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How to find psychotherapy [in your mother tounge] in Germany

  1. Important background information
  2. Step-by-step guide: How to find psychotherapy in Germany

[Note: German version can be found here]

1. Important background information

In Germany there are different types of psychotherapy practices. The “public practices” are limited because they are licensed. Those licensed are based on a need based calculation from the 1990s. 

  • “Public” practices (“Praxis mit Kassensitz”) – the costs are covered by the statutory health insurance
  • Private practices – the costs are not covered by the statutory health insurance and have to be paid privately, but you can try to apply for cost absorption (see step 3). 
    • If you are insured by a private insurance, the costs are completely incurred 
    • The “Beihilfe” usually takes over the cost for the civil servants in private practices.

The need for psychotherapy has increased, but the calculations have not been adjusted yet. So it can be difficult to find a psychotherapist who is covered by the statutory health insurance (waiting times of several months are not uncommon). Based on this development a growing number of private psychotherapy practices are opening, which usually can offer capacities and have shorter waiting times than public practices, but the costs are not automatically covered by the statutory health insurance. Here is how to proceed: 

Since psychotherapy is an insured benefit in all statutory health insurance funds, there is a legal claim that the health insurance has to cover the costs for a private psychotherapy (in case of system failure) as a compensation if a mental illness is present. So if you can prove that up to 10 public psychotherapy practices had no free appointments, you can be treated by a psychological psychotherapist with a private practice and be covered by the health insurance funds, if the therapist is licensed in a method which is approved by statutory health insurance.

Note: The public practices with “Kassensitz” and the reimbursement procedure refer to one of the three policy procedures recognised by the health insurance. These are as follows: Psychoanalytic therapy (Psychoanalyse), psychodynamic psychotherapy (Tiefenpsychologie aka tiefenpsychologisch fundierte Psychotherapie) and cognitive/ behavioural therapy (Verhaltenstherapie). 

2. Step-by-step guide: How to find psychotherapy in Germany

 Reimbursement procedure according to § 13 paragraph 3 SGB V

Step 1: Arrange an appointment for an initial consultation 

  • Call or email the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung (KV), where appointments for psychotherapeutic consultations are allocated (Tel.: 030/31003383 or Online – Consultation only in German – ask a friend if they could help you)
  • The “Zentrale Terminvergabestelle” will allocate you an appointment within 4 weeks.
  • If you are looking for English speaking or other language speaking psychological psychotherapist you can find them on www.kvberlin.de or you can also download the app BundesArztsuche App for Apple or Android (Choose your preferred language: Erweiterte Suche → Fremdsprache)

“The appointment service of KV Berlin can help you to arrange a short-term appointment for psychotherapeutic care (initial consultation as part of the psychotherapeutic consultation and, if necessary, acute treatment or probatoric treatment) with a psychotherapist.”

Step 2: Contact public psychotherapists

While waiting for your initial consultation, it is advised to make use of the waiting time and already start researching for a psychotherapist that is covered by the statutory health insurance (“Psychotherapeut / Psychotherapeutin mit Kassensitz”). You can research by search engine, look for signs, ask your family, your general practitioner/Hausarzt and friends for recommendations.

Further useful links to find a psychotherapist (in your preferred language): 
Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Berlin
BundesArztsuche App for Apple or Android ( →  Erweiterte Suche → Alle Fremdsprachen → select your language) 

Step 3: Contact private psychotherapists

In case you couldn’t find a public psychotherapist ( >10 denials or protocolled non-answers), you should expand your search to psychotherapists who operate privately. Usually they have capacities for new patients. Inform the private practice that you did step 1-2. This allows the therapist to prepare the documents that are needed to request a reimbursement. 

Step 4: Request a reimbursement of costs 

At this stage you will need to make an appointment with your general practitioner (GP) or a psychiatrist. This appointment serves to issue a “medical certificate of necessity” (“Ärztliche Notwendigkeitsbescheinigung”) and a “consultation report” (“Konsiliarbericht”). These documents show that there is a need for treatment and that there are no medical objections against that treatment.

Together with the psychotherapist you can now request the reimbursement for the psychotherapy. Your psychotherapist will support you in this with his registration number of the medical register of the KV and a copy of the certificate of approval and procedure for the selected treatment method. Once all documents are in place, the request can be sent to the health insurance.

Step 5: What to do in case that the reimbursement was rejected?

In case your application gets rejected you might want to lodge an objection (“Widerspruch einlegen”). This can be done directly with the health insurance or with a lawyer. Often, the threat of legal action is already sufficient to trigger the reimbursement. If you can prove urgency and that no public therapist was found, the coverage of the costs is regulated by the law (§13 (3) SGB). The website Kassenwatch can support you and your psychotherapist.

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