work experience will meet the AMHSW practice requirements when submitting an application.
Please refer Application Flow for AASW Credentials which illustrates the process of making a decision on an application. You will note that there are several phases in the assessment and decision-making process.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) when applying for AMHSW status
Possible assessment outcomes:
- Successful: If the applicant clearly meets all the assessment criteria, they will be notified by email and granted accreditation as a Mental Health Social Worker. The applicant may then choose to apply to Medicare Australia for a Medicare Provider Number
- Unsuccessful: If the applicant is determined as not yet meeting the criteria, the applicant will be informed of this outcome in writing via email. The letter of outcome will provide advice on the professional development or practice experience that will facilitate the applicant obtaining accreditation in the future. Any annual accreditation fee paid in advance will be refunded. There will be no refund of the application fee.
Applicants may appeal to the Manager, Professional Standards and Assessment against an unsuccessful assessment outcome. Should you wish to submit a formal application to appeal this decision, the following criteria must be met:
- Timeframe - The appeal must be lodged within thirty (30) days of the AASW email sending you the outcome letter.
- Writing - The appeal must be a letter addressed to the AASW and submitted together with this appeal application form via email to firstname.lastname@example.org (mental health appeals) or email@example.com (all other credential appeals). Appeal correspondence sent to other AASW email addresses will not be responded to or processed. Appeal correspondence sent to the correct email address will be acknowledged.
- Grounds for appeal - The grounds available to lodge an appeal are that the assessor did not accurately assess the evidence provided. The applicant must specify how the evidence was not accurately assessed as part of their appeal application letter. New information is not a ground for appeal. Please do not include any new information in your appeal letter.
- For an appeal to be reviewed, an appeal fee is required to be paid as defined on the AASW website.
- The appeal application will be assessed by the AASW Credentialing Team to ensure that the grounds for appeal have been sufficiently identified by the applicant.
- The appeal will be considered by an independent assessor who was not the assessor of the original assessment. This person can be an external assessor or an AASW manager.
- In the event of a successful outcome the appeal fee will be reimbursed to the applicant. If, however the appeal application or appeal outcome is unsuccessful, the AASW retains the appeal fee.
- Decisions about the appeal application and appeal outcome are final.
The Appeal Application Form must be submitted with your appeal
Maintaining your credential
Once you have successfully obtained your credential, you must maintain it by:
- Meeting your annual CPD requirements
- Meeting your recency of practice requirements
- Renewing your annual AASW membership and paying the associated fee
- Renewing your annual AASW credential membership and paying the associated fee.
If a member resigns from their membership, or membership lapses for any reason, or the membership status is withdrawn, the member’s accreditation to practise as a Mental Health Social Worker will no longer be valid.
Medicare (Services Australia) has registration requirements that include an obligation on the registrant to inform them if accreditation as a Mental Health Social Worker ceases or membership lapses. The AASW may also notify Medicare (Services Australia) of the changed status.
All members of the AASW, including AMHSWs must comply with the AASW Code of Ethics. If the actions of an AMHSW compromise the expectations set out in the Code of Ethics, accreditation may be forfeited.
Please refer to the AASW website here for details on fee structure.