North Coast general practitioners may not be aware of the MBS items for group therapy sessions with a psychologist/clinical psychologist. The group sessions can be in addition to individual therapy sessions.

The item numbers have existed since the start of the Mental Health Care Plan system although their use on the North Coast has been limited. The item number pays $31 per patient. Sessions consist of 6 to 10 patients and run for at least an hour. 

Group sessions offer a time proven and very efficient way for those suffering from mental illness. Seeing others in similar situations helps patients to develop the necessary skills to manage their own mental health problems. 

Group based programs have proven successful on the Gold Coast at Currumbin Clinic but there are relatively few groups on the Far North Coast.  Dr Malcolm Huxtable currently runs groups sessions in Mindfulness at Headspace in Lismore. However, Dr Nathan Kestevan, general practitioner Dunoon, has liaised with psychologists from Lismore and from the GROW organisation ("Australia's leading mutual help program for people with mental illness") to offer local courses next year. 

The initial group sessions will be run by Lismore psychologist, Matthew Wagner, and offer a six week Anxiety Management Program. The sessions will be held at the “GunnaWannaBe” building in South Lismore acquired by GROW in 2015. 

North Coast GPs should refer new patients to Matthew Wagner initially, to be assessed for their suitability for the course. Presuming there is sufficient uptake the first program will commence in February 2017.


Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 8, 98. McDermut W, Miller IW, Brown RA.. The efficacy of group psychotherapy for depression: a meta-analysis and review of the empirical research. (2001).