If you’re a GP, there’s a good chance that you’re among the more than 90% of GPs who have already completed Mental Health Skills Training (MHST) and have gained the skills and knowledge to assess, treat, plan and review common mental health illnesses. 

However, you’re probably also among the 96% of GPs who have not yet completed the next level of mental health training, Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS), which is a prerequisite for applying to Medicare to becaome a registered provider of FPS. This begs the question: Should you (or should you not) take an FPS course?  

For some GPs, the very idea of adding psychological strategies to their treatment toolkit is off-putting. After all, you went to medical school because you were interested in practicing medicine; had you been interested in offering counselling, you’d have studied psychology! 

However, as a GP the demands on you to assess and manage mental health conditions are considerable, with more than one in three GP consultations in a typical week now including a mental health component! Moreover, this upward trend appears unlikely to settle anytime in the near future so whether you’re keen, ambivalent or disinterested in managing mental health in your practice, you’re not likely to have much choice about it.  

Integrating psychological strategies into medical practice is not a departure from your roots as general practitioners—it’s an extension of the holistic bio-psycho-social-cultural approach you excel in.  

So let’s look at what Focussed Psychological Strategies actually are, as well as their role in general practice. 

One in three GP consultations in a typical week now include a mental health component.

What are focussed psychological strategies?

The Medicare Benefits Schedule defines Focussed Psychological Strategies as follows: 

 “Focussed psychological strategies are specific mental health care management strategies, derived from evidence based psychological therapies that have been shown to integrate the best research evidence of clinical effectiveness with general practice clinical expertise. The decision to recommend Focussed Psychological Strategies to a patient must be made either in the context of a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan or a psychiatrist assessment and management plan”.  

Let’s break this down and put it in simple terms. 

Focussed psychological strategies are the umbrella term covering a range of mental health interventions, including: 

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) 
  • interpersonal therapy (ITP) 
  • dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) 
  • psychoeducation e.g. mindfulness and motivational interviewing 
  • skills training e.g. problem solving, anger management, stress management. 

Although they are tools used extensively by psychologists and psychiatrists, FPS courses accredited by the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) focus on their integration into day-to-day general practice.   

If you think about it, providing these interventions within your GP practice is not too different to you providing care to patients with skin conditions, while referring to a dermatologist for more complex presentations. Focussed psychological strategies are vital components in a comprehensive care plan, offering you powerful tools to address both medical and psychiatric conditions effectively.  

With modalities like Motivational Interviewing, we can empower patients with diabetes or schizophrenia to make life-changing decisions for their health, while Cognitive Behavioural Therapy allows us to confront and alleviate anxiety with proven, structured techniques.  

That said, offering focussed psychological strategies is not for every GP. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you figure out whether you should take an FPS course and offer these strategies to your patients. 

Questions to ask yourself

Am I interested in providing more comprehensive mental health services? 

The community’s need for more comprehensive mental health services in primary care is inarguable. There are long waiting lists to see specialists and insufficient services (both private and public) to meet demand. In the interim, patients suffer, and their conditions are often exacerbated without timely access to treatment.  

With more GPs providing better mental health care, we can increase access to service and improve patient outcomes.  

However, this must be balanced with your own interest in and desire to provide a broader range of mental health supports. The reality is that there is a segment of GPs who simply feel out of their comfort zone when required to engage in mental health and will avoid it as much as possible. If you are one of these GPs, it could be that your discomfort stems from a lack of confidence, which may be addressed by growing your knowledge and skills in providing mental health care.  

However, if you’ve participated in high quality training recently and nothing has changed, then an FPS course is unlikely to be the right choice for you. You can stop reading now. 

Will taking FPS training be worth my time and effort? 

Yes, it will. Although participating in training means taking precious time off from work or leisure, completing the requirements for FPS Skills Training allows you to claim the following MBS items: 

  • 2721 – Provision of FPS (professional attendance at consulting rooms), lasting at least 30 minutes, but less than 40 minutes 
  • 2723 – Provision of FPS (professional attendance at a place other than consulting rooms), lasting least 30 minutes, but less than 40 minutes 
  • 2725 – Provision of FPS (professional attendance at consulting rooms), lasting at least 40 minutes. 
  • 2727 – Provision of FPS (professional attendance at a place other than consulting rooms), lasting at least 40 minutes. 

Offering more comprehensive mental health services can serve as a means of attracting more patients to your practice. 

And for those GPs who really enjoy mental health, there is also the option of running group therapy sessions, thereby extending the services you offer your patients while maximising billing.  

The GPMHSC is currently offering $600 subsidies to encourage and enable GPs to complete accredited FPS training. Learn more about eligibility for the GPMHSC subsidy

If the above are not incentive enough, there’s the enormous satisfaction of knowing you are providing your patients with very best care possible. After all, that’s why you went into General Practice in the first place, isn’t it! 

Are there other ways I can benefit from taking an FPS course? 

While focussed psychological strategies were designed specifically as mental health interventions, the skills learned can be applied to your benefit in non-mental health consultations as well as in your personal life. 

In terms of benefits in non-mental health consultations, a GP who had completed FPS told the GPMHSC: 

“I now incorporate FPS into my general practice work every day, whether in formal counselling sessions or incidentally. An example of this is the use of psychoeducation and relaxation strategies to assist a woman who is too nervous to have a cervical screen or using motivational interviewing to assist a patient to make lifestyle adjustments to reduce their long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.” 

Focussed psychological strategies become another tool in your general practice toolbox, making consultations more effective and efficient, improving patients’ satisfaction, and cementing you as their trusted healthcare partner. 

In your personal life, the skills you learn in an FPS course can help you to build and sustain better relationships, parent more effectively and with less conflict, and better manage your own emotions, leading to a better, healthier and happier you! 


Extending your skillset into focussed psychological strategies is a personal choice that only you can make. That said, there are many good reasons to do so, including gaining financial and personal benefits. However, the most compelling reason will undoubtedly be your ability to leverage your newfound skills to offer your patients the best care possible. After all, that’s probably what attracted you to general practice in the first place! 

GPEx offers a high quality GPMHSC and CPD-accredited FPS course in partnership with leading psychiatry education company Psych Scene. The course is fully online to allow you to fit your learning into your busy lifestyle, where and whenever suits you. You may also be eligible for the GPMHSC’s $600 subsidy.