Finding a therapist in Germany is simply a nightmare. That goes for both Germans and expats as they try to navigate the system. Questions many have included which therapists are covered under which insurances or where I can see a list of approved therapists. Thankfully, we already have an article explaining the difference between private and public insurance regarding mental health.
Once you’re done over there, you can come back, and we’ll talk about the process of actually finding a therapist in Germany. If you’re in Berlin, you might be interested in reading The Berlin guide to finding a therapist from our friends at All About Berlin.
1. How to find a therapist in Germany
The first major obstacle you’ll probably encounter is finding a therapist nearby who can speak English (or your native language). You may also need a therapist that has a specific specialty like gender identity, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, etc.
Thankfully, the most widely used portal, therapie.de, is an excellent place to start. If you don’t have Google Chrome which can be set to automatically translate a website into English, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find “Psychotherapeuten-Suche,” which translates to “search for psychotherapists.”
You’ll then need to enter your zip code in the “Ort oder PLZ” search bar after selecting the language you need in the dropdown menu titled “Sprache.” The other options allow you to choose what specialty you’d like the therapist to have, which insurances they accept and how long their waiting list is.
*Please note that many therapists may immediately refuse to put you on a waiting list if you are insured through public insurance. This actually allows you to go through the Kostenerstattung, or reimbursement process, where you prove to your insurance provider that no publicly accepted therapists are available. If that is the case, public insurance will pay for a private therapist. This process can take some time and be quite complicated, which is why we have the details below!
2. What if you can’t find a therapist
As you might have already guessed, finding a therapist on public health insurance is incredibly difficult. For some people who desperately need this service, the task may seem almost insurmountable. Even Germans have a hard time finding a therapist or going through the Kostenerstattung (reimbursement) process.
There might very well come a time when you have to choose between three options:
- Pay out of pocket;
- Switch to private health insurance;
- Or fight for the Kostenerstattung (reimbursement).
3. Paying out of pocket for a therapist
With millions of people struggling with mental health, the European Commission held an event in May to discuss the impact COVID-19 had on the current system and what changes will need to happen in the future.
And, although therapy and mental health have gained significant traction over the last decade and accelerated during COVID-19, we still need to build to accommodate the increase in demand, which might take some time as students need to complete their degrees and training to eventually become certified. Even then, they might still open private practices.
So, the question remains, how do you find and pay for therapy if your current health insurance won’t cover it? You can use many of the same websites listed in the first section, like therapie.de, Doctolib, or Arztsuche to look for therapists and their hourly rates.
Another new website is It’s Complicated. They’re a Berlin-based startup looking to create an international community for therapy to make finding a therapist a bit easier. One of the best things about their website is that you can immediately see the cost before looking at the profile.
4. Switching to private health insurance
If you already have private insurance, your plan should have information on therapy options. Otherwise, for people who have public insurance, there are a few things to consider when switching to private health insurance, which we’ve covered before! If you’re not familiar with differences or the impact switching would have, hop over and give a quick look. We’ll be here when you get back to talk about therapy options with private insurance.
Private insurance is where it starts to get a bit tricky. We’ve mentioned before that if you’ve had psychological treatment in the last 5-10 years (depending on the policy), you likely will not receive coverage. When you sign up for private insurance, the insurer requires you to disclose pre-existing conditions, including previous psychotherapy.
Unfortunately, most private insurers will not accept patients with a history of mental health treatment. Failure to disclose previous treatment can result in penalties or even loss of coverage.
And, if you don’t fall under this category, it means you still have quite a few options open to you. If you want to discuss what those options are, take a look at some of the plans we offer, and we’ll contact you with our best advice.
5. Private therapy through Kostenerstattung (reimbursement)
You’ve gone through switching to private and paying out of pocket and have decided that you’re ready to duke it out with some German bureaucracy? Well, we’ve done some digging and found a few things that might help you prepare.
Public insurance started the reimbursement process in 2017 to allow public patients to tap into the private therapy sector until (hopefully) enough new therapists finish their training and begin working in the public sector. This means that this system is new and changing quickly, so it’s good to speak to your potential future therapist throughout because they’ll be the most extensive resource to you when it comes to winning a reimbursement claim.
First, make sure that you visit a psychotherapist during their office hours before applying for reimbursement or beginning treatment. This might seem counterintuitive, but it will help support and strengthen your case with your public insurance provider.
Next, you need to make sure that the therapist has already been through the reimbursement process. This allows you to prove that their treatment and financial cost are equal to public therapists as they have been accepted before. If this isn’t the case, your public provider is likely to turn it down for these two reasons.
While these are two of the most important steps, you’ll also need to call and be denied entry to waiting lists from a certain number* of therapists available to you on the public market. This is why, if you have tried in the past, a therapist might have given you a denial with a smiling face — they’re wishing you the best in the upcoming battle for reimbursement. Write down the name of the therapist, the date, and the time of the call.
You will also have to ask your public insurer to attempt to find you a therapist at least five times and list the time and date of the calls in the document to prove they cannot offer you the care you need.
*For example, Techniker Krankenkasse has a list of insurance-approved therapists. We suggest entering your zip code and going through a good number (ask your potential future therapist exactly how many because it varies significantly) of the therapists here to support your claim.
Therapy is essential — that’s no question. Still, the process you need to go through to find a therapist in Germany can feel more like an additional battle to overcome when you’re already in a rough space.
Hopefully, this article helped you with the first steps to find a therapist in Germany. If you have further questions or want to look at our policies that cover therapy, check out the link below.