Pride Counselling

ACON’s Pride Counselling offers individual counselling services for LGBTQ+ communities.  

Our mission is to support you to be yourself, so you can live your healthiest, best life. 

Pride Counselling is ACON’s LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming counselling service.  Anyone from our communities in NSW can self-refer to the service, and there are a range of ways to reduce out-of-pocket costs. 

ACON has been providing counselling support for over 30 years. Our Pride Counselling clinicians are fully qualified and registered psychologists and mental health social workers, who are also very experienced working with sexuality and gender diverse people. 

When you pay for counselling at ACON, you’re helping the community while getting the support you need too. This is because all funds are reinvested into ACON’s support services so that people from our communities who face financial barriers, can still see a specialist LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming counsellor 

We help with a range of needs including:  

  • Coming Out 
  • Gender affirmation 
  • Sexuality 
  • Relationship issues 
  • Grief and loss  
  • Depression & Anxiety 
  • Aging 
  • Stress 
  • Trauma, including PTSD and Complex PTSD 
  • Workplace issues 
  • Chronic Pain and health challenges  
  • Adjustment and significant life changes 
  • Eating disorders  
  • Stress Management 

To make an enquiry or to complete an intake assessment please complete the Intake Form here or call (02) 9206 2000.

Meet the Counsellors

Phena Buhrich

Phena (she/her) is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and member of the Australian Association of Social Workers with 25 years’ experience. For the past 10 years, Phena has specialised in supporting people from sexuality and gender diverse communities, at ACON. She values working within a community- based organisation, that is committed to evidence-based practise and social justice.

Phena has experience supporting clients around concerns such as;

minority stress, transgender health, sexuality, aging, work stress, social isolation, living with HIV, management chronic health conditions, relationships, grief and loss, adjustment disorders, Depression, Anxiety and Post-traumatic stress.Phena works from a Trauma Informed framework and has a flexible and holistic counselling style. She is aware of the significant impact that stigma and isolation have on health and wellbeing. She aims to build a trusting relationship, assisting clients to connect with what is meaningful in their lives and empowering them to make informed choices.

Phena utilises a blend of approaches including:

  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Phena offers clinical supervision as a specialist adjunct to your current supervision arrangements or can work with you as a primary supervisor.

Ellis Panuccio Hartland

Ellis Panuccio Hartland (he/him, they/them) is a psychologist who holds professional registration with AHPRA. Ellis has extensive clinical experience, working with young people and adults around a broad range of clinical presentations. These include gender diversity, sexuality, self-identity, depression, anxiety, complex developmental trauma, neurodiversity including ADHD and autism, OCD, hoarding, anger management, stress management, substance use, grief and loss, sexuality, chronic pain and health anxiety. Ellis works with clients using a trauma-informed, attachment-focussed framework with a non-directive and client-centred approach, utilising creative/play therapy, neurodevelopmental, CBT, TF-CBT, and DBT methods.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get started?

Fill out our enquiry form to request an appointment. Feel free to write any other information you want to share with the counsellor ahead of your appointment.  

ACON’s Intake Officer will call you to discuss your needs and to make an appointment. You can also call Intake on 1800 063 060 to book an appointment. 

How much does it cost?

Pride Counselling charges between $150 and $210 per individual counselling session, based on income. Fees will be negotiated with you prior to your initial session.

If you have a GP or Psychiatrist referral and Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) you will be eligible for a Medicare Rebate. The current Medicare rebate for a psychologist is $93.35 and for an accredited mental health social worker is $82.30 per session.

This means that after receiving the Medicare Rebate, you will be out-of-pocket between $56.65 to $127.7 per session. Rebates through Medicare are typically available for up to 10 sessions per calendar year.

If you are not eligible for Medicare you may choose to access Pride Counselling privately, without claiming a Medicare rebate, or through other means such as NDIS funding (if you have a NDIS package) or through the NSW Victims Support Scheme if you have been a victim of a crime. For more information, see NSW Victims Services website.

A brief assessment with ACON’s Intake Officer can also determine if you are eligible for our low cost or free counselling services. If you are not eligible for any of ACON’s funded services, our Intake Officer will provide you with other support options.

How do I get the Medicare rebate?

Medicare rebates are available under the Better Access program. This program supports people with a ‘diagnosed mental disorder’ to access up to ten individual allied mental health sessions per calendar year from eligible GPs, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists. All that is required is a referral from a GP or psychiatrist for treatment of a ‘diagnosable mental disorder’.  

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has increased the number of sessions available under Better Access to 20 per calendar year. 

To access the Medicare rebate, make sure your GP or psychiatrist refers to Pride Counselling. You can share your referral letter and Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) with your Pride Counsellor during the first appointment. 

You‘ll need to pay the full amount at the end of your session and we will process your Medicare rebate, which will be deposited directly into your nominated bank account. 

What if I am not eligible to access Medicare?

If you are not eligible for Medicare you may choose to access Pride Counselling privately, without claiming a Medicare rebate, or through other means such as NDIS funding. 

If you have been a victim of a crime, you may be eligible to receive counselling at ACON under the NSW Victims of Crime Approved Counselling Service. For more information, see their website.  

A brief assessment with ACON’s Intake Officer can also determine if you are eligible for our low cost or free counselling services. If you are not eligible for any of ACON’s funded services, our Intake Officer will provide you with other support options. 

How many sessions can I have with my counsellor?

Each counselling session is 50 minutes long. 

If accessing Pride Counselling through the Better Access program with a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) from your GP or Psychiatrist, Medicare rebates are typically available for up to 10 sessions per calendar year.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has increased the number of sessions available under Better Access to 20 per calendar year. 

The rebate is between $89.65 – $97.05 (see How much does it cost?). You and your GP or Psychiatrist will review the MHTP at 6 and 10 sessions to decide if referring for additional sessions would be helpful. 

If accessing Pride Counselling through NDIS, you are limited to the specific funds you have available in your plan.  

If accessing Pride Counselling as an Approved Counselling Service through Victims of Crime, you may be eligible for up to 22 hours of counselling.  

If accessing counselling privately (without a GP or Psychiatrist referral, MHTP, NDIS or Victims of Crime), you can continue for as many sessions as you find beneficial. 

Are my sessions covered by Private Health Insurance?

Please check with your Private Health Insurance provider to determine if Pride Counselling sessions are covered by your private health insurance plan.   

How can I access Pride Counselling during the COVID-19 pandemic?

ACON has put in place plans and procedures to protect the health and safety of all our clients, communities and staff.  

Pride Counselling Programs offer appointments via telehealth or face-to-face, depending on current NSW Health Guidelines and Public Health Orders.  

Please discuss your access needs with the Intake Officer. 

ACON is a not-for-profit organisation. Where do the fees for this service go?

Pride Counselling is an ACON social enterprise.  

Income generated through this service is re-invested into ACON’s Community Care team to ensure we can continue to deliver free counselling services to people in our communities who are unable to pay, or are ineligible for Medicare rebates. 

Find out more about ACON’s Community Care services here. 

When are appointments available?

Daytime and evening appointments on Mondays-Fridays are available. When completing the Enquiry Form, please provide preferred days and times and we will do our best to meet them.  Please note that evening appointments are more limited.

Can I access the service via telehealth or face-to-face?  

Pride Counselling can be accessed face-to-face or via telehealth (video-conferencing or phone). Face-to-face appointments may be limited or unavailable at times, depending on current COVID-19 restrictions. 

For face-to-face appointments we are located: 

Are there any cancellation charges if I am unable to attend an appointment?

We need two full business/working days’ notice of cancellation prior to your session, otherwise we will charge you 50% of the total amount. 

100% of the fee will be charged if you do not notify us about your cancellation. 

Please note that cancelled appointments do not attract a Medicare rebate. 

Can I make a booking on behalf of my partner, spouse, family or friend? 

No, you can’t make bookings on behalf of other people, that’s because it’s important to take your own steps when you’re ready to access counselling.   

You can call us on 1800 063 060 to find out about our support services, or you can suggest to your partner, spouse, family or friend that they contact us directly. 

Can I speak with my counsellor prior to the sessions to make sure they are a good fit for me? 

Yes, if you would like to speak to a counsellor prior to your session, please let our Intake Officer know. 

Do I get the same counsellor every session? 

Yes, you will see the same counsellor every session. This is important for consistency and so you don’t have to re-tell your story. 

Can I choose my counsellor? 

We will try to accommodate preferences wherever possible as we understand the importance of a good fit and feeling comfortable with your counsellor. However, this is dependent on availability and may mean having to wait longer for a service. 

How is my privacy and confidentiality maintained? 

ACON knows that the sensitive information, which has been disclosed and entrusted to us, needs special care and protection. We are required by law, as detailed in the Information Privacy Act 2000 (“The Act”), to comply with a strict code of conduct to maintain the privacy of all personal information on record. ACON’s Privacy Policy complies with the privacy principles set out in the Act and explains how we apply them in practice. 

You can read more about ACON’s Privacy Policy here 

We take all due care to make sure that breaches of privacy will not occur but if you do have a concern it is very important that you let us know. If you wish to make a complaint, or to provide feedback of any other nature, please contact us via e-mail ( with the details of the issue. We will promptly investigate all complaints and respond to you in writing setting out the outcome of our investigation and any proposed remedies. 

ACON collects personal information on a need-to-know basis and documents client interactions as required by legislation and to ensure we deliver a high-quality professional service. 

Personal information will be used for statistics, record audits, and research and data collection. No identifying information about you will be used. 

You can request copies of your client file by completing the Personal Information Enquiry form.  

Only people involved in your care have access to your information and they are subject to confidentiality and privacy policies as per our legal requirements as a health service provider. 

We will not provide personal information to government agencies, other organisations or any other party unless a legitimate exception applies. 

Legal limitations to confidentiality may potentially require an ACON staff member to disclose your information to a third party without your consent where: 

  1. the staff member is concerned that you may harm yourself or others; 
  1. a child or young person is at risk; 
  1. a Court of Law instructs ACON to disclose your information. 

If the above occurs, we will endeavour to inform you where possible. 

What gender affirmation support can I get? 

All Pride Counsellors are trans allies and some are trans themselves. We can help you explore your gender and make sense of being trans. 

As registered psychologists and accredited mental health social workers we provide readiness referral assessments for people seeking surgical affirmation. A referral from a mental health provider is typically not required to start gender affirming hormones, if your GP or Endocrinologist requires a referral though, we can assist.