Psychology

There are a number of Australian

Government initiatives under which psychologists are eligible to provide services under Medicare. To provide services, psychologists must meet the eligibility requirements for the particular Medicare item, as set out in the information on these web pages.

Medicare benefits are available for a range of specified psychology services for people with certain conditions, as summarised below. To receive psychological services under Medicare, a person must be referred by his/her GP or in some instances by a psychiatrist or a paediatrician. The full requirements for provision of psychological services in the following areas must be understood before services are provided. Select from the options below or browse the A-Z topic list.

Medicare – services provided by psychologists

  • People with an assessed mental disorder
  • Children with autism or any other pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) – aged under 13 years for diagnosis and under 15 years for treatment
  • Children up to 15 years of age with any of the following disabilities: Sight impairment, Hearing impairment, Cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome
  • Women who are concerned about either a current pregnancy, or one that occurred in the previous 12 months
  • People who have a chronic medical condition and complex care needs
  • Follow-up allied health services for people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent

Psychometric assesement and IQ testing

Interest in intelligence dates back thousands of years, but it wasn’t until psychologist Alfred Binet was commissioned to identify students who needed educational assistance that the first IQ test was born.

Alfred Binet and the First IQ Test

During the early 1900s, the French government asked psychologist Alfred Binet to help decide which students were mostly likely to experience difficulty in schools. The government had passed laws requiring that all French children attend school, so it was important to find a way to identify children who would need specialized assistance.
Faced with this task, Binet and his colleague Theodore Simon began developing a number of questions that focused on things that had not been taught in school such as attention, memory and problem-solving skills. Using these questions, Binet determined which ones served as the best predictors of school success. He quickly realized that some children were able to answer more advanced questions that older children were generally able to answer, while other children of the same age were only able to answer questions that younger children could typically answer. Based on this observation, Binet suggested the concept of a mental age, or a measure of intelligence based on the average abilities of children of a certain age group.
This first intelligence test, referred to today as the Binet-Simon Scale, became the basis for the intelligence tests still in use today. However, Binet himself did not believe that his psychometric instruments could be used to measure a single, permanent and inborn level of intelligence (Kamin, 1995). Binet stressed the limitations of the test, suggesting that intelligence is far too broad a concept to quantify with a single number. Instead, he insisted that intelligence is influenced by a number of factors, changes over time and can only be compared among children with similar backgrounds (Siegler, 1992).

The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test

After the development of the Binet-Simon Scale, the test was soon brought to the United States where it generated considerable interest. Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman took Binet’s original test and standardized it using a sample of American participants. This adapted test, first published in 1916, was called the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and soon became the standard intelligence test used in the U.S.

The Stanford-Binet intelligence test used a single number, known as the intelligence quotient (or IQ), to represent an individual’s score on the test. This score was calculated by dividing the test taker’s mental age by their chronological age, and then multiplying this number by 100. For example, a child with a mental age of 12 and a chronological age of 10 would have an IQ of 120 (12 /10 x 100).
The Stanford-Binet remains a popular assessment tool today, despite going through a number of revisions over the years since its inception.

The Wechsler Intelligence Scales

The next development in the history of intelligence testing was the creation of a new measurement instrument by American psychologist David Wechsler. Much like Binet, Wechsler believed that intelligence involved a number of different mental abilities, describing intelligence as, “the global capacity of a person to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment” (1939). Dissatisfied with the limitations of the Stanford-Binet, he published his new intelligence test known as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) in 1955.
Wechsler also developed two different tests specifically for use with children: the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI). The adult version of the test has been revised since its original publication and is now known as the WAIS-IV.

The WAIS-IV contains 10 subtests along with 5 supplemental tests. The test provides scores in four major areas of intelligence: a Verbal Comprehension Index, a Perceptual Reasoning Index, a Working Memory Index, and a Processing Speed Index. The test also provides two broad scores that can be used as a summary of overall intelligence: a Full Scale IQ score that combines performance on all four index scores and a General Ability Index based on six subtest scores.

Subtest scores on the WAIS-IV can be useful in identifying learning disabilities, such as cases where a low score on some areas combined with a high score in other areas may indicate that the individual has a specific learning difficulty (Kaufman, 1990).

Rather than score the test based on chronological age and mental age, as was the case with the original Stanford-Binet, the WAIS is scored by comparing the test taker’s score to the scores of others in the same age group. The average score is fixed at 100, with two-thirds of scores lying in the normal range between 85 and 115. This scoring method has become the standard technique in intelligence testing and is also used in the modern revision of the Stanford-Binet test.