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If you’ve ever wondered what a psychologist does, whether this specialisation is an option for you, or one you’ve tried that didn’t work so well, we’ve done our best to provide you with some answers.


CF can be tough at times so it is good to have productive strategies and positive thought processes to support you along the way. CF and psychology is unique and most Australian CF clinics now provide access to psychologists specialised in CF. Alternatively, it can also be beneficial to see someone close to home.

What is psychology?

Psychology is the study of the human mind and its functions, processes and influences. Psychological research helps our understanding of emotion, personality, intelligence, memory, perception, cognition, attention, motivation and other biological processes.

Ultimately, psychology is a science that provides a deeper understanding of how people function, and develops tools to help them thrive.

What does a psychologist do?

A psychologist is someone who has studied human behaviour extensively, and who aims to help people to solve day-to-day problems, implement strategies and further the understanding of behaviour to improve quality of life. People seek therapy from psychologists for  many reasons. These include dealing with stressful current circumstances, long-standing problems or chronic unhappiness, as well as a search for personal growth and insight into their own lives.

A psychologist will follow evidence-based therapies and techniques to explore patterns, issues and strengths to help improve mental and emotional wellbeing. The profession is based on trust, confidentiality, respect and unconditional positive regard. Psychologists don’t just treat problems, they also work with mentally healthy people to make them function at a more productive level.

The different types of psychologists

There are many types of psychologists, depending on what they have specialised in. It is likely you may see a clinical or general psychologist during your CF clinics. Some specialities include:

  • Clinical
  • General
  • Health
  • Behavioural
  • Occupational
  • Community
  • Counselling
  • Educational
  • Forensic

How do I find a psychologist?

You might have a psychologist available through the CF clinics who is highly specialised in cystic fibrosis and as a result, will have a greater understanding of your challenges. However, they are limited by resourcing capacity and time, so it may be a good idea to find a local psychologist who you can share your story with. Speaking to someone different can often bring fresh perspective and new approaches.

Like any specialist or health professional, it is good to do your research prior to making an appointment. It may also take several attempts before you find the right fit. It can be worthwhile speaking to your GP, as they’ll have a greater knowledge of your personality, your communication style and the local psychologists who may suit you and your specific circumstances.

When you’re approaching a local psychologist, choose two or three to screen over the phone before you lock in an appointment. Write down key areas you wish to address and questions you may have for them beforehand, such as:

  • What are my goals for therapy?
  • What do I want to change or address?
  • What am I looking for to ensure a good connection?
  • What qualities do I admire – connection, warmth, intellect, conciseness, encouragement?
Search the Australian Psychological Society for a registered psychologist

Common barriers for seeking help

Many things prevent people from seeking help. They include:

  • stigma
  • bad prior experience
  • fear of discrimination
  • cultural considerations
  • lack of access to mental health services
  • religious considerations
  • lack of awareness
  • not knowing how to access services
  • language barriers
  • financial considerations
  • lack of motivation

What if I’ve seen a psychologist and it didn’t work for me?

Seeing a psychologist is a bit like seeing a personal trainer. It takes commitment on both sides, and to see the benefit, you both need to understand each other.

Psychologists may not be able to understand the full complexity of cystic fibrosis in the first session. It can take several sessions to build understanding and develop a rapport. This may or may not lead to more sessions, depending on what you are wanting to achieve.

Alternatively, seeing a psychologist who uses a different approach may be more beneficial to you. It is okay to acknowledge that you don’t feel a connection and see someone else.

I’m tired of explaining CF

It is understandable that you sometimes feel you’re constantly educating the world on cystic fibrosis. To make this process easier, CFWA has prepared a Health Professional Booklet to help inform health professionals, including psychologists, and the broader community.

If you are making a time to see a new psychologist, you could suggest they check out these resources if they would like some in-depth information about cystic fibrosis prior to your appointment.

Common psychological therapies

Illustrated outline of hands holding a lightbulb.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Is based on the idea that how we think affects how we feel. CBT helps a person recognise negative self-talk and behaviours and change them to more realistic ones. CBT helps retrain thoughts. It can include stress management, relaxation techniques, sleep management and more.

Illustrated outline of a woman practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy

Involves learning a type of meditation that teaches people to focus on the present, taking notice of what they are thinking and feeling.

Illustrated outline of a woman training a dog.
Behaviour therapy

Is part of CBT. It focuses on increasing a person’s level of activity and pleasure.

Illustrated outline of a man with his hand on his chin.
Problem solving therapy

Involves meeting with a therapist to identify problems, think of new solutions and strategies and selecting the best one. Then developing a plan, and carrying it out.

Illustrated outline of a person's head side on, within which is a lightbulb.
Psychodynamic therapy

Involves how the unconscious patterns in a person’s mind can potentially influence their problems.

Illustrated outline of a woman using a computer.
Computerised therapy

Which is a self-help therapy delivered online. These are very effective when used under the guidance of a health professional

How do to get a mental health care plan?

A mental health care plan is a support plan for someone who is going through mental health issues. If a doctor agrees that you need additional support, you and the doctor will make the plan together.

Book an appointment with your GP. When you make the booking, tell them you want to talk about a mental health care plan. That way, the doctor will know in advance and be able to set enough time. It usually takes a double appointment.

Your doctor might ask you to fill out a questionnaire about how you’ve been feeling to work out the best support for you.

This may include a referral to a psychologist, social worker or other allied health professional for one on one sessions like a psychologist or other mental health professional that can support you. You may also have options for groups sessions if that suits your needs better. You may also be provided with strategies to improve and maintain your mental health.

Medicare Rebate

If you have a mental health care plan, the Medicare rebate covers you for a certain amount of the value of your session ($124.50 for 50+ minutes with a clinical psychologist). If your psychologist charges more, you’ll need to pay the difference – the “gap”. Some psychologists offer cheaper visits for concession holders, so if you’re a student or have a health care card, make sure you do your research. If the person is in year 11 or 12, they might be eligible for extra support. You can also access other allied health professionals, such as counsellors and clinical social workers. Just make sure they are Medicare registered so you can claim the rebate.

It’s important to remember you won’t be able to get a referral for all ten sessions for the year in one go. Your plan will cover you for six sessions. After that, you can go back to your doctor for a review, where you’ll talk about whether it would be helpful to have another four sessions.

To find professional counselling and therapy

  • Speak with your CF psychologist or social worker, GP or a mental health professional
  • Look up the Australian Psychological Society and search for a registered psychologist
  • Speak with your local CF organisation’s social or case worker.