Are you suffering from mental health issues as an expat in the Netherlands and are thinking of consulting a therapist? This article explains everything you need to know about getting mental healthcare in the Netherlands, from finding a psychologist, getting diagnosed and the different treatment options.

In the Netherlands, it is not uncommon for people to visit a mental health professional for help with psychological issues. Whether you are suffering from depression, anxiety, burnout or other mental health issues, the Dutch healthcare system offers a myriad of resources.

Here are a few things you should know before starting your journey:

Health insuranceMost basic Dutch health insurance packages offer either full or partial coverage for treatment of mental health conditions in the Netherlands. These insurance policies cover both primary and secondary mental healthcare.

Primary mental healthcarePrimary mental healthcare treats mild to moderate psychological issues. These treatments are shorter and usually last less than one year. They are also centred around specific complaints.

Primary care treatment includes interventions like in-person counselling and online mental health support (e-health), or a combination of both.

Secondary mental healthcareSecondary mental healthcare treats people with more complex psychological conditions that require a longer period of time to treat (usually more than a year).

Some examples of conditions which fall into the secondary-care category include:

Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD) Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Anxiety disorder Personality disorders (e.g. borderline, bipolar, schizotypal) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Schizophrenia People with more serious issues like the ones listed above will likely be treated by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. These professionals normally work out of a mental health institution, hospital or private clinic.

Public vs private therapyThere are two types of therapy in the Netherlands: public and private therapy. Public therapy is free (or heavily subsidised) in the Netherlands – as long as you have Dutch health insurance and you go with a contracted provider. If the provider is not included in your insurer’s list of contracted-care providers, then you may have to pay a small amount or pay the bill first yourself before sending it to the insurance company. Also, the waiting times for public therapy are much longer than for private therapy.

Conversely, it is easier to get an appointment with a therapist from a private clinic as the waiting times are usually much shorter. However, many private psychologists in the Netherlands do not have contracts with Dutch health insurers and you may be expected to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket.

First intake with the GPThe first step to any health journey in the Netherlands is visiting your general practitioner (GP) or huisarts. Most GP offices in the Netherlands will have a psychologist on staff who can help you. During (or sometimes before) the first intake session, the psychologist will ask you about your issues. You may then be asked to fill out a questionnaire to assess your overall mental state as well as your symptoms.

After the intake session, the psychologist will review your information and possibly give you a diagnosis. If your symptoms are mild, then you could get treated by the GP psychologist themself.

However, if your condition is more severe, the GP psychologist will likely refer you to a basis-GGZ (primary care) psychologist. If your issues are more complex or serious than that, you may be referred to a gespecialiseerde-GGZ (specialised or secondary care) psychologist. Both types of specialists require a referral from your GP.

Second intake with a therapistAfter you have been referred to either a primary- or secondary-care psychologist, you may be put on a waiting list. As there is a high demand for mental health services in the Netherlands, the process can take anywhere from six weeks up to a year before your first appointment.

Once you get off the waiting list, the referred psychologist will perform their own assessment. Similar to the intake at the GP’s office, they will ask you about your issues and require you to fill out some questionnaires. After that, they will give you a diagnosis (if applicable) and collaborate with you to create an appropriate treatment plan.

E-healthIf you have mild to moderate mental health symptoms, you can also use an e-health service for online counselling. This option offers flexibility as it can be done from the comfort of your own home. It is also a good option if you are on a waiting list and do not wish to go a long period of time without therapy.

InstitutionalisationIn case of a serious mental disorder or condition, it is possible to be admitted to a mental health institution. This option is often voluntary with the patient and their loved ones being part of the decision-making process. However, a person may be involuntarily admitted (or committed) to an institution if they pose a danger to themselves or to those around them.

Since institutionalisation is part of mental healthcare in the Netherlands, the first three years of hospitalisation are covered by most health insurers.

Emergency mental health servicesIf you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, such as suicidal thoughts or tendencies, acute depression, delusions or panic attacks, then you should contact a GP immediately. They can help you or your loved one by contacting the 24/7 crisis intervention team.

113 Suicide PreventionYou can anonymously contact 113 Suicide Prevention by calling 113 (normal calling costs) or 0800 0113 (free of charge). You can also use the “Chat” button on their website. They have a strong international orientation and many of their trained volunteers can help you in English, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Support linesIf you need emotional support or just need someone to talk to, there are several helplines and resources that you can use anonymously in the Netherlands:

Emotional support helpline (Stichting Korrelatie): 116 123 The Listening Line (De Luisterlijn): 088 076 7000 MIND Korrelatie: 900 1450 or WhatsApp: 061 386 3803 Social services: 070 205 2222 Domestic abuse hotline (Veilig Thuis): 0800 2000 If you find yourself in a life-threatening situation, contact the standard emergency hotline 112 for urgent assistance.

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