Psychotherapy and Social Responsibility

Lübeck Initiative on the New Approach to Psychotherapy Training – proposed bill in second and third reading at the Federal Parliament on 27 June.

A statement on the new approach to training psychotherapists in Germany from the Academy for Ethics in Medicine, Göttingen, the Association of Medical History, Cologne, and the Institute for the History of Medicine and Science Studies at the University of Lübeck, calls for greater awareness of social responsibility in the field of psychotherapy. The proposed bill from the Federal Ministry of Health will be discussed in the second and third reading in the German Parliament on 27 June. The Federal Council will then debate the adopted draft on 20 September.

The statement calls, in particular, for the obligatory incorporation of history, theory, and ethics in psychotherapy course content and with regard to licensing regulations. The statement is related to last year’s recommendation from the German Council of Science and Humanities for the field of psychology in Germany. Germany’s most important scientific advisory council drew attention to the fact that, up to now, the field of psychology has paid insufficient attention to its social responsibility as well as to its theory and history.

Prof. Dr. Lisa Malich from the Institute for the History of Medicine and Science Studies (IMGWF) at the University of Lübeck is the driving force behind the statement. Scientists from Lübeck, Dresden, Berlin, Munich, Düsseldorf, Hannover, Basel, Bonn, Hagen, Duisburg-Essen, Zurich, Bielefeld, Bochum, Lüneburg, and Halle-Wittenberg made up the first signatories.

The proposed bill on the reform of psychotherapist training envisions improvement in the current training situation via the introduction of a five-year bachelor’s and master’s programme, at which point a licence can be granted. Certification would then follow as part of a further training course. The first signatories submitted their statement to the Federal Ministry of Health on 3 May. A hearing for professional associations was held in the Federal Parliament’s Committee on Health on 15 May.

According to the statement: “On a structural level, the draft of the psychotherapy study programme contains parallels to the programme for medicine. This is appropriate in light of psychotherapy’s status as an academic healthcare profession and its increased significance in society. Similar to medicine, psychotherapy today has great possibilities for influencing human life.” In order to promote a thorough examination of both individual and social responsibility, the signatories argue in favour of the cross-sectional discipline “History, Theory, and Ethics” to be legally embedded as an obligatory teaching and examination subject for psychotherapy:  “An examination of the historical, theoretical, and ethical foundations of psychological and psychotherapeutic behaviour is required for a high-quality licensing procedure in psychotherapy.”

Prof. Dr. Lisa Malich (Photo: Natalie Rösner / University of Lübeck)