Information on Psychotherapy
Many myths circulate about psychotherapy. For this reason, we have compiled some information on this topic.
Today’s psychotherapy looks back on a long history of over 100 years. Notwithstanding the still existing ideological boundaries between different psychological schools, a variety of procedures have already profited from each other. Scientific investigation on therapeutic processes has filtered out and further developed many proven experiences and methods. Most male and female therapists work with different therapeutic methods and reflect on their own actions in advance training courses, supervisions and intervisions (mutual supervision sessions).
In the following section we offer a few (short) answers to the following questions:
- Which psychotherapy can help?
- Which therapeutic methods are covered by health insurance companies and what are probatory sessions?
- What can psychotherapy offer?
- Which are the myths and limitations of therapy?
- What about sexual contact with male or female therapists?
- How can I find out which is the right therapist for me?
Which Psychotherapy can help?
When we consult a physician we are accustomed to be prescribed medication or to be operated once the diagnosis has been established. In such cases, we simply submit to medical treatment or surgery. In psychotherapy things are different. The therapy depends to a large extent on the dialogue between patients and therapists and, what is more, the patient has to play a much bigger and active role.
The market of psychotherapeutic offers is highly confusing for outsiders. A great variety of tendencies are partly sold as so-called healing practices. Based on their own experience, some people will swear by biodynamic body therapy, others by systemic therapy and a third group by gestalt or behavioral therapy. For others, however, it will be the experience of group sessions. Any therapeutic method might be successful.
(See information on therapeutic approaches on the following page)
Nevertheless, some approaches contain open or hidden negative aspects concerning women (eg. Sigrid Vowinckel, Bert Hellinger unter der Lupe, available at Fetz) Many therapists are not aware of this aspect. The personal approach, the therapist’s conception of the world and how this conception interacts with that of the patient play an important role in the therapeutic process.
Hence, success depends largely on the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client, i.e. whether they trust each other and whether the client can accept therapeutic counselling in this setting. In case you consider a therapy, we have listed a number of questions which might be helpful in your self-reflection process. You can get more detailed information concerning the different therapeutic approaches in one of our consulting and information sessions.
Which therapeutic Approaches are covered by Health Insurance and what are Probatory Sessions?
Since the enactment of the Law on Psychotherapy a referral of the family physician or neurologist is no longer mandatory. You can directly consult a psychological or medical therapist of either gender. Up to the age of 20 you can also consult a child or adolescent therapist.
The first 5 sessions, the so-called probatory sessions, can be billed through the chip card of your health insurance company, so that you don’t even have to apply and wait for the approval of the insurance company. Your therapist will submit the application and the health insurance company will examine and eventually approve it during or after this period.
You can take probatory sessions with different therapists. However, your insurance will only cover the costs of a therapy in presence of “disorders” that meet international diagnostic criteria. The mere desire to develop your personality is not sufficient. In other words, a therapy at the expense of a health insurance company is always labelled according to stereotyped diagnostic thinking.
All health insurance companies recognize depth and analytical psychotherapy as well as so-called behaviorist approaches of psychology.
Broadly speaking this means:
Primary targets of depth and analytical psychologic approaches are the analysis of the patient’s childhood and the reconditioning of the past.
Behavioral therapy puts particular emphasis on addressing present and future problems.
Unfortunately, especially depth psychological and classical analytic theories (S. Freud and C.G. Jung) still tend to have some prejudices against lesbians and gays. They also tend to have a rather conservative approach to female roles.
Unfortunately, all other psychological theories (e.g. gestalt therapy, talking therapy, psychodrama, family/systemic therapy and body therapies) have not yet been recognized by health insurance companies, i.e. patients have to pay for such services. It is sad to say that the strong lobby of German doctors’ associations has up to now prevented their recognition. Numerous medical psychotherapists are also psychoanalysts.
Medical psychotherapists require a much shorter therapeutic training than that of psychosocial professionals.
What can Therapy offer?
Psychotherapy can help
- To be more self-aware, to find more contentment and well-being
- To be in better control of yourself and your life
- To reduce disorders and to deal better with your difficulties
- To be more aware of what you do and to be in better harmony with yourself
- To discover your own hidden, but existing resources
However, there are still many myths about therapy. For this reason, we have added a section on what psychotherapy isn’t.
Which are the Myths and Limitations of a Therapy?
Mythos: “Catharsis”, then I will be cured
Liberation of inner tensions and mental suffering by means of emotional work-off can be of great relief. However, it is a myth that emotional “work-off” automatically stands for an “everlasting cure” and a magic answer “that everything will go well”.
Therapy helps to understand the real causes of conflicts and to learn how to deal with them. It is a slow step-by-step process.
Nevertheless, the fundamental structures of our personality will remain unaltered. They determine our personality, our strengths and our weaknesses. They can crop up again and again and require a conscientious analysis and major efforts to address them.
Myth: Once I have discovered my childhood Trauma I will be cured.
The detection of one’s childhood trauma by itself does not in any way mean a cure. However, it can help us understand ourselves and that alone may already be of great relief.
Myth: The therapist is an omniscient Guru
Nobody can take over the responsibility for our life. It is true, that professionally trained persons can help us in complicated and difficult situations. But even the best therapist is merely a human being with individual limitations.
Therapists have to be seen as assistants, catalyzers, accelerators that can help us discover and develop our own possibilities.
The myth: The ideal Therapy
Constantly new temporary fashions dominate the relevant therapeutic and self-realization circles. Therapeutic schools offer a great diversity of counselling options. They all have different strengths, but none of them is in exclusive possession of the “philosopher’s stone”. See more under Section 1: Which Therapy is helpful.
Myth: Everything is permanently changing
Therapy offers a soothing contact within a protected confidential setting, but at the same time it also implies a great deal of work. It is essential to practice lessons also outside of sessions in order to gradually get over one’s own limitations. Therapy does not exclusively take place during therapy sessions.
Myth: Permanent Happiness and Fulfillment
If you look for a therapy in order to find permanent happiness, you will never come to an end. Fulfillment, happiness, fears, guilt, shame, fury, crises and changes are integral parts of life. Just as there is no permanent fulfillment there is no perfect individual without weaknesses! However, therapy helps us strengthen our capabilities to deal with difficulties, to create a better environment and more wellbeing and to contribute to the development of our personality.
What about sexual Contact with the Therapist?
Sexual contact within the context of a therapy constitutes sexual assault and violence by the therapist, independent from whether the client herself has taken active part in seducing him/her or whether she is in love with him/her and has been dreaming about such a contact.
The therapeutic relationship is based on the concern for the person seeking help. This implies that the therapist is obliged to refrain from satisfying his/her own sexual or narcissistic desire. Healthy closeness is only possible if reliable and responsible distance is guaranteed.
Some therapists tend to minimize the effect of sexual contact in a therapy. Nevertheless, the BDP (Berufsverband deutscher Psychologinnen und Psychologen – Association of German male and female Therapists) states in its recommendable brochure:
“Even if a patient wants an intimate contact, the psychotherapist must never respond to this wish. The therapist is always responsible for what happens.”
(Quoted from: Patientinnen-Ratgeber. Sexueller Missbrauch in ther Psychotherapie. 2. Auflage 2000. Obtainable from Berufsverband deutscher Psychologinnen und Psychologen e.V., Heilsbachstr. 22, 53123 Bonn). Psychotherapists that transgress this border are liable to prosecution.
Of course, it is quite common that women fall in love with their male or female therapist. It is quite understandable that the patient yearns for emotional support and confirmation, to be finally accepted with all her weaknesses and as a unique and important individual. If a therapist abuses the trust placed in him/her, the consequences for the person concerned can be similarly traumatizing as those of incest.
How can I make sure that the Therapist is the right one for me?
Questions for reflection:
- Do I feel at ease, understood, respected or patronized? Have courage and speak about what bothers you!
- How does the therapist react to my specific needs? This does not mean that she has to agree to everything, but that she takes me seriously and gives credit to what I consider important.
- Does the therapist have a supervisor or an intervision group, is she in close professional exchange?
- Has she/he had advanced training on topics such as sexual violence or trauma counselling?
- For lesbian or bisexual women or for women who are unsure about their own sexual orientation it is important to know: whether the therapist attended to advance training courses on the situation of lesbian women or has she at least read about it and has she given thought to her own lesbian part? What is her personal attitude towards lesbians?
- What is the current perception of women? Are there ideas about “genuine femininity” that women “should” comply with? What is important to me?
- Does she answer my questions? If she doesn’t answer them directly and merely reflects them back to me: Is this the right therapeutic method for me at this very moment?
- You are the client and therapy is a work relationship for which you or your insurance company pays and which is expected to help you. This works best with transparency and openness. Mention these questions in your therapy, should you have doubts and feel hurt or misunderstood.