Especially among expats, mental health is a large problem. According to Aetna International, depression and anxiety are the most prominent mental health issues among expats. Fortunately, there are many options in the Dutch healthcare system to find a mental health practitioner.

How to find a mental health practitioner

Generally, there are two formats of mental health care in the Netherlands: the bigger, 'public' locations or practices connected to the GGZ, or the more 'private', 'vrijgevestigde' practices.

The 'public' locations and practices have contracts with most insurance companies, and cover clients that have basic insurances as well. However, the waiting time for these practitioners is unfortunately long, and can last up to several months, depending on where in the Netherlands you are. There is more demand for these practitioners from clients.

The 'private' practices, in contrast, do not always have these contracts with insurance companies. While this does not mean that it's impossible to get coverage from the insurance, it is not always covered 100%, and that the client will have to pay the practitioner and submit the invoice to their insurance company with a request to cover for it. In short, 'private' practicioners sometimes offer less coverage, and the exploration of coverage options lies with the client after having paid the practitioner themselves. However, this does also mean that there are usually shorter waiting lists for these practices.

Regardless of which type of practice you want to go to, it is almost always required to attain a referral letter from the GP in order to be eligible for coverage of the therapy cost. For practices that work with 'zelf-betalers' (self-payers) this is not always the case.

Tips for Those Seeking Help:

If the need for mental healthcare is pressing, try to prioritise getting help as much as possible. Simply being on the waiting list for a practice that will cover the expense is often not enough, as mental health problems usually do not go away on their own and will get worse if mental health care is postponed. Even if it means considering temporary therapy with private practices and making some financial cuts in other aspects of life (such as hobbies). Postponing mental health care is likely to intensify your problems and become more financial efforts and time to tackle properly.

If you are looking at a practice or therapist, call them and ask very specifically what they would need from you in order to register (e.g. is a referral letter necessary or not, etc.) In the same vein, try to review the practitioner's registrations and certifications within the Netherlands.

Be responsible of the financial aspect of your treatment. Contact your insurer before starting therapy yourself, and ask for details regarding coverage options with your chosen practice, 'instelling', or private practitioner. Preferably, get these answers from your insurer in writing! Different insurers and different policies cover different practices and to a different degree (typically between 60% and 100%) depending on these varying factors (insurance company, policy, practice chosen, etc. etc.)

Most importantly, try to remove shame and (self-) stigma from the equation of seeking help. It is mature and brave to acknowledge your own suffering and vulnerability, and the need for a helping hand.