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4.2.2 Engaging with private practitioners for services

Last Modified: 23-Dec-2021 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


Private practitioners can be engaged to provide services to clients of the Department of Communities (the Department) when:

  • a particular assessment, competence or treatment service is required but does not exist within the Department

  • existing Department services are unable to provide the service within the referral timeframe

  • an independent report is required for legal or therapeutic reasons, or

  • when the service is not available through other government departments such as the Department of Health or Education.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.


  • Once the services have been completed, the practitioner must provide you with a written report by the allocated completion date, as agreed and state on the Form 666 – Referral Form Formal Assessment.

Process Maps

Not applicable

Information and Instructions

  • Psychology Register
  • Referrals to approved private psychologists
  • Referrals to approved external psychologists for therapy
  • Referral to a care provider (NGO) internal psychologist
  • Referral to a private psychologist for an extended assessment
  • Referrals to other private practitioners (non-psychologists)
  • Psychology Register

    The Department maintains a two-part psychology register. The first is for those psychologists assessed as being trauma-informed and suitable to undertake therapy with children in the CEO's care.

    The second part is for extended assessors who have been assessed to be suitable to provide a variety of reports for families, carers and children in the CEO's care to a standard suitable for use in Court. Consultation with a district psychologists and/or a district director (DD) should take place around goals for therapy referrals and terms of references for extended assessment referrals to ensure that these are particularised to the problems associated with the child and to maximise the opportunity of the best outcomes for the child.


    Referrals to approved private psychologists

    The process for therapy or assessment referrals is as follows:

    1. Consult with a Department psychologist about the isues of concern to determine whether a referral to a psychologist is indicated; if so, the consultation will include consideration of the goals for the referral and possible referral sources.

    2. Check to see if the required service (therapy or assessment) is available within the Department.

    3. Check the  Approved Psychologist Practitioners List or consult the district psychologist for an appropriate practitioner.

    4. Contact the private psychologist to see if the practitioner will accept the referral.

    5. Obtain team leader endorsement and DD approval for the expenditure.

    6. Discuss the referral with the client.

    7. Complete either Form 665 – Referral Form Intervention or Therapy when Engaging a Private Practitioner or Engaging an Approved Non-Government Organisation to Provide Therapeutic Services or Form 666 – Referral Form Formal Assessment when Engaging a Private Practitioner or Engaging an Approved Non-Government Organisation to Provide Therapeutic Services - see details below for further information.

    8. Psychology Services will prepare a contract/referral between the Department and the private psychologist.

    9. Once the services have been completed, the private psychologist should provide the Department with a written report.


    Referrals to approved external psychologists for therapy

    This refers to a client, parent, carer or child referred to an external private psychologist for therapy to promote some development or change.

    This requires there to be a set of goals which clearly state the behaviour or change that the therapy is aimed at and is evaluated.

    It is the responsibility of the private psychologist to ensure there is no conflict of interest in accepting the referral. Should such a conflict exist, complete the General Conflict of Interest Form and discuss with the district psychologist or Senior Consultant Psychologist to examine what measures will need to be taken to manage the conflict. Record any measures identified.

    Access through the Medicare Benefits Schedule

    It is possible to access private practitioner services via the Medicare Benefits Scheme under the Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP).  The MHCP is accessed via referral from a General Practitioner (GP).

    Consult with your district psychologist or a Senior Consultant Psychologist before seeking referral to a private psychologist through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

    This may also require discussion with the DD as sometimes the treating psychologist may refuse to provide the information to the Department about the therapy stemming from the treatment contract being between the referring GP and the psychologist.


    Referrals can only be made by a GP or medical practitioner to a registered psychologist. Many general and specialist endorsed psychologists are registered to provide services eligible for Medicare rebates. Medicare rebates are available for the treatment of mental health disorders.

    Comprehensive information about the range of disorders is available on the Australian Psychological Society website. Disorders listed as being eligible include:

    • adjustment
    • alcohol use
    • anxiety
    • attention deficit
    • bereavement
    • bipolar
    • conduct
    • depression
    • drug use
    • eating
    • obsessive compulsive 
    • panic
    • phobic
    • post-traumatic stress, and 
    • psychotic.

    Clinical assessments

    A clinical assessment usually forms part of the initial consultation in preparation for treatment or therapy. The practitioner usually undertakes this in the first session to ensure that:

    • the referral is appropriate
    • the problem outlined in the referral is what the client presents with, and
    • whether the therapist can provide a suitable service to meet the client's needs.

    The clinical assessment forms part of the usual first session and is acceptable in the MHCP. No report results from this assessment as it is purely to inform the therapy process. 

    IQ testing, neuropsychological assessment or forensic assessments such as parenting capacity assessments, are not eligible for a Medicare rebate. 

    To progress with a referral, schedule a medical appointment with the client to inform the client's GP about the issues of concern. A GP will need to develop a MHCP and this will usually require a longer appointment. 

    You and the district psychologist work together to compile the necessary background information and reasons for your concerns. The GP requires this information to develop and appraise the client's MHCP and informs the GP's decision as to whether the plan and referral will be advanced.  This information also forms the basis for the GP's referral to the practitioner.

    Under the MBS, up to 20 sessions are available with a review after approximately half the sessions, in any calendar year. Further sessions are available under exceptional circumstances.

    Approved private psychologist

    When attempting to secure services for children in the CEO's care via a MHCP, you should provide the GP with a list of local private practitioners chosen from the Approved Psychologist Practitioners List  whenever possible. Practitioners on this list have been deemed to possess knowledge and skills relevant to children in the CEO's care particularly regarding being "trauma informed". You should inform and discuss this with the GP.

    In circumstances where it is not possible to use a psychologist from the approved list, it is imperative that the approved psychologist, on accepting the referral, has a valid Working with Children Card and the necessary police clearances.

    Further information

    Further information on MBS items can be obtained from:


    Referral to a care provider (NGO) internal psychologist

    ​Care providers are required to contact the case manager to ensure the requested service is appropriate in terms of the child's overall case plan held by the Department. To do this, the provider submits an Information Form to Request Psychological Support for a Young Person in Out-of-Home Care (in related resources) as per the Requests for Psychological Services for Children in Out-of-Home Care Guideline (in related resources).

    Review the request with a Department psychologist to consider how best the child's therapy needs can be met.  If it is agreed to proceed with a referral to the internal psychologist employed by the care provider, complete Form 665 – Referral Form Intervention or Therapy when Engaging a Private Practitioner or Engaging an Approved Non-Government Organisation to Provide Therapeutic Services. This ensures that the process is recorded appropriately and that there are clear goals for the therapy.

    Psychologists working in out-of-home care often have multiple roles within their organisation. To ensure they have a risk management strategy to enable the management of any conflicts or perceived conflict of interest, they should complete a Community Service Organisations and Psychology Services - Conflict of Interest Declaration/Disclosure Form.

    Place a copy on the child's file. If the psychologist refused to complete and provide a form to the Department, you should record that in the child's care plan.


    Referral to a private psychologist for an extended assessment

    ​An extended assessment may include, but is not limited to the following assessments:

    • Parenting Capacity
    • Autism
    • Risk
    • Functional Capacity
    • Neuropsychological

    Obtain support from a Department psychologist to establish appropriate Terms of Reference that outline the specific questions or assessments that need to be undertaken and answered.

    Only use the list of approved extended assessment psychologists and Form 666 – Referral Form Formal Assessment when Engaging a Private Practitioner or Engaging an Approved Non-Government Organisation to Provide Therapeutic Services

    Provision of documentation to assessors

    When providing information in any form to the psychologist, you must advise them that the information is confidential and should not be dispersed without prior permission. This especially refers to the name of notifiers (persons notifying the Department of child protection concerns).

    Only documentation for Parenting Capacity Assessments may be provided through the Objective Connect service. Refer to the Guidelines for Department documents for Parenting Capacity Assessments for further information.

    Documentation for non PCA may be provided on a USB that is encrypted and password protected.  It must be returned to the Department after the assessment is completed.

    Refer to the Guidelines for Provision of Department File Materials for Non-Parenting Capacity Assessments for further information. 


    Referrals to other private practitioners (non-psychologists)

    Follow General Procedures 1 to 4 above in Referrals to approved private psychologists

    Before a client is referred to a private practitioner or health professional who is not registered with the Department, you should discuss referrals with your:

    • team leader
    • district director, or
    • a director, Specialist Child Protection Unit if appropriate.

    The practitioner must be known to the Department in some way or have been through a vetting process, and must hold a valid Working with Children Card.

    The referral

    You should contact the agency/private practitioner to establish if they have their own referral processes (e.g. an agency may have their own referral form). 

    Provide a written referral that identifies the purpose and provides the practitioner with background information on the client, including any safety issues, the expected assessment and treatment goals and reporting requirements.

    Where required, consult with your team leader to discuss the referral and/or obtain assistance in writing the referral. 

    Once the services have been completed, the practitioner must provide you with a written report.

    If further sessions are required, discuss these with your team leader and seek approval from your DD.