Access to mental health care is increasingly recognized as an essential part of overall wellbeing. With more than 5 million people between the ages of 18 and 79 in Germany suffering from depression annually, the need for a robust mental health system is glaringly clear. But many Germans find it difficult to access therapists and other mental health professionals, particularly in large cities where demand far outweighs supply.
This care gap can be doubly difficult for expats, who may not speak German and don’t understand the German mental health care system. In this post, we lay out what’s covered by public insurance, as well as some things to look out for when seeking out a therapist on private insurance.
Public insurance: What’s covered?
If you’re a member of a Krankenkasse (public health fund), then the costs of psychotherapy will be fully covered. However, there are a number of conditions that you should be aware of:
- You’ll need confirmation from a psychotherapist that treatment is medically necessary. According to new measures for treating publicly insured patients that came into effect in 2018, this confirmation can only be achieved through a psychological consultation.
- Covered conditions generally include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychosomatic disorders
- Behavior disorders
- Compulsive disorders
- You may have to deal with long waiting times before you see a therapist. Unfortunately, the supply of qualified therapists hasn’t caught up with demand in Germany. This means that the average waiting time for Krankenkasse-funded psychotherapy is around 20 weeks—not ideal if you’re in need of immediate help.
Many private plans cover the costs of psychotherapy, but there are some special considerations here as well:
- 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 loss of coverage.
- Waiting times to access therapy will probably be shorter. Many therapists prefer to deal with Privatpatienten (either patients who are paying out-of-pocket or patients on a private health insurance plan). This means you’ll probably wait much less than the previously mentioned average of five months to be seen.
Interested in signing up for private insurance? Our experts can help.
Finding an English-speaking therapist
If you recently moved, you might not be ready to do psychotherapy sessions in German—or perhaps you just prefer speaking about these sensitive matters in English (or your native language). Many of the Krankenkassen allow you to search for therapists by language:
If you’re located in Berlin, the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Berlin also has a great English-language search page.
Still need help deciding on a health insurance plan?