Psychiatry, psychology and counselling 

Awareness of mental health issues in veterans has grown over the past two decades and access to services has increased. With nearly half of veterans who leave the Australian Defence Force (ADF) experiencing a mental health disorder within the first five years, it is important to know how and where you can go to get help. We explain the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors and how they can help with the management and recovery from a psychological, emotional, or behavioural problem.

What services do psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors provide?


Psychologists are university trained health professionals who are skilled in assisting people cope with mental health and life issues. Psychologists are also highly trained in the administration of tests and assessments that can help diagnose a mental health condition. Psychologists use a variety of “talk” therapies and techniques to assist their clients with problems such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, addictions, parenting issues and family problems. Common treatments include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have undergone specialist training in psychiatry (the treatment of mental health disorders).  They are experts in medical and psychiatric assessments, diagnosis and the prescription and management of medications for mental health conditions. Some psychiatrists also provide talk therapies.


To be registered as a Counsellor in Australia a graduate diploma or three-year bachelor's degree in counselling is required. Counsellors use talk-based therapy to help people to develop self-understanding and make changes in their lives. Counsellors generally assist people with life issues which do not require a mental health diagnosis. Counsellors often assist people in developing whole support plans, linking services to people and making referrals to other organisations.

When should I see a health professional?

If you experience some or all of the following symptoms, consider talking to a professional:

  • Low mood most days
  • Lethargy
  • Intense fear 
  • Ongoing anxiety 
  • Flashbacks of traumatic events
  • Repetitive distressing and intrusive thoughts
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Increased use of substances
  • Thoughts of self-harm and/or suicidal thinking
  • Frequent arguments with loved ones
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from life
  • Persistent negative thoughts about yourself, the future and the world.

Where to get help

If you’re a veteran or family member and want to find out more about seeing a psychologist or counsellor at Mates4Mates, reach out to us on 1300 4 MATES (62 837) for a confidential chat.

Alternatively, talk to a trusted General Practitioner about your health concerns or for 24-hour crisis-support phone Open Arms on 1800 011 046. If it’s an emergency, phone 000. 

Other helpful resources