The following overview aims to give an idea of how to find a psychotherapist via public health insurance. The system for private health insurance might differ depending on the provider of health insurance and should be clarified with them.
Initial step – Office hours:
The first step is always to consult a psychotherapist during their office hours. During a session of max. 150 minutes the psychotherapist will try to determine the need for psychotherapy and give you an initial diagnosis. They can also directly refer you to a hospital or day clinic if there is a need for acute treatment.
Importantly, you can get this initial appointment by either calling psychotherapists yourself or using a newly established website by the German health insurances. This website guarantees that you will get an appointment within the next four weeks.
Second step – Trial sessions
Once your psychotherapist determined the need for psychotherapy, you can get 2-4 hours of trial sessions. This does not necessarily take place with the same therapist as they might have limited capacities. During these trial sessions, you have the chance to find out if you get along with the therapist and their therapy style. This time is also used to determine a full diagnosis, which is then needed to apply for financial coverage of the therapy by your health insurance.
It is absolutely normal to find it smoother to work with one therapist than another. If you feel like the first therapist and you are not a good match, do not give up and try to contact another one. How much you are willing to work with your therapist, trust them, and believe they may help you are the best predictors of the therapy’s success.
Third step – Long- or short-term therapy
Your therapist can either apply for short- or long-term therapy for you. Short-term therapy is covered for 12 sessions, 50 minutes each, with a possible extension up to 24 sessions. The duration of long-term therapy depends on the type of therapy chosen. There are different types of therapy, which are covered by public health insurance:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is covered for 60 sessions with a possible extension of up to 80 sessions.
- Depth psychotherapy is also covered for 60 sessions with a possible extension of up to 100 sessions.
- Analytical psychotherapy is covered for 160 sessions with a possible extension of up to 300 sessions.
Health insurance does not pay for a translator (exception: if you are hospitalized). Thus, you need to find someone who speaks a language you understand. This should be, of course, considered when looking for a psychotherapist.