What hidden costs are in a counselling service?

Are you worried about hidden costs in a counselling service?

Don’t be, most counselling services will give you the fee details upfront so you can make a good decision based on your current circumstances. 

Amy Doyle

Amy Doyle

Holistic Counsellor

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Have you ever gone to an appointment and when the time has come to pay, you’ve felt blind-sighted? I have.

When you’re working on a tight budget, the pressure or feeling of scrambling for the next week (or more) can be really dysregulating. Most counselling services will provide you with the fee details upfront so you can ensure you are prepared when the time for payment comes.

In this article, we will go through:

  • the hidden costs of a counselling service 
  • counselling and GST
  • counselling and tax deductions
  • accessing free counselling services.

The hidden costs of a counselling service

When it comes to hidden costs in a counselling service, there aren’t likely to be any. The costs involved usually come down to: 

  • Initial/Standard Session cost
  • Late cancellation fee
  • Additional time fee/Extended Session fee

In any allied health practice, it is good to know the cost of these upfront so you can budget accordingly. If you are concerned about additional time or extended session fees it is good practice to let your practitioner or counsellor know prior to starting your session so you can discuss beforehand and both be on the same page. 

Depending on the counsellor you work with, they may suggest additional products, books, workshops, assessment tests, etc to support you in your work together. Again, I highly recommend letting them know when something is out of your budget so they can let you know of alternative options or review the timeline of your work together.  

Are counselling services GST-Free?

Counselling and hypnotherapy services are not GST-free when provided on a standalone basis. However, they may be GST-free if provided as a component of a recognised health service such as psychology or social work by a recognised professional. 

Most counselling services will note whether their prices are GST-inclusive or not.

“ A recognised health professional is a person who is registered, permitted or approved under state or territory law to provide the listed health service. If there is no relevant state or territory law, a recognised professional is a member of a professional association that relates to the listed health service and has the same registration requirements nationally."

Do you charge GST on health services?

Some health services will charge GST, it really depends on: 

  • the business structure 
  • contract terms between health professionals and the business
  • terms and rules for third-party contracts and agreements
  • if the business is registered for GST
  • if the service is GST exempt, provided by a recognised professional  (such as a psychologist or social worker) and accepted as appropriate treatment.

What services in counselling are GST-free?

Counselling services are GST-free when the operating business is not registered for GST. 

They may also be GST-free if delivered by a recognised professional as part of a recognised service that is GST-exempt  (listed further below) and deemed as necessary for the appropriate treatment of the recipient.   

The best way to know if your counselling service is GST-free is to ask when making your initial booking or payment.

Are counselling services GST-Exempt?​

Counselling services are not GST-exempt services. The only time a counselling service will be GST-free is when the provider or business is not registered for GST. 

If a business sales turnover is under $75,000 then registering for GST with the ATO is optional. If the business is not registered for GST you will not be charged GST.

Are health services exempt from GST?

In Australia there are a number of rules and guidelines around health services being exempt from GST.

If you run a medical service and are a registered medical practitioner, you are exempt from paying (and claiming) GST in all stages of client care. 

Some allied health businesses and health professionals are also exempt from paying/claiming GST. 

What services are exempt from GST in Australia?

For a health service that is not defined as a medical service to be GST-free in Australia, it has to be one of the following services:

  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health service
  • acupuncture
  • audiology or audiometry
  • chiropody
  • chiropractic
  • dental
  • dietary
  • herbal medicine (including traditional Chinese herbal medicine)
  • naturopathy
  • nursing
  • occupational therapy
  • optometry
  • osteopathy
  • paramedical
  • pharmacy
  • psychology
  • physiotherapy
  • podiatry
  • speech pathology
  • speech therapy
  • social work.

Are counselling fees tax deductible?

If you are reading this article near tax time, you may be wondering if your counselling fees are tax deductible. 

If you are an employee or self-employed, medical and allied health costs are considered personal expenses and generally not something you can claim as a deduction. However, it is always best to ask a tax professional!

If you have private health insurance, you may (although very rare) qualify for a rebate on out-of-pocket medical expenses. It is best to check with your insurance provider for the details. 

Are counselling services free?

In Australia, we are really lucky to have access to a range of free counselling and support services for all different times and types of needs. They include:

  • Suicide and Crisis 
  • Alcohol and Substance abuse
  • Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Eating Disorders
  • Grief Support
  • LGBTQ Support
  • Mental Health Conditions and Family Support
  • Gambling Support
  • Mens Support
  • Veterans and Defence Health Support

How to get free counselling

Many of the free counselling sessions are available via phone hotline. Here are some of the most well-known and established hotlines for immediate support in Australia:

24/7 Hotlines

  • Lifeline: phone 13 11 141 or text 0477 13 11 14  (Lifeline offers crisis support and suicide prevention services.) 
  • Beyond Blue: phone 1300 22 4636 (Offers advice, referral and support from a trained mental health professional.)
  • Suicide Call Back Service: phone 1300 659 467 (Offers free counselling and support for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereaved.)
  • Mens Line Australia: phone 1300 789 978 (Offers telephone and online support for men with emotional health and relationship concerns.)

  • Kids HelpLine: phone 1800 55 1800 (Offers free and confidential phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5-25.)

  • 13 YARN: phone 13 92 76 (A national crisis support line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.)

Other Hotlines

  • QLife: phone 1800 184 527 from 3pm to midnight local time every day. (Offers phone and online anonymous LGBTI  support and referral.)
  • 1800 Respect: phone 1800 737 732 (Offers support to people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, and abuse.)
  • Butterfly Foundation: phone 1800 33 4673 (Offers support for anyone experiencing an eating disorder or body image issue.)
  • Alcohol and Drug Counselling: online service (Offers a free and confidential service open to anyone affected by alcohol and other drugs, including those concerned about a friend or family member.)

Free counselling services in Brisbane

If you are needing to access free counselling services in Brisbane, here are some options to explore:

1. Medicare Health Care Plan

Talk to your local or trusted GP about a medicare health care plan to see if you are eligible. If you are eligible,  find a pscyolgoist or social worker who accepts a mental health care plan and has an affordable gap fee. Read more about getting a mental health care plan here.

2. School, University or TAFE

Talk to someone at your school or university/TAFE to see if you can access free counselling and psychology services as a student. Like regular counselling sessions, these are completely confidential. 

3. Workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Ask your supervisor, manager or HR person if your workplace offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many workplaces in Australia recognise the importance of well-being and offer free counselling sessions each year for their employees. Depending on the employer agreement you may be able to access 3 or more sessions each year.

These sessions are completely free and confidential. Your employer and manager won’t know that you’ve used the program.  

4. Community Services

It’s always worthwhile getting in touch with your closest university or TAFE as they may offer free or low-cost counselling sessions to members of the public. 

Another great community service to look into is your local community centre or library. They are more likely to offer peer support group sessions. 

A third community option for free support services is local places of worship such as a church or temple. Talk to the community leaders to see what they have in place. 

5. Headspace

Headspace is another great option for free or low-cost support if you are aged between 12 and 25. They have over 100 centres across Australia where you can access a range of support including that of a mental health professional. Find your local centre here

Free mental health services Qld

We all go through times of need. Here are some great places that you can look into for free mental health services in Queensland:

  1. One of the hotlines previously listed
  2. Headspace Centre or online service
  3. Your local community centre
  4. Your local church or temple
  5. Your closest university or TAFE or counselling training centre
  6. Your school, university or TAFE (if you are a student)
  7. Workplace EAP Program (for employees)
  8. Your local or trusted GP

Some counselling services may also offer fees based on a sliding scale to suit specific ranges of income. Even if a counsellor doesn’t mention on their website if they offer sliding scale fees, it is always worth asking.

Not sure whether you need to see a Psychologist, Psychotherapist or Counsellor? Check out this blog here for more information. 

Meet The Author

Amy Doyle

Amy Doyle

Amy is a Holistic Counsellor who helps her clients move from this idea that they are broken or missing pieces of their own puzzle, to owning their story, claiming back all parts of themselves and merging together as one team to allow them to rest and be in their deepest expression.

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Important Note:

This information is general in nature. To determine the requirements for your situation, visit the ATO website or discuss with your counselling provider, insurance provider and/or trusted accountant.

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