Accessing mental health care in The Netherlands

We've had a lot of questions from people in the international community, who are having trouble understanding how to access mental health care in The Netherlands. This is understandable as it's quite a complicated system - if you want your healthcare insurance to cover (most of) the costs, that is.

First of all: in the Netherlands, having healthcare insurance is mandatory. There's a lot of companies you can choose from and all will offer different packages. There's a difference between the basic package, which is mandatory, and additional packages with which you can cover other types of care and choose something (for an additional price, of course), that suits your needs. In general, mental health care is covered from the basic packages. So if you're insured, that should be covered.

So then what?

If you are over 18, there are two routes. Route 1 in which you go through your GP to find insurance covered care, and route 2 in which you skip this process, find a professional by yourself and pay out of your own pocket. Note: in general, there are waiting lists for therapy, especially in route 1. Route 2 gives you more options, because in this case, you can go to professionals that don't have contracts with the insurance companies. These are more numerous and generally have shorter waiting lists. But then again, this is only for the lucky few among us who are able to pay their fees privately.

If you're under 18, there is a 3rd route. All of your mental health care costs will be covered by the muncipality insurance. You still need to go through your GP to get a referral note, but there are less issues regarding costs.

For an extensive, reliable overview, check out this governmental website. Everything you need to know should be there but for convenience sake, we've tried to summarize the three routes as simply as possible below. Also, we provide information on how to find a professional that speaks your language, and will give out some information about corona-related-measures

Route 1: Healthcare insurance-covered care accessed through your GP (doctor)

To access mental health care which is paid for by your insurance company, the first step is to make an appointment with your GP. Your GP will discuss any further course of action with you. Mild mental health problems may be treated by a GP, often working together with a general practice mental health worker within the office of your GP. Your GP can also offer you online counselling (e-health). Otherwise, if your GP and general practice mental health worker consider your problems too complex to treat themselves, they may refer you to a primary mental healthcare provider, or directly to secondary care. Other medical professionals, like company doctors and paediatricians, can also refer to either service. 

In the Netherlands, health insurance covers all or part of the costs of primary and secondary mental health care. The exact conditions depend on your insurer and the policy you have, so you should check your policy or contact your insurer for more information. What you should take into account, is something called the "Eigen risico". It's a pre-set amount (minimum of 375 euros, depending on your insurer), which you pay yourself for certain types of health care before your insurer takes over. 

If you're referred to either primary or secondary care, your GP might come up with possible professionals they know and are used to working with. If you prefer to look for someone on your own, follow these steps:

  1. Does the professional provide help that suits the symptoms/diagnosis/problems stated in the referral? For example, if you're suffering from a depression, the professional should be qualified to treat that. This information should be provided on their website. If not, get in touch with them. If it matches, proceed to step two. 
  2. Does the professional have a contract with your insurance company? If so, you should be good to go. If not, not all of your costs might be covered by your insurer. This will depend on certain conditions stated by your insurer. Get in touch with your insurer and/or the professional to figure this out together. 

In summary: it's a lot. Fortunately, us mental health care professionals are well aware of the rules and know what this means for us and our clients. So ask us your questions. Found a professional that suits your needs, but still confused about whether or not the insurance will cover your costs and what you need to do? Contact us/them; they should be able to help you out. 

Route 2: Paying yourself 

If you're able to cover the costs for therapy yourself, don't want to involve your GP or insurance company, and feel completely free to choose whichever professional you like: this route might be tailor-made for you.

It's really easy. You google or ask around until you've found a professional you think will be able to help you. Get in touch, explain that you want to pay yourself, and voilĂ : you're done. 

There's a lot of professionals working without contracts with insurance companies: especially in the international community. Some of them work through video-calling (and had been doing this way before COVID-19 happened), others conduct their therapies face-to-face. 

Route 3: (Mental) health care under 18

If you're under 18, things are easier. Read information provided by the government here and read this folder by the 'Nederlands Jeugd Instituut' (Dutch Youth Institution - an organization which provides information for children, youth, their network and professionals about mental health care below 18). 

There are different ways to find the right help, i.e. through your school or your GP. A referral from your GP remains a necessary requirement, but the plus side is that mental health care is fully covered for minors. 

How to find an English/Spanish/French/German/other language speaking professional?

Again, Google is a good friend when looking for a professional in your area who speaks your language. The website Iamexpat has made an overview of therapists speaking different languages in different areas in the Netherlands. You could also check out the International Therapist Directory.

A little piece of advice: Don't just look for language and location. Be critical of the information a professional provides about themselves, their experience, way of working and education. It's important to feel that the kind of help they are offering, and what they say about themselves, appeals to you. Feeling understood and finding a good working alliance are important parts of any kind of mental help.

What if I'm insured with AON? 

Aon provides a valid basic health insurance package as is mandatory in the Netherlands and which should provide the same access to (mental) healthcare as this package provides with other insurance companies. We've checked this with Aon and they confirmed. They added that if anyone has questions regarding the covering of mental health care, they should feel free to call.