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Therapy - this is how it works

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In many crisis situations we can help ourselves or our family and friends are there for us. But there are also problems, difficult situations or illnesses in which we have to let a professional help us because we cannot do it on our own. It doesn't matter, because that's what they're there for.

Perhaps you are thinking about turning to a therapist or psychologist with your problems. Perhaps your doctor has already advised you to undergo therapy. You probably have a lot of questions about this and don't really know how it all works and what happens to you there. You can find answers to most questions here.

Answers to your questions

Psychotherapy is a method of treatment for people with mental and physical ailments. Mental suffering expresses itself in every area of ​​human life, for example as physical complaints, depressive moods, fears, listlessness, emotional outbursts, addictions or compulsions. With the help of psychotherapy, the patient looks for ways to heal himself or develops strategies to better deal with the disease. The aim is to avoid overwhelming yourself and to correct negative thought loops.

There are three psychotherapy procedures that are currently supported by health insurance. This includes behavior therapy, depth psychology-based psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Psychotherapy usually takes place as individual therapy. Group treatments are also possible with most forms of therapy.

Systemic therapy (family therapy) and talk therapy for adults are not supported by statutory health insurances, but are scientifically recognized. Many private health insurance companies also cover the costs of these procedures.

How does psychotherapy work?

In psychotherapy you act yourself. With the help of the therapist you get to know yourself. You talk about difficulties and try to practice coping strategies in a targeted manner. You decide where the journey goes, what you want to work out. The therapist will help you to help yourself. He will explain to you how your problems came about so that you can better understand the situation and deal with it more easily. The new, perhaps still uncertain steps will work best if you feel accepted by your therapist and are committed to working with you.

Do i need a psychotherapist?

The following questions serve only as food for thought and are not a test that decides for you whether you need psychotherapeutic help or not. Note, however, that it is better to seek help if you are unsure.

  • Are you struggling to do your daily work?
  • Have you been feeling uncomfortable for a long time?
  • Do you suffer a lot from it?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you sleep too much or too little?
  • Do you have mood swings?
  • Do you worry often?
  • Do conversations with friends no longer help?
  • You don't know yourself like that! Do you feel different than usual?
  • Are you very worried about this change?
  • Is there an explanation for the change?
  • Is this insufficient to justify the duration and severity of the complaints?
  • Do you suffer from physical ailments?
  • Do you often feel aggressive, hateful, irritable or are you very intolerant?
  • Do you often take sick leave?
  • Do you have thoughts of suicide?
  • Are you barely left with people to talk to about your problems?
  • Is the change also clearly noticeable to others?
  • Has that been the case for more than three months?

You have the opportunity to conduct trial interviews with a psychotherapist. There, tests and a conversation are used to determine whether there is a mental disorder and how to proceed. It is often helpful to talk to a counseling center or family doctor about the symptoms.

How do I find the right therapist?

Unfortunately, the waiting times for a permanent therapy place in Germany are quite long. Please do not let this discourage you, but contact your family doctor. He will put together a list of therapists for you and they can help you bridge the waiting time.

Psychologists and therapists deal with human experience, feelings and behavior. "Psychotherapist" is a legally protected title. Like a doctor, a psychotherapist has a state-recognized license to practice medicine.

You can find medical and psychological psychotherapists on the medical board in your phone book at:

  • psychological practice
  • psychotherapy
  • psychology
  • Psychological counseling

You can use the psychotherapy information service to search for a suitable therapist yourself online, or you can get advice on the search for a therapist over the phone. There is also a search function using your zip code, with which you can quickly and easily find therapists in your area.

Since the waiting times for most psychotherapists are usually long, it can make sense to put yourself on the waiting lists of several psychotherapists at the same time. Some therapists specialize in specific problems. On the phone, it can be clarified in advance whether the therapist is responsible for your problem.

Once you have found a therapist or a counseling center, you will quickly find out whether you feel comfortable during the conversation and whether you trust yourself and the therapist to tackle your problem together. Otherwise, a second or third interview with another psychotherapist can help you. Recommendations from friends, referrals from doctors or other psychotherapists can also help to find suitable help.

What can I do to bridge the waiting time for psychotherapy?

Depending on the care options in your area, there may be a waiting time for the therapy place. This time must be bridged. There is the possibility:

  • to talk to the family doctor about it
  • contact a support group
  • deal with the problem by researching it
  • to go to a counseling center

You can also visit a therapist in a private practice, there is usually someone who has time for you. However, the statutory health insurances do not cover the costs incurred here. However, it is possible to have these costs reimbursed by submitting an application to the health insurance company. It is important to note that this application must be submitted and confirmed before the treatment. You can find all information about this in this flyer from the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists.

Who pays for psychotherapy?

Statutory health insurance companies only cover the treatment costs if the problem is a mental disorder with a "disease value". These include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, psychosomatic disorders, addictions, behavioral and obsessive-compulsive disorders. In addition, the doctor or psychologist must be approved by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians as a psychotherapist and be authorized to bill for psychotherapeutic services.
A referral is usually made by the family doctor. You can also contact a psychotherapist directly.

However, you can also pay for the cost of therapy yourself. The prices are determined by each therapist and they can be different in the different federal states.
If you cannot find a certified psychotherapist who has time for you, there is the option of visiting a therapist in a private practice. Here, too, there is the possibility of having the costs reimbursed. However, a reimbursement application must be submitted to the health insurance company and confirmed before the treatment. This application should contain some important information. You can find more detailed information on this application in the flyer from the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists. Please ask your parents, friends, teachers or social workers if they can help you with this.

How long does psychotherapy last and how often do the sessions take place?

Psychotherapy lasts five months to five years - that would be a possible, rather sloppy answer. It would be more serious to say: Psychotherapy is a healing process. The duration of psychotherapy therefore also depends on how difficult, how far-reaching, how restrictive a disease or disorder is, and how long it has existed. There are also major differences in the number of sessions, which in turn depend on various factors. For example from:

  • the goal of the patient
  • mental illness
  • the therapy method
  • the financing

All of this can only be clarified on a case-by-case basis.
A session usually lasts 50 minutes. A consultation can consist of one hour every few weeks. Psychotherapy takes place around one to two times a week, and psychoanalysis takes place three to five times a week.

If an appointment has been made, a fixed time will be reserved for you. This time is not available to other patients. If you are unable to attend, you should cancel your appointment early. It can happen that you have to pay for the missed hour yourself if you do not cancel in good time. A therapy contract regulates how quickly you can reschedule an appointment.

What should I bring to the first interview?

It is very important that you have your insurance card and a transfer slip with you.

Can I try several therapists?

You can arrange trial lessons in which you work out the causes of your problem and the therapy goals together with the therapist.

Do you have statutory health insurance? Then you can take up to 5 test sessions per therapist (behavior therapy, psychotherapy based on depth psychology). With analytical psychotherapy even up to 8. This way you can get to know the therapist and his way of working without obligation.

If you agree with the therapist, the therapy can be requested from the health insurance company.

Can I cancel psychotherapy?

If you:

  • Do not feel that your psychological advisor is in good hands
  • you cannot communicate well
  • If you have the feeling that you are not being listened to properly, then you have the right to leave and thus stop the therapy.

Your advisor may work professionally and be a specialist, but you will not be helped if you do not feel comfortable during the discussions. A patient-therapist relationship is like any other relationship. If it doesn't fit, find someone else you can trust and respect.

When does psychotherapy end?

When you agree with the therapist that symptoms, fears and inhibitions have been overcome. When you feel joy again and can make relationships easier.

The goal is achieved when you understand yourself better and have more confidence in your own abilities. If you trust yourself to overcome difficulties that arise again. Then the help for self-help has succeeded.

Can I also get advice over the phone?

There are counseling facilities that will give you answers to your questions over the phone.

A good place to go is, for example Psychotherapy information service:

  • 030 / 2 09 16 63 30 (free advice) or [email protected]
  • Mon, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
    Tue, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    Wed 1 - 4 p.m.
    Thu, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

You can also get advice here: Independent patient advice

  • 0800 / 011 77 22 

(free of charge from the German landline network)
  • Mon to Fri, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
    Sat, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

In addition to German, they also offer telephone patient advice in three other languages:


  • 0800 / 011 77 23 (free of charge from all German networks)
  • Mon to Sat: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.


  • 0800 / 011 77 24 (free of charge from all German networks)
  • Mon to Sat, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.


  • 0800 / 33 22 12 25 (free of charge from all German networks)
  • Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
    Thu, 5-7 p.m.

Therapy - this is how it works

  • If you yourself

    ... don't feel that your psychological advisor is in good hands
    ... you cannot communicate well
    ... you have the feeling that you are not being properly listened to,

    then you have the right to go.

    Your advisor may work professionally and be a specialist, but you will not be helped if you do not feel comfortable during the discussions. A patient-therapist relationship is like any other relationship. If you don't feel good about yourself, find someone else you can trust and respect.

    Content provided by BlackDogInstitute.

  • You may have to go to different therapists until you find the one with whom you can speak openly about your problems.

    There are also many different forms of therapy such as conversation and behavior therapy, psychoanalysis or systemic therapy, so you may have to try several to find the form that suits you.

    Advice centers can help you find the right therapy and a suitable therapist.

    Content provided by BlackDogInstitute.

  • Nobody recovers from one day to the next. You can talk to your doctor about what to do to get your condition under control. Together you can create a plan for how your treatment and therapy should go.

    Set goals, discuss expectations and evaluate the results. With a suitable therapy and medication, you should feel an improvement step by step.

    Content provided by BlackDogInstitute.

  • Good therapy takes the burden off your shoulders.

    Confiding in someone and sharing their problems can be very relieving.

    Therapy can help you to identify your problems and the causes for them. Talking to a professional will help you deal with problems and fears and get rid of them.

    Content provided by BlackDogInstitute.

  • Often times, people think they are weak because they cannot solve their problems on their own and need to start therapy. Turning to a psychologist is not a sign of weakness.

    On the contrary: therapists are there for precisely these problems. You can talk to them about your fears, worries and needs without being judged. They help you to understand yourself and your behavior better and show you how to react in difficult situations.

    Content provided by BlackDogInstitute.

  • Shared pain is half of the pain.

    Talking to someone you know about your negative thoughts is a good way to get rid of them.

    Problems then feel less big and threatening.

    Content provided by BlackDogInstitute.


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