Pride Counselling

Pride Counselling is here for LGBTQ+ community members. Our mission is to support members of our communities to be themselves and live their healthiest, best lives.

Pride Counselling is an ACON social enterprise, but what does that mean? Well, a cool part of our service is that income is re-invested back into ACON’s support services. This means that people from our communities who might otherwise miss out because of a lack of funds can still see an LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming counsellor at ACON. For those in our community who can pay, thank you for helping the community while getting the support you need too.

Pride Counselling clinicians are fully qualified and registered psychologists and mental health social workers. The team is very experienced working with sexuality and gender diverse communities. We have been counselling at ACON for over 30 years.

We help with a range of needs including:

Coming Out
Gender and sexuality
Gender affirmation
Healthy relationships
Grief and loss
Chronic Pain
Eating Disorders
Trauma including PTSD
Planning for the future
Workplace issues


Meet the Counsellors

Michael MacKay

Having worked in LGBTQ health and HIV services in Canada, the UK and Australia, Michael (he/him) understands the importance of accessible, inclusive and affirming community services and is excited to be continuing this work at ACON.

Michael specialises in working therapeutically with LGBTQ communities and people living with HIV, and can support with a range of issues including: coming out, gender affirmation, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, relationship difficulties, grief and loss. His approach recognises the impact of stigma and discrimination on health and wellbeing, whilst empowering clients to amplify their strengths and build the connections they are seeking.

Michael is a firm believer that counselling can be a helpful and effective part of self-care which facilitates insight, awareness and personal growth. He integrates a range of evidenced-based approaches into his work including Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. He also has specialist experience in the field of family violence and encourages LGBTQ people affected by this issue to get in touch. Michael holds a Master of Social Work degree,  Master of Counselling & Psychotherapy degree, and is registered with both the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) and Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA).

Ann Marie Crotty

Ann Marie (she/her) is a Psychologist and has worked in the Mental Health field for over 10 years.

A main focus of Ann Marie’s work includes providing psychological support to individuals from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans and Gender Diverse (LGBTQ) communities impacted by substance use, trauma, depression, anxiety, sexuality and/or gender identity issues and relationships, family, and community issues. Ann Marie also has experience supporting LGBTQ individuals who are concerned about their behaviour in relationships as well as those who have experienced abuse in their intimate or family relationships.

Ann Marie is passionate about working in collaboration with clients from a strength’s-based approach to improve their overall mental health and wellbeing. Ann Marie draws from Positive Psychology and Contemplative Practices to help clients find new insight into the issues they are experiencing and to find a new way forward that is hopeful, achievable and in line with what the client deems important in their life. Ann Marie works from a Person-centred and trauma informed approach and utilises a variety of modalities including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Mindfulness, Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy, EMDR and Relapse Prevention. Ann Marie holds a degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Counselling Psychology, is registered psychologist with AHPRA and can provide Medicare rebates with a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) from a GP.

Phena Buhrich

Phena (she/her) is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 20 years experience. Having worked extensively as a mental health social worker, she is aware of the significant impacts that social factors, such as stigma and isolation, have on health and wellbeing. She has a background in providing counselling and practical support to clients with complex health care needs. Over the past 10 years, Phena has specialised in LGBTQ health at ACON, working with sexuality and gender diverse communities. She values working at ACON, within a community- based organisation, that is committed to human rights, evidence-based practise and social justice as these principles align with her personal and professional ethics.

Phena has a flexible style and holistic approach. She aims to build a trusting relationship with her clients, assisting to connect them with what is meaningful in their lives and empowering people to make informed choices. Phena’s practise is within a Strengths- Based Framework that emphasises physical, psychological and emotional safety. She utilises a blend of modalities to suit each client and is guided by the principles of Interpersonal Psychotherapy, Trauma informed practice, Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Approaches.

Phena is available to support clients with concerns such as those relating to; minority stress, transgender health, sexuality, aging, work stress, social isolation, living with HIV/management chronic health conditions, relationships, grief and loss, Depression, Anxiety and Post-traumatic stress.

Phena is a Mental Health Accredited Social worker and holds a Bachelor of Social work Degree. She is a Member of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).

Anika Jensen (Northern Rivers)

Anika (they/them) is a social worker who utilises Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MiCBT) techniques, as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Motivational Interviewing. This allows them to establish a safe emotional space for reflection, acceptance and reframing through narrative, solutions focused and brief therapy approaches.

Anika is an anti-oppressive practitioner who works alongside people to assist them understand and become experts in managing their experiences and challenges. Anika’s recent professional work has been in domestic and family violence survivor response and they have worked from a trauma-informed perspective. Anika is particularly interested in building resilience and agency of members of the trans and gender diverse community to connect them with their strengths, pride and goals.

Anika is based in the Northern Rivers and take fee paying clients.


Louise Dunne (Hunter) 

Louise (she/her) is an experienced mental health social worker and psychotherapist. With over 14 years of experience, Louise has supported individuals of all ages to work through challenging situations. Louise’s qualifications include a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, Master’s Degree in Social Work, and a Master’s Degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Specialising in working with addiction, relationship issues, complex mental health, and trauma, Louise also thoroughly enjoys her work in sexual health and with those experiencing gender or sexuality issues.

Louise’s style of counselling is strengths-based delivered in a gentle and non-confrontational manner. She uses a holistic trauma-informed approach to combine different techniques drawing on Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MiCBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy, Relational and Interpersonal Psychotherapy and Psychodynamic approaches. Louise is passionate about creating a safe and comfortable environment where people can talk freely about their situation. Louise is also listed on the Trauma Support Provider Directory for Survivors as a trauma-informed mental health professional.


Ellis Hartland 

Ellis 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 ASD, 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.




COVID-19 & Pride Counselling Services

Due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus, ACON is putting protocols in place to protect the health and safety of all our clients and communities. We follow NSW Health Guidelines and so continue to offer support to clients via phone and video conferencing support. Where someone needs to be seen in person we will do our best to accommodate that in line with the current COVID guidelines. Please refer to the updated information below:

Pride Counselling

Current COVID protocols:

For the health of our communities ACON follows NSW Health COVID Guidelines for health and community services.

To minimise exposure and offer greater accessibility we continue to offer appointments via phone or video conferencing. We recognise this is not always possible and so if someone needs to be seen in person we will do our best to accommodate following current COVID guidelines which may include wearing a mask.

We ask that everyone accessing ACON’s client services follow these precautions:

  • stay home if you are sick, unwell or experiencing symptoms. Your worker will be happy to provide a service via phone or video in the interim;
  • on arriving at ACON register with the NSW Services App using your mobile. If you do not have a mobile let reception know;
  • due to the size of the rooms we may ask you to wear a mask;
  • we may also request taking temperatures on arrival;
  • if you are residing where there is a hotspot we will request you do not come to ACON;

For those with compromised immune systems and older people extra care is taken and plans put in place such as the surfaces at ACON being routinely wiped down throughout the day and volunteers and staff wearing face masks when entering people’s homes as with Homebased Care Services.

Please discuss with the intake officer or your worker any questions or specific needs you might have.

If you are looking for more information about COVID-19 in NSW, please do view the dedicated health website here.

There is also a page for frequently asked questions and the most accurate responses here.

Currently due to COVID there is the ability to further extend the number of sessions. This is done in consultation with your counsellor and GP.

Contact Pride Counselling

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get started?

Complete the required details in the form below to request an appointment. Feel free to write any other information you want to share with the counsellor ahead of your appointment. There is no need to do this however some people find it helpful in starting things off. Once you have received your first booked appointment you will receive a text or email confirming the details of your appointment.

You can also book an appointment by calling ACON’s intake officer and asking to make an appointment with Pride Counselling.

If you have questions about Pride Counselling and any of ACON’s client support programs please call ACON 9206 2000 and ask to speak with the Intake Officer.

How much does it cost?

Pride Counselling charges between $120 and $180 per individual counselling session, based on income.

Fees will be negotiated with you prior to your initial session.

The current Medicare rebate for a Psychologist is $88.25* per individual counselling session, for up to 10 sessions per calendar year. The current Social Work rebate is $77.80. This means that after receiving the Medicare Rebate, you will be out-of-pocket between $31.75 to $102.20 per session. To be eligible for a Medicare rebate you will need a GP referral and Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP).

Couples counselling does not attract a Medicare rebate.

You do not need a GP referral and Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) to access Pride Counselling. However, it does make it more cost efficient. Without a GP referral and MHTP, you will not receive any rebates.

What if I am not eligible to access Medicare?

If you are not eligible for Medicare you may choose to access Pride Counselling without claiming a Medicare rebate.

Your other option is to contact ACON’s intake officer on 9206 2000 to undergo a brief assessment to determine whether you are eligible for any of our funded services (low-cost or free) under the Community Care team. If you are not eligible for any of ACON’s funded services, our intake officer can provide you with other support options.

How many sessions can I have with my counsellor?

Each counselling session is 50 minutes long.

Under a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) Medicare rebates are available for up to 10 sessions per calendar year. The rebate is $77.80-$88.25.  A GP will review your MHTP after 6 sessions and decide if referring for another 4 sessions would be helpful.

ACON follows NSW Health COVID requirements. To know more, click here

If accessing counselling without a GP referral and MHTP, you are able to continue for as many sessions as you find to be beneficial.

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

Pride Counselling is a social enterprise. Income generated through this service will be re-invested into ACON’s Community Care team to ensure adequate resourcing of under-funded and un-funded services and to ensure we can continue to deliver free services to individuals who are unable to pay or who are ineligible for Medicare rebates.

What is a Mental Health Treatment Plan?

Medicare rebates under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS (Better Access) initiative are available up to ten individual allied mental health services per calendar year for individuals with a ‘diagnosed mental disorder’ who are referred by a GP or Psychiatrist for treatment of a ‘diagnosable mental disorder’.

‘Diagnosable mental disorders’ significantly interfere with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. They include anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depressive and bipolar disorders), adjustment disorders, eating disorders, psychotic disorders, drug and alcohol disorders and sexual disorders fall into this category. You will need to bring your GP referral letter and a copy of your Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) to your first appointment.

Are my sessions covered by Private Health Insurance?

You may be able to claim a rebate from your Private Health Fund, depending on the level of cover you have.

How do I get Medicare rebates?

You will be required to pay immediately after your session. Once payment has been completed, we will process your Medicare rebate immediately which will be deposited into your designated bank account.

When are appointments available?

Daytime and evening appointments are available. When completing the appointment form provide preferred days and times and we will do our best to meet them.

Where is the service?

In Sydney we are based in Surry Hills on the corner of Elizabeth and Devonshire Street a block away from Central Station at 414 Eliabeth Street, Surry Hills 2010.

In Newcastle we are based on 129 Maitland Road Islington near Hamilton train station.

In Lismore we are based at Suite 4P/17 Conway Street near the memorial pool.

Where people have preferences for in person counselling we will do our best to accommodation both with COVID safety and accessibility in mind.

We are also able to provide counselling using secure video conferencing which you can access from home or wherever you have a quiet, private place to use the internet.

How do I cancel an appointment for counselling. Are there any cancellation charges?

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 counselling session bookings on behalf of my partner, spouse, family or friends?

No, unfortunately you cannot make bookings on behalf of your partner, spouse, family or friends.
You can call us to find out about our services and what might be an appropriate service for your partner, spouse, child, family or friends, or you can suggest that they contact us directly for information about support services. .

Can I cancel or inquire about counselling session bookings on behalf of my partner, spouse, family or friends?

No, we take privacy and security of all our bookings very seriously and due to this reason we are unable to discuss, change or cancel appointments that are not made by you.
We will be able to discuss bookings details only with the person who has made the booking.

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

No, unfortunately it is not possible to speak with your counsellor prior to the sessions due to their varied schedules. Our client services team will be able to assist you with your enquiries.

Do I get the same counsellor every session?

Yes, you will see the same counsellor every session for consistency.

Can I choose my counsellor?

We will accommodate preferences wherever possible as we understand the importance of fit and feeling comfortable with a counsellor. However this is dependent on availability.

What happens in the first session of counselling?

On your first appointment you will be asked to complete some forms about:

  • Yourself
  • Privacy and consent
  • The fees you and your counsellor agree that you will pay

You will also be asked about the reasons you have decided to come to counselling and what your hopes are for attending counselling. This will help you and your counsellor set goals for your counselling.

How is my privacy and confidentiality maintained?

ACON recognises that the sensitive information, which has been disclosed 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. This Privacy Policy complies with the privacy principles set out in the Act and explains how we apply them in practice.

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 (preferably via e-mail) with the details of the issue. We will promptly investigate any reasonable complaint 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 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 file as per ACON’s policy and procedure

Only people involved in your care have access to my information and are subject to confidentiality and privacy policy as per 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;
  2. a child or young person is at risk;
  3. a Court of Law instructs ACON to disclose your information.

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

Crisis Support Options:

  • Emergency assistance: (triple zero) 000
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
  • NSW Mental Health Access Line: 1800 011 511
  • QLife: 1800 184 527
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 043 470
  • 1800Respect