Counsellors Working in Regional, Rural and Remote

Regional Australian community

While living in regional or rural Australia can be the most fulfilling experience of your life, accessing healthcare is difficult – as anyone who lives remote knows, it’s not just groceries that are hard to come by.

Australians living in regional areas are more likely to have undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, and rates of self-harm and suicide are higher. The National Rural Health Alliance estimates that around 20 per cent of people living outside of major cities suffer from poor mental health, with alcohol issues also common.

Sadly, living in the country means the difficulty of accessing a GP, a medical specialist, or someone to talk to about your mental health is much higher than in the city – but it doesn’t mean you’re alone.

While psychologists can be helpful for specific clinical needs or illnesses, a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist can give mental health support and advice that is professionally sound and practically useful.

Counsellors work in a particular way that addresses your needs and your issues in a constructive and empathetic way – during the sessions, you’re not being diagnosed with an illness. Instead, you’re given the tools and resources to deal with your concerns and a listening ear to work through long-term issues or daily stresses.

Professional registration, through the Australian Counselling Association, means that the counsellor has met certain standards of education and training, undergoes regular supervision and professional development to make sure you get the support you need.

The ACA is also a member of the National Regional Health Alliance and consults regularly with practitioners to make sure people living rurally are supported in their mental health and wellbeing.

For those that live in remote Australia, mental health-related emergency department presentations are just over double than for those living in major cities, speaking to the complex nature of living in isolated areas (NRHA, 2021).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems due to longstanding intergenerational trauma, incarceration, economic and social exclusion, and family violence. Many First Nations counsellors are available who can speak to the challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mob face and provide a culturally safe space to talk.

Thousands of available counsellors can be found via the ACA’s Find a Counsellor directory, and many of these offer telehealth appointments that don’t require you to drive hours to them – you can speak to someone at home in private, much sooner than spending months on a waitlist.

Though the cost of seeing a clinical psychologist can be daunting, counsellors operate at a more affordable framework and are also registered with most private health funds for rebates. This means that you can see a mental health practitioner for support more often without it costing the earth.

Everyday worries that manifest as stress or anxiety, relationship or financial concerns, body image and identity through to long-term depression or suicidal thoughts could be the types of things you bring to a counsellor for advice and coping strategies.

Particularly for those dealing with life changes, parenthood, a traumatic event or for those wanting to explore their sexuality or gender, a counsellor can offer unbiased and empathetic guidance in a safe and confidential way.

There are more registered counsellors working in regional and rural areas than other mental healthcare professionals and it means they are available to help today. 

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