Jan. 3, 2021

Tips for Finding a Therapist in Germany

Tips for Finding a Therapist in Germany

"It can be tricky to stand in your power."

In 2018, I spoke with Tanya Dantus, fellow expat in Freiburg, about Weltschmerz. Have you ever felt completely fatigued, your energy fully spent, not because of anything in your personal life but rather because of the world at large? Welcome to the feeling of Weltschmerz, one of those wonderfully untranslatable German words, which combines the words Welt, or world, with schmerz, or pain, to create: worldpain.

We chatted about how current events effect us as expats, then dove into learning how turning to psychotherapy can be hugely helpful in dealing with tough situations, political or otherwise. Tanya is a therapist, and she had loads of helpful tips for people looking for help for their mental health in Germany.

Here is a list of tips and insights from Tanya:


Tip #1: Don't be afraid to SHOP around for your THERAPIST!

A therapist is one of the most intimate professionals one can have: treating your soul, mind, and emotions is not something you want to do with someone you don't feel safe & comfortable with.

The insurance policy in Germany allows you to go check out a couple of therapists for a first session (sometimes even a couple) before deciding on one. Plus, many therapists who don't take insurance also offer a complimentary session. Be sure to take advantage of this & see if it's the right fit both ways.

Tip #2: Each of the states in Germany have a Kassenärztliche Vereinigung, where the psychotherapists who have licensure are registered.

There are other therapists who are non-licensed, and can be good, too, and they won't show up on this registry and you have to really look to what training they have to see their qualifications.

Each state's website has a "Arztsuche" function with which you can search for a psychotherapist who speaks English (or another language for that matter) in your city. The one for Baden-Württemberg is: https://www.arztsuche-bw.de

Google the one for your state and make sure you do the extended/advanced search function to be able to add in preferred language.

Tip #3: There are different kinds of psychological counselors in Germany: Heilpraktiker(in) für Psychotherapie & Approbierte Psychologische Psychotherapeut(in), and coaches.

The breakdown in Germany: one can study Psychology & not be a psychotherapist. To become an official psychotherapist, after studying a Masters in Psychology, one must do an Ausbildung (training) in Psychotherapy, with practice hours. It's about 3 more years, with a final test at the end.

In California this is different, because the training is built into the Master's program for Counseling Psychology as well as pieces of the practicum or practice hours. As someone with education from outside Germany in Psychotherapy, I have found it extremely difficult to get the equivalency & Approbation, but I am well underway now after 3 years of figuring out how/what to do. I have spoken to numerous other foreign-trained professionals who have always required a lawyer to have a successful outcome. Thus, I don't feel one needs to always disqualify someone for not having full Approbation, especially if they are from outside Germany. Ask. It is very possible they have full licensure in their "home country" and just have not gotten it here yet. I find this worthy to mention, especially to the expat community.

I have had to get my Heilpraktikerin licensure which is sort of like a natural healer in psychotherapy license, which is a strange figure in German law, but that does allow one to practice Psychotherapy. You will find many of these. There are 2 kinds: ones that practice bodily practices like acupuncture & massage  and another that does psychotherapy.

There is still one more figure worth mentioning and that is coaching. My favorite couples counselor in Freiburg is a coach. I practice coaching alongside my psychotherapy practice. While I was waiting to get the permit to practice psychotherapy, I had to call myself a "coach" to see people. You can find well-trained, amazing coaches, & then you can also find terrible ones just out to make a quick buck. One must be discerning, but the figure of "coach" is one that is becoming increasingly common because it is not regulated per state, that is, I can practice coaching in Italy, USA, Germany and not worry whether I have the "license" from that state. Again - that can be super bad, or amazing for someone who has a formation and just wants to travel.

Get to know the person, see what their qualifications are. They may have a MFT licensure AND be a coach, too. US State laws, for example, do not allow a MFT from California to practice via Skype with someone living in another state. However, "coaching" is allowed. It allows for flexibility. Check out which is the best fit for you and keep an open yet discerning mind!


Thank you to Tanya for the fantastic insights! To listen to our episode about Weltschmerz, culture shock, and therapy, click here.