With so much information on the internet and well-meaning advice from friends and family, it’s hard to know what or who might help you.
To make it a bit easier, we’ve created some general explanations of what some common health professionals can offer and links to their peak bodies to assist with finding one*.
The below information is general, the list is not exhaustive and some people may find benefits from other interventions which are not listed such as art or music therapy. Here a few quick tips before you get started with any service:
- If in doubt, ask your GP or specialist if any other health professionals can help or would be right for you
- Check they have the correct qualifications, associated with their peak body
- Understand health professionals can vary in their skills and experience- one size does not fit all
- Report any concerning or unprofessional behavior to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Home or the specific professional peak body
- Check the price before you book and do not pay large upfront payments for any service
General Practitioners (commonly referred to as GP's) are often a first point of contact and take a holistic view - your physical, mental and emotional health. They can help you stay healthy through check-ups, health screening, and early treatment, assisting you in many ways, such advice, medication and support to manage ongoing conditions. GP’s are also in an excellent position to refer patients to other health professionals who can provide more specific information and services.
Nurses can help you in many different ways. A practice nurse can support GP’s with assessments, procedures and provide nursing care such as wound management. They can also deliver education on how to manage new, ongoing or chronic conditions and support you to achieve goals in self-management. Nurses can also provide support to carers, through information and education and hands on learning to enable carers to learn specific skills that will enable them to care for someone at home.
Physiotherapists (commonly referred to as Physios) help people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They often specialise in an age group or area, such older people, brain injury or musculoskeletal injuries. Physios can also teach carers how to assist in exercise, mobility, transfers and help them understand how they can help their loved one. Your GP, specialist or other health professional may be able to recommend a therapist or you can search via the Australian Physiotherapy Association.
Occupational therapists (commonly referred to as OT’s) can help you achieve optimal health and wellbeing through participation in the occupations of life. The term ‘occupation’ is used to describe all the everyday things we do in our life roles, from home, to work and hobbies and OT’s may provide therapy, education, advice, home modifications and equipment. They often specialise in an age group or area, such children, brain injury or wheelchairs and seating. OT’s can teach carers how to understand the impact of a disability or illness and best support someone with their goals and daily life. Your GP, specialist or other health professional may be able to recommend a therapist or you can search via Occupational Therapy Australia - Find an Occupational Therapist.
Pharmacists are experts in medicines, providing education and advice on medications, such as how and when to take them and managing side effects. They can also help you with minor health concerns, offering clinical advice and over the counter medicines. Pharmacists can support carers to understand more about any medication and advice on options if someone is having trouble with their medication. More information about Pharmacists can be found on the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia website - Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
Dietitians understand how your body works and how foods and drinks help maintain your best health. They also know how medical conditions, treatments or medication can affect your body in relation to nutrition and can provide advice and education to meet your individual needs. A Dietician can support carers providing education and support on various topics from allergies to dementia. Note-the title of dietitian or nutritionist is not registered, so when choosing a Dietitian, make sure they are an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD), https://daa.asn.au/find-an-apd/.
Exercise physiologists (commonly referred to as EP’s) are experts in exercise and they use exercise as medicine. With their knowledge and skills they can design, deliver and evaluate safe and effective exercise interventions for people with acute, sub-acute or chronic medical conditions, injuries or disabilities. Their peak body is Exercise and Sports Science Australia and can help you find one near you find-aep.
Speech pathologists can help with communication disorders, including difficulties with speaking, listening, understanding language, reading, writing and social skills. They also work with people who experience difficulties swallowing food and drink safely. Speech pathologists can work with all ages, but often specialise in an age group or area, such as developmental delay, dementia or brain injury. Carers can play an integral part in therapy and provide support in-between therapy sessions. Your GP, specialist or other health professional may be able to recommend a Speech Pathologist or you can search via Find a Speech Pathologist.
A Podiatrist can help with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of medical and surgical conditions of the feet and lower limbs. They can diagnose and treat lower limb issues such as foot injuries and infections, skin and nail disorders, corns, calluses and neurological or diabetic foot conditions. Podiatrists can also educate carers on how to look after and look out for foot related problems. Find A Podiatrist - Australian Podiatry Association Ltd.
Optometry is a degree level qualification and Optometrists perform eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases. Find an optometrist - Optometry Australia
An Ophthalmologist is a qualified medical doctor who then specialises in eye and vision care. They diagnose and treat all eye diseases, can perform eye surgery and also prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. Find an Ophthalmologist | RANZCO
A counselor can help someone process powerful emotions such as grief or anger, deal with immediate causes of stress and anxiety and manage conflicts within relationships, through talking therapy. Qualifications can vary from certificate to diploma, to be registered with the PACFA » Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia a Counselor must have a formal tertiary qualification and training.
A psychologist is a professional qualification in the science of how people think, feel, behave and learn. Their degree training enables them to use various evidence based strategies and interventions (psychotherapy) which is most often in the form of talking therapy. They are qualified in all general areas but many specialise; common areas are clinical neuro psychology (e.g developmental or degenerative brain conditions) or clinical psychology (mental health conditions e.g anxiety, depression). Your GP, specialist or other health professional may be able to recommend a Psychologist or you can search via their peak body website Home | APS
A psychiatrist has undergone medical training as a doctor before specialising in psychiatry, which means they can prescribe medication and in some cases medical procedures to help people. Psychiatrists diagnose illness, manage treatment and provide a range of therapies for more complex and serious mental illness. Your GP or specialist should be able to recommend a Psychiatrist or you can search via their peak body website Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists | RANZCP.
A Developmental Educator specialises in developing the skills and independence of individuals with developmental and/or acquired disabilities to improve their quality of life. They work with people who experience challenges such as acquired brain injury, physical and neurological disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disability, and other disabilities. Developmental Educators can work with carers and families to support them understand the impact of disability on a person’s daily functioning and how they can help. Your GP, specialist or other health professional may be able to recommend a Developmental Educators or you can search via their peak body website Developmental Educators Australia Inc – The DEAI is the professional association representing the diverse and dynamic profession of Developmental Education.
Social workers are able to help you if you are in crisis and need support, through counselling, information and referrals to other services. They can coordinate the different support providers, while advocating for you and helping you to navigate systems such as the healthcare system. Some Social Workers also have additional training in mental health issues. Your GP, specialist or other health professional may be able to recommend a Social Worker or you can search via their peak body website Find a Social Worker - AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers.
* Carer Support does not specifically endorse any organisation, association or entity referred to in, or linked to, the Online Resources. Views or recommendations provided in linked websites do not necessarily reflect those of Carer Support and Carer Support has no responsibility for the content of the linked website(s). It is your responsibility to make your own decisions about the currency, completeness, accuracy, reliability and suitability of information contained in linked websites.
Carer Support does not specifically endorse any organisation, association or entity referred to in, or linked to, the Online Resources. Views or recommendations provided in linked websites do not necessarily reflect those of Carer Support and Carer Support has no responsibility for the content of the linked website(s). It is your responsibility to make your own decisions about the currency, completeness, accuracy, reliability and suitability of information contained in linked websites.