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Seeing a social worker

Seeing a social worker

If you need support to address short-term or longer term challenges in your life, seeing a social worker is an excellent option. Social workers are university-qualified allied health professionals who provide counselling and other supports to individuals, families and groups. They can also refer you to other supports and services to suit your needs. 

While many people access social workers through government and community services, it is possible to find a social worker yourself or by referral from your General Practitioner using our Find a Social Worker tool. 

If you or your family members are experiencing mental health issues, it may be appropriate to see an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker. Importantly, these service providers are covered by Medicare Australia, but you first need to obtain a Mental Health Plan from your General Practitioner.  

Pathways to see a social worker

There are a number of pathways to see a social worker.

AASW’s Find a Social Worker tool is an efficient way to find a social worker with the skills and experience to support your needs. Health professionals routinely use this tool to refer their clients to a social worker.  

You can search for a social worker either by name, location or services offered. Once you have identified an appropriate provider, the online directory provides options for you to contact them by telephone or send an email enquiry.  

Your GP or other health service provider can refer you to a qualified social worker. If they don’t know of a suitable social worker near you, ask them to use the Find a Social Worker search tool. Please note some funding bodies such as Medicare require referrals from a General Practitioner - check with the funder to avoid disappointment.

It is common for people to be referred to social workers via other service providers such as hospitals, community health services and government support services.  

Services Australia offers social work services, including short-term counselling, information and referrals to support services. 

If you require language support, you can use Centrelink’s multilingual phone service as a first step to access government social work services.  

What to expect

Social workers deliver support on a one-on-one basis and also via group counselling. Social workers are trained to listen to people and support them to address personal difficulties and structural barriers in their lives. Many social workers will offer you a choice between face-to-face sessions and telehealth appointments. 

Your social worker will guide you through your sessions. If you are having one-on-one counselling, the first session is an opportunity for the social worker to gain an understanding of the support you require. They may ask a number of questions about your history/background and current circumstances, including work, family and relationships, housing, and physical and mental health. As your sessions continue, your social worker will look at all aspects of your life and partner with you to discuss possible solutions, supports and pathways. 

Seeing a social worker is a two-way conversation and you should feel free to ask questions too.  

If you feel nervous about your session with a social worker, you can choose to write down a few notes to help you prepare. This can help you remember the key points you want to talk about and ensure you get the most out of each session. 

Fees

The fees for seeing a social worker will depend on the service provider and your circumstances. For example, whether you are eligible for Medicare rebates or other compensation:

  • If you are seeing an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker (AMHSW), obtaining a Mental Health Treatment Plan from your GP will enable you to claim a Medicare rebate for up to 10 sessions.
  • AMHSW services are recognised by some private health insurance funds such as Bupa, HCF and Teachers Health (including UniHealth and Nurses and Midwives Health). Benefits paid by these funds vary depending on the level of ancillary cover and your eligibility.
  • Accredited Social Workers can be registered with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). There are item numbers under the NDIS relevant to various services provided by social workers, with two item numbers specifically dedicated to social workers.
  • Social workers can provide services under a number of state-based worker compensation schemes and transport accident schemes.

 

The AASW is constantly working with other compensation schemes and private health funds to encourage them to provide benefits for social worker services.