Many psychotherapists and counsellors I speak to in person as well as members of my counselling directory Australia Counselling, experience something I call ‘Medicare despair’.

Medicare despair is a range of feelings including frustration, annoyance, hopelessness and sometimes depression. These feelings are related to the fact that counsellors and psychotherapists in Australia cannot access Medicare rebates for their clients.

As it stands currently, clients of social workers and psychologists can receive a limited amount of sessions per calendar year rebated through Medicare, if they receive a mental health diagnosis and referral from their G.P.

I’ve always been of the opinion that Medicare rebates aren’t needed to create a thriving counselling practice. In fact, if I had the option to offer rebates to my clients, I wouldn’t sign up. I don’t want the extra hours of paperwork and admin related to processing clients referred from doctors.

More importantly, I don’t want to have to have my clients labelled with a mental illness so they can access my services.

Most of my therapy work is medium to long term. I work with clients for anywhere between 6 months to 5 years. The fact is, change is often slow and takes time. I think anyone who thinks they can resolve years, sometimes decades of unresolved issues including trauma, painful relationships or difficult family experiences in 5-10 sessions in a year is deluding themselves.

The downside of counsellors not being able to access Medicare rebates means some therapists and counsellors are becoming bitter, cynical and disillusioned with why they are doing this work.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Here are some things to consider if you are struggling ‘Medicare despair’.

1. Choose a specific niche for marketing purposes

It’s essential you market your counselling services to a very specific niche where a population or a population with a problem is looking for a solution to their problem.

In addition to that, this population needs to feel an urgency to resolve their pain. The more urgency that is experienced, the more likely people are going to seek out a solution within a short time frame and pay for that solution.

2. Establish yourself as the ‘go to’ expert in this area

Once you’ve chosen your niche for marketing purposes (you can still choose to work with anyone you want outside of this niche), it’s time to start to build your profile as an authority in this area.

Consumers are very savvy today. No one wants to see a generalist counsellor for a very specific problem.

Consumers want to work with the counsellors that have the most experience and expertise in the area of their specific problem or pain.

There are many ways you can build your profile including:

A niche-focused website

  • writing blog posts about your area of expertise
  • pitching stories to the media where you can comment as the expert
  • using social media to share helpful articles and information about your niche
  • networking with allied health professionals that work with your ideal clients
  • writing articles on high-profile blogs and websites that your clients read

There are many other ways to build your profile, but this will get you started.

3. Educate people about the benefits of counselling

This is something counsellors and therapists as a whole are not particularly good at.

Make sure you’re educating people about what counselling is (and isn’t) and clearly stating the benefits.

Unfortunately there is still quite a stigma in Australia when it comes to people attending counselling and therapy. However, a lot of this can be reduced through educating people about how counselling can be helpful.

Use research and statistics to help people understand how effective counselling is and how it can improve the quality of lives and display this proudly on your website and promotional materials.

4. Remember why you’re doing this work

It’s important you don’t let ‘Medicare despair’ stop you from doing what you love with your ideal clients.

Just like you help your clients work with negative beliefs and thoughts, pay attention to your own thinking and beliefs systems that are getting in the way of you achieving success.

There’s a reason why you wanted to become a counsellor. Remember your motivating purpose and passion that led you into this career.

Staying close to your goals, purpose and vision can help you ride through the difficult times when you practice may be in a lull.

5. Trust the power of word of mouth

As counsellors, we all love to receive word of mouth referrals. That’s because we know they are often the best clients because they are coming to us highly recommended and they are ready for change.

If you’re doing good work with your clients, it’s only a matter of time before all your happy clients start referring you to their friends, family and colleagues.

If you’re only just starting out in practice, this can take a few years to build momentum, but when it does, it’s a wonderful thing.

Trust in the work you’re doing and results your clients get. Then be patient in waiting for those word of mouth referrals to hit a critical mass where you’re receiving regular referrals every month.

‘Medicare despair’ doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to build the practice you dreamed of. It might take more time and effort, but in the long run, you’ll love you business and your clients more than you ever thought possible.

Sign up for our FREE 5-part eCourse on ethical marketing strategies for counsellors

If you’re serious about building your counselling business, we’d like to invite you to the Australia Counselling 5-part eCourse called “5 Ethical Practice-Building Strategies for Counsellors”. Just sign up on this link, and you’ll receive our eCourse, delivered straight to your inbox.

 About the author:
Clinton Power is the Founder of Australia Counselling, a free counselling directory for finding a counsellor, therapist or psychologist in Australia. Clinton is also a Gestalt therapist and a relationship counsellor and the founder of Clinton Power + Associates.