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How to get an English-speaking therapist in Switzerland

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Daniel Wighton - [email protected]
How to get an English-speaking therapist in Switzerland
Psychology is quite often covered by your health insurance in Switzerland. Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

The importance of proper mental health support has come to the fore during the pandemic and remains an important consideration. Here’s what you need to know about accessing mental health support in Switzerland.


The Swiss healthcare system can be difficult to navigate for people born and raised in the country, let alone foreigners. 

This is the case for mental health therapies. According to the Swiss statistical office, six out of every 100 residents are currently being treated for mental health problems - up from four in 100 two decades ago. 

Then there’s the question of speaking English. 

Around 25 percent of Swiss residents are foreigners, many of whom may speak the national language of the part of Switzerland they live in, but who might be more comfortable doing therapy in English. 

From understanding which treatments are covered by your health insurance to your chances on an English-speaking psychologist, here’s what you need to know. 


Accessing psychotherapy and mental health treatments in Switzerland

Everyone in Switzerland is required by law to take out health insurance cover. This is sometimes known as "compulsory insurance". 

Although Swiss health insurance can be expensive, one of the advantages is that a lot more is covered than in some other countries. 

READ: How Swiss healthcare costs have 'doubled' since 2000 

This means that many forms of psychological support are covered fully by your health insurance provider. 

This will of course depend on your policy - some will cover far more than others - but most mainstream health insurance policies will at least cover up to ten sessions, from which you will need to get approval from a doctor and take it to your health insurer to get additional assistance/sessions. 

What types of psychotherapy are covered? 

Generally speaking, many approved or recognised modes of therapy are covered. 

This means that psychotherapy, behavioural therapy or other forms of treatment conducted by a psychiatrist or under the supervision of a doctor - known as delegated psychotherapy - will be covered by your insurance provider. 

In many cases, an insurer will cover 90 percent of the costs, in other cases the full amount will be covered. 

While this is good news for the majority of us, you’ll need to pay for witchcraft and other "alternative" therapies out of your own pocket. 


What types of therapies are there in Switzerland? 

A psychologist, sometimes known as a psychotherapist, has a degree in psychology rather than medicine, and therefore cannot prescribe medications. 

The abbreviations FSP, SBAP and ASP stand for membership in a professional association, which means they are federally recognised. 

A psychiatrist has studied psychology and medicine and can therefore prescribe medications. 

The term therapist is used to describe both. 

As noted above, where a therapist partners with a GP or a psychiatrist, this will be covered by your compulsory insurance. 

Private or "self-employed" therapists will often not be covered by compulsory insurance. 

What if my psychotherapy is not covered? 

In some cases, only a certain amount of sessions will be covered by your health insurance provider. As we wrote above, you will need to gain approval from your insurer to get additional sessions or support. 

Alternately, some therapies can be supported only through "supplementary coverage". 

Supplementary coverage is an optional addition to your compulsory health insurance cover. (More information about supplementary insurance is available at the following link)

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

This supplementary insurance covers items like orthodontic treatment for children, a free choice of doctor or hospital anywhere in Switzerland, alternative medicine options or partial refunds on health-promoting activities such as gym memberships.

Note that you do not have to take out your supplementary insurance with your basic health insurance provider, so it pays to shop around.

However, in contrast to basic health insurance, insurer providers are not required to take you on as a customer for supplementary insurance and may reject your application if you have a pre-existing condition.

Therefore, be sure to read the fine print and be certain as to whether your planned treatment is covered. 


How do I find a therapist? 

While you can go down the route of cold calling therapists to see if they’ve got an appointment free and if your treatment is covered, the best place to start is with your GP. 

In some cases, your GP will need to provide you with a referral - particularly if you want this covered by your health insurance. 

Your GP will have insight as to waiting times and available therapists, while he or she may be able to help you with other tips. 

For instance, waiting times are often shorter at university clinics, where masters-level students are completing their psychology studies and are overseen by trained professionals. 

Your GP will also be able to assist you in finding the right therapy for you, from deep psychotherapy to behavioural therapy and otherwise. 

What if I don’t have a GP or want to search on my own? 

If you need support in an emergency, you can call the Dargebotene Hand (La Main Tendue in French)  on 143 at any time to talk to someone.

This service however is officially offered in German, French and Italian, although some online sources have confirmed that patients have been provided with support on the number in English. 


How about one that speaks English? 

There is no one centralised way through which you can find a therapist that speaks English in Switzerland. 

Again, speaking to your GP will be the first and possibly most important first step here.

Your GP will likely know of therapists who conduct therapies in English - or at least will know where to look. 

Many clinics will have consultation hours where you can have an initial session to see the nature of your condition and be sent towards a therapist. 

Additionally, the university clinics are also a good option as many of the graduates are younger and therefore more likely to be able to conduct their therapy in English, 

Otherwise, if you would prefer to look for yourself, you can visit the websites of Pro Mente Sana, the Federation of Swiss Psychologists, the Swiss Professional Association for Applied Psychology or the Association of Swiss Psychotherapists who maintain a list of their members and contacts. 

The number of English-speaking therapists is understandably larger in larger cities and cantons. 

Information will be provided on these websites as to which languages each therapist provides support in. 

Most of the websites also have an option to search in English and will have English information. 

There are also contact points on a cantonal level. In Zurich for instance, the Zurich Society for Psychiatry and Psychology maintains its own site with a list of contacts. 


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