Who can I turn to first if I have mental health problems?
Many people turn to their friends and family first if they don't feel well. But if that doesn’t help and you have been feeling anxious or down for a long time, for instance, you can first go to your family doctor, a psychosocial information center, or or go straight to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. Even if you aren’t sure whether you might need treatment for your own problems, you can get a first consultation there.
Initial consultation for psychological therapy: In Germany, practices for psychotherapy offer special initial consultations (in German: psychotherapeutische Sprechstunde). An initial consultation typically lasts 50 minutes, and serves to find out whether psychological treatment would be helpful or even urgently necessary. The practices must reserve a certain amount of their time for these consultations. You can schedule an appointment there either directly with the practice or through your Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (in German: Kassenärztliche Vereinigung). You don’t need to get a note from a doctor or submit an application to your health insurer. One of these types of consultations should typically take place before you start with psychotherapeutic treatment. This consultation itself might also be regarded as one individual session. After that, adults typically have up to six sessions, and children up to ten, with each session lasting 25 minutes.
Acute treatment: In an emergency, you can go to a psychiatric practice with emergency services, an outpatient psychotherapy department, or a specialized psychiatric or psychosomatic clinic. Psychotherapeutic practices can also offer acute treatment without the need for an application to be submitted to your health insurer. For instance, it can started with the first appointment after your initial consultation. You have a right to acute treatment if the psychological problems could become more severe or chronic without the treatment, or if it is probable that you would be unable to work or would need to be hospitalized. Outpatient acute treatment involves up to 24 sessions of at least 25 minutes each (a total of 600 minutes).
Psychosocial counseling centers: specializing in e.g. family, women, childcare and addiction. The staff at these centers have various professional backgrounds. You might find, for example, doctors, social workers (in German: Sozialpädagogen and Sozialarbeiter), psychologists, psychotherapists, and specially trained care workers all working together to help people solve their problems. The counseling centers are usually funded by supporting organizations, subsidies and donations. They don't offer therapy themselves, but they can offer advice, provide information about support options, and initiate contact.
Social psychiatric services: Social psychiatric services are another point of contact. In Germany they are run by local health authorities and can be used for free. They particularly support people who need treatment for acute or chronic mental illnesses. The social psychiatric service teams are also made up of doctors, care workers, psychotherapists and social workers. These services generally don’t offer therapy themselves but can determine whether somebody needs treatment. They also offer extra support to people who are currently in therapy or have recently been in a clinic. You can also turn to social psychiatric services if you have the feeling that a family member, friend or coworker needs help, or you are finding it hard to cope with the mental illness of someone close to you. Where necessary the social psychiatric services also offer home visits.
Like therapists, the staff at the social psychiatric services and psychosocial counseling centers are obliged to maintain patient confidentiality.