Foreigners talk about the Viennese Health Care System

Alexandra, 45

Clinical and Health Psychologist, Psychotherapist

“I love working with people, helping them and witnessing their personal development towards a healthier and happier life. It’s a wonderful profession!

I am a psychologist and psychotherapist, under the direction of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, working about the meaning of life. In regards to psychotherapy in Austria, there is a special law about who can be a psychotherapist.

In other countries, only psychologists and psychiatrists can be psychotherapists, here it is very different! There are psychotherapists whose basic profession is as psychologist. Then there are doctors and other health professionals like nurses. Others had training or work experience as teachers, lawyers, architects, economists, and trainers. And then there is the youngest generation of psychotherapists who do not have any basic profession at all and study psychotherapy right after school. It is my belief that this is much too early because they lack life experience.

So if you need help it is important to ask for the therapist’s basic profession in order to decide what could be really helpful. It also pays to read a little bit about the school of psychotherapy they practice – as we have about 24 schools approved by the Federal Ministry of Health and Women’s Affairs, that have very different ideas about how to treat patients!

Many people begin practising psychotherapy much later in life. The Ministry provides information on how long each therapist has been practising. If you don’t do your homework you could end up with a 45-year-old therapist who has only been licensed for one month. This still can work out fine, but it’s good to know. Make an appointment with at least three different therapists and see with whom you feel most comfortable.

Another important distinction: There are “Life and Social Counselors/Coaches” (Lebens- und Sozialberater) who are not psychotherapists and are not licensed to work with people with psychological conditions. The title only requires a two-year degree, which is often obtained on weekends and these coaches are only meant to support clients through minor problems in everyday life.”

“Privately insured people, beware! I’ve been astounded by astronomical charges for short appointments with specialists. As a local doctor friend told me, never go to a specialist without a referral from a trustworthy medical professional (a good GP). There are many excellent doctors out there practicing under the Hippocratic Oath, but just as many others blatantly milking private insurers to pay off their new boat.”

Jill, 55

Expat, Writer & Film Maker

Ching-Ling, 50

MD and Chinese Medicine Specialist

“I came to Austria 12 years ago as an expat. I was trained in Germany, the U.S., the U.K., Austria and China. I was surprised that in Austria there is a high demand for doctors who are open to natural therapies like Chinese medicine. The healthcare system in Austria is excellent and there are private insurers that reimburse patients for natural therapies, if done by a medical doctor. I specialize in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and Chinese and Western herbal therapies. As a general practitioner, I treat families with natural therapies, based on a sound medical diagnosis. Examples include allergies, digestive problems, recurrent respiratory infection, headaches, exhaustion, etc. One of my specialties is treating women’s diseases like menstrual or menopausal problems and infertility with Chinese medicine.”