Can psychologist diagnose Australia

Can psychologists diagnose in Australia?

Can psychologists diagnose in Australia? –- Yes[1]! If you would like further clarification about your specific circumstances, talk to our team. Also, if you are looking to be referred to an NDIS psychologist who diagnoses in Australia, you’re on the right page!

If you are simply looking for psychologists that diagnose in Australia, feel free to skip ahead to the “NDIS Psychologist Services at Chat Clinic” section.

What a diagnosis is.

A diagnosis is a process of determining whether the symptoms you are experiencing relate to an underlying condition[2]. During your initial sessions, your psychologist may wish to understand your situation better and may undertake a psychological evaluation. This would involve a mental status examination[3]. If the psychologist decides that further assessment or clinical evaluation is warranted, this might involve the use of screening tools, tests, assessments, structured, semi-structured or unstructured interviews or, observation in naturalistic or clinical settings.

Arriving at a diagnosis may involve a multidisciplinary approach. This could involve your psychologist reviewing reports from other health professionals involved in your life such as your GP, Psychiatrist, etc. In specific cases, feedback from people in your life might be helpful. This can include family members, friends, work colleagues or teachers if you are still in school. In the context of the NDIS, this might include correspondence from your caregiver, support worker, support coordinators and local area coordinators. As your diagnosis is carefully considered, your psychologist may also consider your symptoms in the context of your current circumstances.

Your psychologist would likely use classification systems such as the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V)[4] or the ‘International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Edition’ (ICD-10)[5]. Within these manuals, each condition is described according to their clinical symptoms, the context of how these symptoms might present, the condition’s prevalence in various populations, specifics and details about the symptoms when there are comorbidities, how these symptoms might affect you and manifest in challenges that you might face, considerations for treatment and so forth.

It’s important to highlight that the diagnosis that is offered by your psychologist will not rely solely on one source of information. Relying on a single source increases the risk of making an inaccurate and unreliable diagnosis[6]. All of the abovementioned tools and classification systems must be accompanied by clinical experience, assessment data and a working knowledge of populations presenting with the relevant clinical symptoms. A psychologist seeking to make an accurate and reliable diagnosis must be able to demonstrate that their conclusions regarding a diagnosis are sound and that the diagnosis is evidence-based[6]. This is to ensure that you receive effective treatment based on research evidence and correct information regarding your prognosis[7].

Can psychologists diagnose in Australia?

Yes, a psychologist registered with the Psychology Board of Australia is permitted to[1]:

  • diagnose and provide treatment for mental health issues,
  • provide approved psychological services under a relevant funding body such as Medicare Australia, Department of Veterans Affairs, Victims Services, NDIS, etc.,
  • conduct psychological testing for personality, intelligence, cognition, memory, stress, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • prepare necessary reports for government bodies and the judicial system such as the courts.

If you would like to check if your psychologist is registered with the Psychology Board of Australia[8].

Can psychologists diagnose and provide evidence for your NDIS application?

Within the context of the NDIS, it’s important to get the right treating health professionals to document your diagnosis.

Refer to the following page to find out what type of treating health professional [9] you need to provide you with the best evidence for your disability.

For example, if you are seeking a diagnosis from your registered psychologist, your diagnosis could be determined from a psychological evaluation that seeks evidence from sources such as assessments, tests, screening tools, structured, semi-structured or unstructured interviews or, observation in naturalistic or clinical settings.

A multidisciplinary approach could involve:

  • Reports from other health professionals involved in your life such as your GP or Psychiatrist.

In specific cases, with your consent, feedback from people in your life including

  • parent/ guardian/ family members,
  • friends,
  • work colleagues
  • teachers

In the context of the NDIS, this might include

  • your caregiver,
  • support worker,
  • support coordinators
  • local area coordinators.

Your diagnosis would also take into consideration:

  • History
  • Current Circumstances

If psychologists can diagnose in Australia, what is the criteria for an NDIS eligible diagnosis?

The diagnosis that your psychologist would have to provide you would need to be presented through relevant reports demonstrating that your disability is a:

  • Permanent disability – this would indicate that the impact of your disability is likely to be lifelong. [10]
  • Significant disability – that your disability has a substantial impact on your ability or capacity to undertake/complete daily activities. [10]

Why a diagnosis is necessary for the NDIS?

The diagnosis and assessment, from the treating health professional is necessary because it assists to determine whether a condition is:

  • a permanent impairment and disability resulting in substantially reduced functional capacity [13]
  • of a severity where the impairment is variable [10],

If the impairment is variable, the treating health professional will need to demonstrate from the diagnosis and assessment that as a result of their impairment:

  • a reducing functional capacity and/or psychosocial functioning [10];
  • a reduction in social and economic capacity has resulted[10]
  • a continuation of the support that will be required is lifelong [10]

This also applies to participants with long-term mental health that results in:

  • a significant disability that is likely to be permanent [10]
  • severe effects and social disadvantage [10]

Can a psychologist’s diagnosis or, a diagnosis from a treating health professional help me obtain NDIS support?

A report which outlines the diagnosis and assessment from a treating health professional such as a GP, registered psychologist, NDIS physiotherapist, etc. is required as evidence in your application for NDIS funding [9]. The report from your treating health professional has to accompany any disability evidence or functional assessment that is required as part of your category of primary disability[10].

Disability evidence to support your NDIS application

Please observe that for each category of disability, the NDIS specifies the type of treating mental health professional from whom your report has to be provided to be eligible for your application for NDIS funding[9].

Eligible treating mental health professionals[9]

What types of participants need a diagnosis to obtain NDIS funding?

Participants can seek NDIS support through the NDIS for core support, capital support, capacity building and assistive technology as a result of an ongoing, permanent and significant disability[11]. The NDIS program supports participants with a range of disabilities including intellectual, physical, sensory, cognitive, neurological, visual, hearing and psychosocial[10]. The NDIS program also addresses early intervention support for younger people identified with disabilities and children with developmental delay through early intervention support [12]. At Chat Clinic, our registered psychologists work in all of the above areas and are dedicated to finding you the right treating health professional.

The NDIS classifies disabilities into two categories.

Participants with a diagnosis within List A [10]would be classified as having a:

  • Permanent impairment
  • Reduced functional capacity

Evidence of a diagnosis and assessment according to the criteria of the conditions listed in List A would be required[13]. Unless requested by the NDIS, no evidence of reduced functional capacity is required[13].

Type of treating health professional that the diagnosis and assessment need to come from:

Participants with a diagnosis within List B[10] would be classified as having a:

  • Permanent impairment where the impairment is variable

Evidence of the impairment needs to meet the following criteria[10]:

  • Functional capacity and/or psychosocial functioning has been reduced
  • The ability to participate socially and economically has been inhibited
  • The duration of support required from the NDIS is ongoing and permanent

What conditions are not covered under the NDIS?

If your condition is:

  • Time limited[10]
    • For example, where the intended participant has acute injuries that are likely to resolve
  • Chronic health condition unrelated to a disability[10]
    • For example, where treatment and care is covered by the Department of Health
  • Related to medication and medical care[10]

If psychologists can diagnose in Australia, does it matter if I use an AHPRA registered psychologist from a registered and unregistered NDIS provider?

An assessment and diagnosis from a registered psychologist does not differ between NDIS registered and unregistered NDIS service providers. The key difference between NDIS registered and unregistered NDIS providers are that NDIS registered service providers are able to see agency, plan and self-managed clients[13] versus unregistered providers and can only see plan managed and self-managed participants[14]. It is important to highlight that registration with the NDIS is optional[14].

Participants also have the right to choose[13]:

  • How plans are managed (Agency, Plan or Self-managed)
  • Whether they prefer part of their plans to be Agency, Plan or Self-managed.

What’s more important is to verify if the healthcare practitioner or registered psychologist you are working with is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency[8]. This will give you peace of mind that the practitioner is permitted to practice. Once you have confirmed that they are a registered psychologist, then you can decide if the psychologist has the experience and the capacity to provide you with approved services and support that you need.

In summation, both registered and unregistered providers can deliver services and supports to you[14]. When working with a healthcare professional or registered psychologist, keep an eye out if you have a therapeutic alliance with your psychologist[15]. This ensures that you’re working with a healthcare professional or psychologist who has your best interests at heart.

The clients we work with are happy to work with us for the following reasons.

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  1. Australian Psychological Society. (n.d.). Psychologists with general registration.
  2. Mengel, M. B., Holleman, W., & Fields, S. A. (Eds.). (2002). Fundamentals of clinical practice. Springer Science & Business Media.
  3. Martin, D. C. (1990). The mental status examination. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition.
  4. American Psychiatric Association, D. S., & American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (Vol. 5). Washington, DC: American psychiatric association.
  5. World Health Organization. (1992). The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders: clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. World Health Organization.
  6. Committee on Psychological Testing IVT, for Social Security Administration Disability Determinations, Populations BotHoS, Medicine Io. (2015). Psychological Testing in the Service of Disability Determination.
  7. Whiting, P., Harbord, R., de Salis, I., Egger, M., & Sterne, J. (2008). Evidence-based diagnosis. Journal of Health Services research & policy, 13(3_suppl), 57-63.
  8. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. (2022). Look up a health practitioner Health Profession.
  9. National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2019, August 2). Types of disability evidence.
  10. Eligibility and medical conditions FAQ. (2020, October 14). Eligibility and medical conditions FAQ.,)%2C%20resulting%20in%20significant%20disability.
  11. National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2021k, November 24). Plan budget and rules.
  12. National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2021i, November 3). Early childhood approach.
  13. National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2021g, August 11). Ways to manage your funding.
  14. NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. (n.d.). Unregistered NDIS providers.
  15. Ardito, R. B., & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic alliance and outcome of psychotherapy: historical excursus, measurements, and prospects for research. Frontiers in psychology, 2, 270.
  16. National Disability Insurance Scheme. (2022b, March 1). Pricing arrangements.