Psychologists for people with autism
What is a psychologist?
Psychologists are health professionals who study the human mind – our mental health, emotions, intelligence, motivations and behaviours. They use psychotherapy (sometimes called cognitive therapy or ‘talk’ therapy) to help people find solutions to relationships, learning, performance in a range of areas and life’s challenges.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Psychologists are not medically trained and cannot prescribe medications. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are able to prescribe medications. Both psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illnesses and conditions.
How can psychologists help people with autism?
Some psychologists have an interest and expertise in autism, gained through additional study and clinical experience.
A General Practitioner (GP) or other health professional may refer a person to a Psychologist if they suspect that the person has autism, or if they have concerns about the person’s mental health. Self-referrals can also be made to a Psychologist.
Specifically, Psychologists can assist people with autism, or who are suspected of having autism, with the following professional services:
Psychologists can assist in the assessment and diagnosis of autism. A psychologist will usually work in a diagnostic team, with a paediatrician, psychiatrist and/or speech pathologist to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Diagnosis is based on observing a specific combination of behaviours. Psychologists can also assist with managing the mental health of a person with autism, or who have suspected autism.
Assessments can occur at any point in a person’s life to ensure their behaviours are understood and that they are being supported appropriately. Assessments can occur at any stage of a person’s life and can involve input from other health professionals.
Sometimes the unique behaviours and communication presented by a person with autism can heighten emotional stress within a family. or support system. This can lead to a range of responses – depression, anxiety, guilt, anger – which may cause relationship difficulties between significant others and the person with autism, and between the significant others themselves.Psychologists can provide an important external “sounding board” for you and your loved ones during challenging times. They are independent and not emotionally involved and can therefore help people with autism and their support systems solve their problems through counselling without taking sides, and many find this impartial, non-judgemental approach a refreshing alternative to confiding in family or friends.
Develop strategies and support programs for managing autism, and if necessary, other conditions such as ADHD, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
Assessing specific learning difficulties, helping plan for school and post school options.
Refer the person to medical specialists such as neurologists, paediatricians and psychiatrists and/or other allied health professionals such as an occupational therapist or speech pathologist.
Psychologists can prepare formal reports and provide professional opinions for schools, employers and other doctors and specialists.
Psychologists have a deep understanding of the medical, health and education system and can provide connections with a range of health and community services.
How do psychologists provide their services?
Psychologists generally conduct in-clinic, individualised assessments, and then recommend a series of follow up counselling and therapy sessions. Some psychologists can also do home visits, kindergarten and child care visits, school visits, or work visits.
Where do autism psychologists practice?
Many psychologists work in private practice, either in their own clinics or as part of a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals. They may also be employed by schools, public and private hospitals and community health services. To find out more, or to get a referral speak with your GP, or visit our support and services page.
What training do psychologists undertake?
Psychology is a regulated health profession. To practice as a professional psychologist a person must:
- Complete a recognised University degree qualification followed by training and supervised experience (around six years).
- Register with the Psychology Board of Australia and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
- Adhere to the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics.
- Complete continuing professional development and meet all requirements of the Psychology Board of Australia.
- To make autism diagnostic assessments, they may also need to complete additional professional development requirements.
What does a psychologist cost?
The fee at which a service is set is at the discretion of the individual psychologist so it is important to discuss this with the psychologist or clinic manager before booking an appointment.
Psychology is an approved service under the NDIS. For more information about the funding options that may be available to you please visit our financial services page.
For more information about psychology, please visit the Australian Psychological Society website, or the Psychology Board of Australia website.