Background to the NDIS

So, you have been allocated some NDIS funding and are interested in accessing psychology services. This article will help you better understand your NDIS funding and how you can use it for psychology, as well as what to consider when searching for a psychology service.

The NDIS has been fully operational in Sydney since around 2015, though the initial rollout in select areas began in 2013. Under the NDIS, Australians with chronic medical conditions and disabilities can receive some formal supports to help promote their independence, connect with their community and live their lives to the fullest with choice and freedom. The NDIS is available to disabled Australians up to 65 years of age and is a nationwide initiative. To receive NDIS funding, a person (termed an NDIS ‘participant’ under the scheme) must meet specific eligibility criteria and present written proof of their disability and its impact on their everyday living capacity. Generally, the NDIS necessitates that the person provides letters and reports from qualified health care professionals to confirm their diagnosis (or diagnoses) and describe how their disability affects their daily functioning.

Psychology session with child at home

NDIS funding and psychology

It is practical to take some time to learn about your NDIS funding and the different funding categories. There are three fundamental categories of supports under the NDIS: core, capital and capacity building. Core supports relate to helping you with general everyday tasks such as support worker assistance and transport; capital supports are for high-cost equipment, home or vehicle modifications and assistive technology; and the capacity building division deals with therapeutic services and support with employment options.

Psychology services fall under the capacity building support category. Psychologists study the complex dynamics between thoughts, feelings and actions to try to better understand human functioning and behaviour. As a therapeutic support, the purpose of psychology is to build people’s practical skills to better manage their difficult thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviours. Under the NDIS funding category of capacity building, psychology is usually engaged in the specific sub-categories (both under capacity building supports) of CB relationships and CB daily activity. The current NDIS pricing guide states that the hourly rate for this area is $193.99.

NDIS funded therapy session

Using psychology supports in Sydney

While people with diagnosed medical or mental health conditions commonly engage in psychology, people without established health problems may also benefit from psychological support. Psychology can often help children and adults with the following difficulties or conditions:

  • Depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health conditions, including personality disorders
  • Developmental delay or intellectual disability
  • Developmental disorders e.g. autism
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Addictions
  • Difficulties dealing with grief, trauma and loss situations
  • Family or relationship problems

Since the rollout of NDIS across Sydney, there are an increasing number of psychological services becoming available. When searching for a service, ensure to be clear and intentional about the goals and primary focus of therapy, how often you need supports, your preferred mode of administration and timeframe of engagement. Other factors such as costs, experience and suitability of psychologists and length of waiting lists are also important to consider. Psychology services can be found online, or your GP, health professional or child’s teachers/school may be able to recommend appropriate services. Moreover, NDIS participants have access to the provider list, which details NDIS registered service providers in each state.

Once psychology sessions have started

The introductory psychology session usually involves the psychologist garnering all relevant information about the client’s personal, health and social history, including the supports (informal and formal) they are currently receiving. It is also useful if the client can share any past medical/health reports or letters with the psychologist, along with any history of previous psychological treatment or engagement. Depending on the client’s level of independence and communication skills, sessions may involve parents or carers. For example, children or people with communication difficulties or severe behaviour problems often require the participation of a parent or other family member. One of the primary goals of the first session is also to develop rapport with the client, as the basis of being able to foster a therapeutic relationship between psychologist and client.

In some instances, a psychological or cognitive assessment may be conducted (not necessarily in the first session) to gain a baseline of the person’s cognitive capacity. A standardised assessment is important as it allows the psychologist to understand the person’s current level of cognitive functioning and compare the results to other people in their age group. The outcomes of the assessment can then be used to guide (realistic) therapy goals and helps the client and psychologist work together to formulate therapy sessions that are most suitable to the client’s needs, goals and current social environment and supports.