How to find a therapist

How to find a therapist

Jan 19, 2023 1:41 PM
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Finding a psychotherapy place - this is how it works

It is only human to have to deal with crises and problems in life. We can usually cope with such phases ourselves or with the help of family or friends. Sometimes, however, we are so psychologically burdened that we feel we can no longer get out of the low on our own. Then it can be extremely helpful to get professional support and find a place in psychotherapy.

However, many people shy away from the often long search for a place in therapy. Therapists are often hard to reach, have no free therapy places or long waiting times. This can be quite frustrating at first. We explain the most important questions and summarise how you can find a psychotherapy place more effectively.

Here you find a great article on this topic from our own HelloBetter Blog. The link below will bring you to our article in German. Following we translated the article for you into english! ⬇️

1. How do I get a first appointment?

No referral necessary

You do not need a referral from your family doctor to see a psychological psychotherapist. Of course, you  can discuss your problems with your doctor in advance, and she may be able to recommend psychotherapeutic colleagues to you directly. But you can also contact psychotherapists personally and make an appointment for a so-called psychotherapeutic consultation.

The psychotherapeutic consultation

In this consultation, you can find out together with a psychotherapist whether you should start outpatient psychotherapeutic treatment and what suitable treatment options are available. The nationwide appointment service of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärztliche Vereinigung) (telephone number 116 117) can arrange an appointment with a psychotherapist near you within four weeks.

The consultations take place before psychotherapy begins. You have up to six 25-minute appointments. You can also combine these appointments and have up to three 50-minute sessions, for example.

During these consultations, the psychotherapist will discuss your psychological problems with you. You can talk about your current situation and describe what exactly is bothering you and how long the condition has been going on. You may also have questions like "How do I classify my symptoms?" or "What can I do myself to get better? You will also discuss with the therapist whether group or individual therapy is suitable for you or whether medication is necessary. Sometimes the therapist will also use questionnaires and other psychological tests to assess your symptoms.

From the consultation to the psychotherapy appointment

Whether psychotherapy or a further referral to, for example, psychosocial counselling centres or prevention courses makes sense for you will be decided during the consultation. If it turns out that psychotherapy would be advisable, you can discuss which psychotherapeutic procedure would be most suitable for you. If you want to get an overview of what to expect in therapy, you can find more information in our blog article How does psychotherapy work?

Now, it may be that the psychotherapist you have been seeing does not have a free place at the moment or that you would like to have a different psychotherapeutic procedure. If this is the case, he or she may be able to recommend a colleague, or you can try to find a therapy place on your own - with the exact information you have, this can be done quite specifically.

Finding a psychotherapy place in urgent cases

In particularly urgent cases, the nationwide appointment service (Tel: 116 117) will help you find a psychotherapy place. The appointment is made within four weeks - however, the psychotherapist must confirm the urgency in writing during the consultation. Ask your psychotherapist about this!

Acute treatment

Things to know

In the event of a crisis situation, acute treatment can also follow the psychotherapeutic consultation instead of long-term or short-term therapy. Here are the facts:

  • serves to immediately stabilise and relieve the acute situation
  • 12 sessions of 50 minutes each
  • Places are allocated via appointment services within 2 weeks
  • Requires the written recommendation of the psychotherapist of the consultation hour
  • Visit to specialist or family doctor required before treatment to rule out physical causes
  • does not have to be applied for from your health insurance fund2. How do I find accredited psychotherapists?

2. How do I find accredited psychotherapists?

Where do I start my search?The best way to find contact details for psychotherapists is via the internet. There are many helpful websites here:

  •, a useful search portal based on one's place of residence and extended criteria
  • The psychotherapists' list of the German Psychotherapists' Association
  • Offers of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians and regional psychotherapists’ chambers

Outpatient clinics of universities, clinics or psychotherapeutic institutes also offer psychotherapeutic treatment. Psychosocial counselling centres are often quicker to find help than you think. It's best to find out which counselling centres are closest to you.The websites mentioned above will help you find a therapist. You can also use the filters to filter according to your criteria. Maybe the gender of the therapist is important to you? Or have you already decided on a certain method? Many things can determine your search here.

Digital psychotherapy expands access options

Since 2019, there is also the option of digital psychotherapy. You can easily find out which therapists offer this on In the search portal, in the "Advanced search and tips" section, select the filter "Online counselling" for the method of therapy. This is especially helpful if you don't have any direct psychotherapeutic care in the immediate vicinity, are immobile due to surgery or illness, or would otherwise not have access to therapy for other reasons.

Finding a therapy place: This list will help you in your search

Sometimes you can get lucky and find a psychotherapy place very quickly. However, it can happen that you have to call several numbers before your search is successful.To make sure you don't lose track, we recommend that you make a short list before you start. The following information is usually very helpful:

  • Name of the therapist
  • Telephone number, website and/or email address
  • Therapy method
  • Impression of the first conversation
  • Appointment made, if applicable
  • (if relevant: length of waiting time)
  • (if local: distance from home)
  • (if relevant: is digital psychotherapy offered?)
  • further comments

With a list like this, you have all the information at a glance and no name or appointment can get lost. And you can start filling the table with content.Mention in your phone call that you have already been to a consultation and received a recommendation for standard therapy. You can call several psychotherapists and have yourself put on the waiting list - the quicker you will get a therapy place!


3. Finding a therapist - probationary sessions and outpatient psychotherapy

After you have decided on outpatient psychotherapy and made appointments with one or more psychotherapists, trial sessions take place.

The probationary session - the chemistry must be right

These are at least two and at most four (for children up to six) sessions of 50 minutes each. The main purpose of these sessions is to get to know each other and to build up a relationship of trust between you and the therapist. In addition, therapy goals are set together. In addition, the therapist can use psychological tests to make an initial diagnosis if necessary.

At first, it is probably a bit unusual and tense to open up so much to a stranger. Nevertheless, you should ask yourself now if possible: Can I imagine talking openly and honestly about my problems with this person? Do I feel comfortable and do I see the relationship of trust as a good basis for working together?

Of course, it is also possible to have several probationary sessions with different therapists, so that the comparison helps you to make a decision. Ultimately, it is a question of chemistry between you and the therapist and there is no right or wrong. Therefore, trust your gut feeling, because the relationship between client and therapist has a significant influence on the success of the psychotherapy!

Plan time for your questions

You can and may also use the hours to ask any questions that are on your mind before the treatment. For example, the question could be "How long is the therapy expected to last?" or "How does a therapy session work?". You can also clarify questions such as "When will the sessions take place?" and "What do I do if I cannot keep an appointment?". You can also talk about your expectations of the therapy, or ask what a realistic therapy goal might be. You can also ask how you can best contribute to the therapy.

Of course, your therapist may not have all the answers at this early stage in the therapy. At the same time, it will help both of you if you say what is unclear to you, what you feel unsure about and what you would like to know more about.

4. Organisational questions about finding a psychotherapy place

Organisational questions are bound to come up again and again while you are in the process of finding a psychotherapy place. Common questions are: What will I have to pay? Who actually applies for therapy and who pays for it? Does any health insurance company cover it? What else do I have to do?

First of all, the good news: If you have statutory health insurance, you don't have to pay anything for psychotherapy, because psychotherapy according to the guidelines is generally a service that does not require co-payment. Statutory health insurances cover acute treatments and scientifically recognised psychotherapeutic procedures. Such procedures are behavioural therapy, depth psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and, since 2019, also systemic therapy.

The path to reimbursement by the health insurance fund

In order to be reimbursed, you must first obtain a so-called consultation report from your family doctor - this is a certificate to rule out organic causes for the psychological stress. The doctor will give you this after a short examination. Your psychotherapist can then apply to the health insurance company for psychotherapy after the trial sessions.

As soon as this application has been made and approved by the health insurance fund, you will receive a letter from your health insurance fund. This letter will tell you how many hours of therapy have been approved - now the therapy can begin!

Psychotherapy is also usually free of charge for private health insurers. However, it varies from health insurance company to health insurance company and is contractually regulated which treatment is covered and to what extent. If you have private health insurance, it's best to ask your health insurance provider personally.

Do you want to find a psychotherapy place? Then you now know how to go about it. If you are interested in bridging the time until therapy, our HelloBetter online therapy courses can support you in actively doing something for your mental health. Using scientifically proven methods, you will learn how to recognise various symptoms and improve them on your own. You can also have some of our online courses prescribed for you free of charge.