Psychotherapy FAQ

What Is a “Psychologischer Psychotherapeut”?

Terms like “psychotherapy”, “psychiatrist”, “psychologist”, “alienist” (and their German counterparts) have been discussed often in public and in the media, and now the German vocabulary has got a new term: “Psychologischer Psychotherapeut” (“psychological psychotherapist”). Unfortunately the meaning of these terms has not become generally known yet.

Stictly speaking there are only three different professions in this branch of medical science:

  • the neurologist, a physician who is concerned with organical treatment of the nervous system,
  • the psychiatrist, also a physician, concerned with medicinal treatment of mental diseases,
  • and the psychological psychotherapist, “Diplom-Psychologe” by profession, concerned with accurate diagnostics and psychotherapeutical treatment diseases and perturbances in the mental and psychosomatical area (e.g. anxieties, depression, lack of self-assuredness, anorexia, etc.)

The job title “Psychologischer Psychotherapeut” is nationally controlled since 1/1/1999 and may only be carried by legally qualified therapists. Currently this legal qualification is normally acquired through transitional regulations because there are only few colleagues who have graduated from the new, nationally controlled formations. Most Diplom-Psychologen who currently own a legal qualification have passed a special, very strict test by the government of their Land and are thus allowed to call themselves “Psychologischer Psychotherapeut”.

The medical therapist often focuses the therapy on a medical-organic approach which is based on general knowledge about body functions. The psychological therapist uses a different approach: Based on their knowledge of the human psyche they try to see the patient as a unique character in their everyday life and in their individual, familial and social context. Thus a psychological psychotherapy practice provides support for people who suffer from any form of mental perturbances.