Access to Allied Psychological Services

The Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program enables a range of health, social welfare and other professionals to refer consumers who have been diagnosed with a mild to moderate mental disorder to a mental health professional for short-term focused psychological services. Referrals can originate from a range of settings including general practitioners (GPs), hospital emergency departments, nurses and school principals. A range of health professionals may deliver ATAPS services including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, mental health workers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers with mental health qualifications (Department of Health and Ageing 2012).

ATAPS is designed to treat people with common (i.e. high prevalence) mental disorders (e.g. Anxiety and Depression) who have difficulty accessing Medicare-subsidised mental health services for reasons such as the lack of services in some geographical locations, reduced ability to pay fees, and being at-risk of homelessness.

ATAPS consumers are eligible for up to 12 ATAPS funded sessions per calendar year, including 6 initial sessions with an option for a further 6 sessions following a mental health review by the referring professional. In exceptional circumstances, a consumer may be referred for an additional 6 ATAPS sessions (up to 18 services per calendar year). Consumers are also eligible for up to 12 group therapy services (involving 6–10 consumers) in a calendar year which do not count towards the quota for individual sessions.

ATAPS consumers may be required to make a small co-payment for some ATAPS services (Department of Health and Ageing 2012). On 1 July 2016, the Department of Health ceased funding ATAPS as a separate program, and moved to a commissioning model for delivery of mental health services with funding and responsibility for the management of services delivered under this program transferred to Primary Health Networks (PHNs) (Department of Health 2016).

This section presents information about ATAPS consumers and services delivered in 2015–16 and how changes service activity has changed over time.

Data downloads:

Access to Allied Psychological Services 2015–16 tables  (150KB XLS)

Access to Allied Psychological Services 2015–16 section (172KB)

Data coverage includes the time period 2007–08 to 2015–16. This section was last updated in December 2017.

Key points

  • 91,798 ATAPS referrals in 2015–16, of which 72,447 (78.9%) proceeded to service uptake.
  • 53.5% increase in the number of ATAPS referrals in the 5 years to 2015–16.
  • Depression was the most common diagnostic category among ATAPS consumers (44.7% of consumers).


The ATAPs program has a two-tiered funding model. The Tier 1 base funding, also known as General ATAPS, funds the provision of psychological services to complement Medicare-subsidised mental health service delivery.

The Tier 2 special purpose funding supplements Tier 1 funding to provide services to specified groups with priority needs which cannot be met through traditional ATAPS service delivery approaches (Department of Health and Ageing 2012). The specific groups targeted by Tier 2 funding include: people from low socioeconomic areas; individuals at-risk of suicide or self harm; individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; people in rural and remote areas; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; children; and women with perinatal depression.

Service provision

States and territories

Across the states and territories in 2015–16, the highest rate of ATAPS consumers was 545.0 per 100,000 population in the Northern Territory, followed by 334.1 in Western Australia, compared to the national rate of 301.7. The lowest rate was 122.6 per 100,000 in the Australian Capital Territory (Figure ATAPS.1).

The largest number of ATAPS sessions took place in New South Wales (118,184), followed by Queensland (79,349) and Victoria (69,123). The lowest number of sessions occurred in the Australian Capital Territory (1,969).

Source data: Access to Allied Psychological Services tables (150KB XLS)

Over time

The number of ATAPS referrals and sessions delivered annually gradually increased between 2011–12 and 2013–14, with the rate of increase slowing from 2013–14 to 2015–16. During this period, the greatest annual increase in referrals of 22.4% was seen from 2011–12 to 2012–13. From 2014–15 to 2015–16, there was a small increase in the number of referrals (6.3%) and consumers (1.9%), but decreases in the number of booked sessions (8.2%) and attended sessions (9.1%).

Over the 5 years to 2015–16, the number of ATAPS consumers increased by 49.1% (a 39.9% increase in the rate) and the number of sessions (not including unattended sessions) increased by more than half (increasing by 55.3%, with a 45.7% increase in the rate).

The 2015–16 financial year was a transition period for ATAPS during which the tier categories were technically removed due to a new funding arrangement; however the tier concept was maintained in the reporting structure for continuity purposes. There were lags in data entry into the minimum dataset, with some primary care organisations not entering session data until all sessions for a given consumer were complete, which may have affected data reported for the 2015–16 final financial year. Furthermore, the complexities associated with the migration of data in the minimum dataset from Divisions to Medicare Locals, and later from Medicare Locals to PHNs, may have resulted in an underestimate of the data for the 2011–12 and 2015–16 financial years.