Doctors & therapists

Psychotherapist – Diagnosis, Treatment & Choice of Doctor


Since the introduction of the Psychotherapist Act in 1999, training, fields of activity and approvals for psychotherapists have been precisely regulated. While professional groups such as psychologists , psychiatrists and doctors with additional training are also allowed to carry out psychotherapy, only people who meet very specific criteria are allowed to call themselves psychotherapists.

What is a psychotherapist?

Psychotherapists are allowed to carry out medical psychotherapy . It is a protected term that is reserved for people who have completed a university degree in medicine, psychology or psychiatry and have completed several years of additional training.

At the end of the training and after passing all the exams, the prospective psychotherapists receive their state license. If you want to work as a psychotherapist for children and young people, you can also study social work, education or music therapy. In the additional training, the focus is on a specific therapy method.

Alternative practitioners with appropriate additional training are also allowed to practice psychotherapy, but they must call themselves “alternative practitioners for psychotherapy”; they are not entitled to the designation “psychotherapist”.


Psychotherapists work in clinics, hospitals, their own practice, various counseling centers, teaching and research. Psychotherapy is commonly used for mental illnesses. Alternative terms are mental disorders or mental illness.

In order to be considered psychotherapy, there must be complaints “with disease value”, for example depression , anxiety disorders , eating disorders , schizophrenia or addiction problems. Psychotherapists are in demand when severe psychological and psychosomatic stress is caused by problems in marriage, at work, disturbed parent-child relationships or traumatic experiences that have not been processed.

The transitions between a mental illness such as a depressive mood and “normal” emotions such as deep sadness are often fluid. A criterion for determining a mental illness is that the symptoms persist over a longer period of time or recur repeatedly.

If there are no complaints with illness value, the activity of the psychotherapist is not counted as therapy, but only as advice. Health insurance companies only cover the costs of illness-related psychotherapy.

Diagnostic & examination methods

Psychotherapy can be done in individual or group sessions. The psychotherapist uses five to eight sessions to clarify the clinical picture. Mainly detailed patient interviews and psychological tests are used to make the diagnosis. Family members and spouses may also be interviewed.

Furthermore, a medical report must be submitted that excludes a physical illness and shows exactly what medication the patient is taking. This is followed by short-term therapy with up to 25 hours of therapy or long-term therapy. Depending on the disease and the type of therapy used, the latter can have a maximum duration of 45 to 240 hours.

Health insurance companies support three common forms of psychotherapy: Behavioral therapy has the objective of “helping people to help themselves”. The patient should learn methods to be able to live better with certain situations or a general disorder in the future. For example, certain stimuli that trigger reactions are analyzed and new behaviors are trained.

Psychotherapy based on depth psychology focuses more on investigating the causes . The therapist attempts to relate the current disturbances to traumatic childhood experiences or unconscious disturbances. By finding the causes, the symptoms should be alleviated.

The third major form of treatment is analytical psychotherapy . It is an indefinite long-term therapy that mainly deals with the patient’s childhood and adolescence. An important focus is on defense mechanisms and overcoming fear.

What should the patient pay attention to?

When choosing a psychotherapist , the first question that arises is whether the administration of medication is desirable or necessary. A medical psychotherapist, i.e. a qualified doctor, may carry out psychotherapy and prescribe medication.

A psychological psychotherapist may not prescribe medication, but will also recommend a visit to a psychiatrist and work closely with them if they consider the administration of medication to be useful alongside psychotherapy.

Furthermore, the question arises as to whether cooperation with a psychotherapist or an alternative practitioner for psychotherapy is desired. Psychotherapists are generally well trained due to strict regulations, with naturopaths there are sometimes major differences in training. However, they can be very well specialized in certain therapy methods.

Other important questions are: Which therapy method seems most appealing and makes the most sense? Do you want individual or group therapy? Which treatments does the health insurance pay for? Medical psychotherapists generally have a more scientific-biological way of working, psychological psychotherapists usually work more in relation to the psyche. Ultimately, one thing above all has to be right: the chemistry and the relationship of trust between patient and therapist.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.