What Is Counseling And Psychotherapy? And How Do I Get There?

It is part of life that stress occurs from time to time. Because health, love, family and work don’t always work the way we’d like them to.

Most of the time, people get along well with such serious times. You have learned to cope with difficult situations, disappointments and defeats on your own or with the help of others, e.g. friends. Certain life events can also be better coped with with the help of a self-help group, with people who are in the same situation.

There can also be stresses that are too heavy, no longer stop or keep coming back. In which even friends and self-help groups cannot help enough. Then it makes sense to seek psychological help. Counseling or therapy can also help to understand yourself better or to develop more self-confidence. In short: when someone has the feeling that they want to change something in their life.

In individual cases it is not so easy to distinguish between them. In general:

  • Why: Counseling aims more at the solution of a clearly defined problem (e.g. separation difficulties), psychotherapy more at a comprehensive change of the relationship a person has to himself and to his environment.
  • How: Psychotherapy usually takes place in personal conversations. It is usually the same for advice, but advice is also available over the phone or online.
  • For whom: Both counseling and therapy are offered for individuals, couples, families and groups.
  • How long: Counseling tends to be limited in time, psychotherapy tends to be long-term. Nevertheless, there is also long-term advice and short-term therapy.

If the psychological suffering really overwhelms you or if there are changes in consciousness (eg “hearing voices”), treatment with medication, so-called psychotropic drugs, can help. This is possible either on an outpatient basis or in a psychiatric hospital.

As a rule of thumb, advice or therapy is not a shame, it’s a service! It is better to seek a conversation at an early stage, before the problems get too overwhelming! Better to talk to someone than swallow pills!

Psychological counseling

Psychological counseling can relate to all areas of life: marriage and partnership, school and upbringing, addiction and drugs, etc. The corresponding counseling centers are then for example marriage and life counseling centers or youth and family counseling centers, etc. They already exist in smaller towns. Usually they are run by the commune or one of the two large churches.

Advice is not financed by the health insurance. Depending on the economic and political situation, the city, the country and other organizations assume the costs. Those seeking advice often pay part of the cost, either at a flat rate or according to their financial capabilities. In certain cases, the social welfare agency can also cover the costs of advice via the Federal Social Welfare Act.


Psychotherapists can be contacted directly. No medical referral is required. However, if psychotherapy is approved by the health insurance fund, a medical examination is necessary to rule out physical causes for the difficulties.

Psychotherapeutic treatments by medical and psychological psychotherapists as well as by child and adolescent psychotherapists are financed by the health insurance. The following psychotherapeutic procedures are currently recognized by the health insurers: psychoanalysis, therapy based on depth psychology, behavioral therapy and, more recently, systemic therapy. Other procedures usually have to be paid for privately.

It should be considered: if psychotherapy is financed by health insurance, the therapist must write an anonymized report to an expert as soon as long-term therapy is applied for. This expert then recommends to the health insurance company whether and for how long the therapy should continue to be paid for. These reports are sent to the health insurance company in a sealed envelope.

The clerk at the health insurance company is not allowed to see this envelope, ie only the reviewer receives the report. In addition, a corresponding diagnosis must be made, as the health insurance companies only cover the costs of illnesses. Such a diagnosis can cause problems when taking out private supplementary insurance.