Why do people become psychologists

Health: Why more and more people are going to psychotherapists

Dr. Melcop, you are President of the Bavarian Chamber of Psychotherapists, how long do people who are mentally ill currently have to wait for a place on therapy in Bavaria?

Dr. Nikolaus Melcop: That differs from region to region. Basically, one can say that the waiting time in rural regions is significantly longer than in metropolitan areas.

Psychotherapy: Half a year waiting period is normal

And how long do you have to wait on average in the country?

Melcop: An average of three to six months. This waiting time is really only a rough measure. Because many psychotherapists no longer keep waiting lists. And for psychotherapists who are particularly in demand, waiting times can be very long, even in metropolitan areas.

Have the diseases in Bavaria increased so much?

Melcop: There are good studies on the question of the distribution of mental disorders in the population. Most come to the conclusion that the disease rate has not changed but has remained stable. However, the number of people looking for help has increased.

And how did it come about? Today more people simply dare to go to a psychotherapist - that would be a positive development ...

Melcop: That is a positive development. Because both in public as well as by general practitioners and specialists, mental illnesses are taken much more seriously than before. The opinion has increasingly prevailed that nobody should be ashamed of this disease and that it needs to be clarified by an expert. Knowledge and treatment options in this area have improved significantly in recent years. Nevertheless, one has to say: Unfortunately, mental illnesses are often still very stigmatizing, especially in working life. It is therefore always important to carefully weigh up how openly one can deal with an illness in a specific case, and in particular to assess what negative consequences this could have in the professional environment.

More people with mental illness are receiving help

Are there differences between men and women - do women still go to the therapist more often?

Melcop: Awareness of mental illness is increasing among women and men. But on average, more women are open to receiving treatment.

And what diseases do women and men come with?

Melcop: Overall, the number of people diagnosed with depression has increased. Women are more often affected by depression than men. In studies of women and men in the population, anxiety disorders are the most common group of disorders. For men, addiction problems remain a big issue, especially when it comes to alcohol addiction. (Also read: Mental illness affects the whole family)

A psychotherapy reform was introduced in April 2017, which is intended to help shorten long waiting times. Among other things, all psychotherapists must now offer consultation hours for an initial clarification. And a short, twelve-session acute treatment is now also possible. Has that improved the situation?

Melcop: Both of these are so new that we are only just beginning to assess the effect. It is, of course, positive that with a consultation, the access threshold for visiting a psychotherapist drops. From April 2018, it will also be mandatory for patients to attend a consultation before therapy. Even people with unclear symptoms can get a clear diagnosis and advice on how to proceed more quickly. And we as psychotherapists can document the need in a more differentiated manner. One big problem, however, remains: Those who really need psychotherapy still have to wait very often. Because more treatment capacities, i.e. more therapy places, were not created by the consultation hour.

But that is exactly what would be necessary. What would have to happen for that?

Melcop: As a chamber, we have long been calling for new requirements planning. It determines how many therapists are approved in a region, and the current demand planning is out of date. It is based on incorrect calculations. In rural areas in particular, we need significantly more licensed psychotherapists than is currently planned.

How many psychotherapists do we have in Bavaria?

Melcop: Our chamber has about 7,300 members. Then there are the medical colleagues who work as psychotherapists.

Be careful with offers on the Internet

The offers for therapies are growing on the Internet. How do you rate them?

Melcop: This is a broad field with an unmanageable number of offers that are very difficult to assess. And the number is growing - from chat and apps to e-mail-based therapy offers. I can only advise those seeking advice to be extremely careful. Above all, one must always pay attention to who is offering the program, how professional and responsible it is. You must not forget: Very sensitive personal data is passed on electronically here, it must not fall into the wrong hands.

What should patients watch out for?

Melcop: On our homepage of the Federal Chamber of Therapists, patients can find a checklist for online offers. I am of the opinion that in certain cases online offers can be a good addition to classic psychotherapy. However, anyone who suffers from significant psychological complaints should definitely consult a psychological psychotherapist or a medical psychotherapist and not only get help via the Internet.

How do I know if I have a serious mental illness?

Melcop: First of all, I have to honestly ask myself how much the psychological problem I have is limiting me in my daily life. If I can no longer do everyday things, such as using public transport or the car, going shopping or going to the cinema, then this is a sign that there is a more serious illness. Another point is the intensity of the suffering: How much do I suffer? And how badly are my social contacts disrupted as a result? If you have someone you can really trust, you could of course discuss these questions with that person. Feedback from others often helps with the initial assessment.

Dr. Nikolaus Melcop, 57, is President of the Chamber of Psychotherapists (PTK) Bavaria and Vice President of the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists.