The Pathway to ADHD Diagnosis

pathway to adhd diagnosis psychologist psychiatrist

We know that gaining an ADHD Diagnosis for Adults has reached a crisis point.

Currently, obtaining an appointment with a Psychiatrist is extremely difficult. Most psychiatrists around Australia have had to close their books to new clients, and where it is possible to get an appointment, the wait can be between 3 and 6 months. (This differs from state to state).

Whilst the ADHD Foundation team try to stay up to date with the ever-changing availability of medical practitioners, this can change weekly as appointments fill quickly.

When you have the name of an available psychiatrist, please do not put them up on social media. Their books will close quickly, and you may not be able to get back in for a change of dosage or script renewal.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specialising in diagnosing, treating, and managing mental health conditions. Psychiatrists in Australia have completed medical school and a residency in psychiatry, a specialised medical field that focuses on mental health.

Psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medication and can provide medical treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for severe mental health conditions.

What are some of the differences?

Prescribing Medication

Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors authorized to prescribe medications, including those used to treat ADHD. Psychologists cannot prescribe medication for ADHD. Only Psychiatrists can do this. A psychologist’s diagnosis is generally insufficient for this purpose.

ADHD Diagnosis

Psychiatrists may approach the diagnostic process from a medical perspective. They may conduct a physical exam and order laboratory tests to rule out other medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms of ADHD. Most psychiatrists are required to complete a diagnosis at an initial appointment.

Ongoing Treatment

Psychiatrists may prescribe medication to help manage ADHD symptoms, such as stimulants or non-stimulants. In addition to medication management, psychiatrists may provide psychotherapy and behavioural interventions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Psychologists are the lower cost option in providing ongoing non-medicated interventions.

Making your decision

Maximising your options

While there are many effective psychotherapy solutions, it is important considering the substantial cost no matter the option, that a diagnosis from a psychiatrist allows for as many treatment options as possible, including medications.

ADHD-specific Training

Ensure that the healthcare professional you choose is qualified and experienced in diagnosing and treating ADHD. ADHD was first recognized as a disorder in the 1960s, and our understanding of the condition has continued to evolve since then.

New research has led to changes in how we diagnose and treat ADHD, and these changes may not be immediately apparent to all healthcare professionals.

Costs & Financial Supports

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and their fees are typically higher than those of psychologists. However, if medication is required as part of the treatment plan, you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate, which can help to make it more affordable.

Psychologists’ fees are generally lower than those of psychiatrists, and if you see a psychologist for an ADHD diagnosis, you may also be eligible for a Medicare rebate.

However, you may need a referral for a psychiatrist diagnosis for medication to be a treatment option at an additional cost.

Challenges to look out for


ADHD frequently co-occurs with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. This can make it challenging to disentangle the symptoms of ADHD from those of other conditions and can complicate the diagnostic process.

Variability of Symptoms

ADHD symptoms can vary in severity and can present differently in different individuals. This can make it challenging for healthcare professionals to diagnose ADHD, especially in cases where the symptoms are mild or do not fit the stereotypical “hyperactive” presentation of ADHD.

Finding the right treatment

It’s important to work closely with a healthcare professional experienced in treating ADHD to develop an individualised treatment plan that meets the individual’s specific needs and preferences. This may involve a combination of medication and non-medication treatments, such as psychotherapy, behavioural interventions, and lifestyle changes.

If you would like some support in progressing your pathway to ADHD diagnosis or a family member, we provide our Helpline. This service is provided to help you find solutions and help you with referrals.

ADHD Foundation Website:

ADHD National Helpline:

Contact us at 1300 39 39 19