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Austrian Society for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapeutic Medicine

Psychotherapeutic Medicine

Completion of the ÖÄK Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Medicine (Psy3) leads to full psychotherapeutic competence and entitles the graduate to practice psychotherapy on the basis of the Austrian Medical Practitioners Act.

Psychotherapeutic Medicine

In Austria, Psychotherapeutic Medicine (Psy3) is the training option (qualification in psychotherapeutic medicine) that is open to medical doctors.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Completion of the ÖÄK Diploma in Psychosomatic Medicine (Psy2)
  • Registration as a physician
  • Successful completion of the admission procedure
Completion of the full ÖÄK Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Medicine (Psy3) leads to full psychotherapeutic competence and entitles the graduate to practice psychotherapy in accordance with the Austrian Medical Practitioners Act.
The training programme is regulated by the Diploma Regulations of the Austrian Chamber of Physicians.

A total of at least 2,510 hours of training are required to complete the full “Psy CPD” course and obtain the ÖÄK Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Medicine (Psy3).

Specialists in psychiatry and psychotherapeutic medicine are subject to a separate regulation: They undergo a special curriculum, which has nothing to do with the Psy 3 CPD course and which has a different conceptual structure. This programme is taken within the framework of their specialist medical training (2011) and entitles the physician to use the title specialist for “Psychiatry and Psychotherapeutic Medicine.”

When is Psychotherapeutic Medicine Indicated for Treatment?

Generally, we recommend that people seek the help of psychotherapeutic medicine when they experience psychological strain over a longer period of time and no adequate help is received from friends and family, etc.

In cases of:

  • psychosomatic illnesses, mental disturbances or psychiatric disorders in all age groups
  • physical ailments that are caused or aggravated by psychological stress
  • high levels of psychological stress that are caused by physical ailments
  • Serious Illness
    If you are suffering from serious or chronic illness, cancer, serious cardio-vascular disease, long-term pain or facing major surgery
  • Pregnancy and Birth
    If you are experiencing problems related to pregnancy and birth: difficult pregnancy, miscarriage, inability to have children, unwanted pregnancy and stillbirths
  • Trauma
    If you have suffered traumatic experiences, serious accidents, violence or abuse
  • Children
    For children who are having difficulties, behavioural or other problems, doing poorly at school, suffering from anxiety, learning difficulties or pain
  • Relationships
    Marital crises, relationship problems or if you no longer feel happy in your relationship with your partner
  • Sexuality
    If you are experiencing problems with your sexuality or are unable to cope with it
  • Eating Disorders
    In the case of eating disorders, obesity, anorexia nervosa
  • Emotional Problems
    If you are experiencing a disturbed mental equilibrium accompanied by anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, psychosis, low spirits, depression or symptoms such as sleeplessness, feelings of unrest, emptiness or nervousness
  • Pain
    If you are suffering from pain or ailments for which no organic cause can be found, i.e. headaches, palpitations, stomach ache, muscle and joint pain or abdominal pain
  • Life Crises
    If you need help to overcome life crises and difficult periods or you have to make important decisions
  • Addiction
    In the case of drug consumption or when the use of medication, alcohol or nicotine can no longer be controlled
  • Quality of Life
    You wish to improve your quality of life and achieve a sense of well-being with a healthy attitude to life, broaden and develop new perspectives and achieve a fulfilling and realistic life style
  • Personality
    If you wish to work on your personal development, increase your self-confidence, independence, resilience and assertiveness; if you are suffering from a personality disorder
  • Relationships
    If you need to deal with contact disorders and relational disorders and increase your competency to maintain relationships, or deal with fear of loss and separation
  • Work and Employment
    If you wish to restructure your personal circumstances and analyse your personal situation within the family or at the workplace (bullying, burn-out)
  • Extreme Stress
    If you are caring for elderly or sick family members for example
  • Misfortunes
    If you need support and counselling to help deal with difficult situations such as grief due to separation or bereavement

Medication and Psychotherapy

Fortunately, modern medicine can offer help with medication. Depending on the symptoms or illness, psycho-pharmaceuticals can play a necessary and important role in the healing process. Following a careful diagnostic assessment, they are used with responsibly. In many cases, the drugs support psychotherapy and vice-versa and this has been proven to have a positive long-term effect.

How Psychotherapy Works

Psychotherapy can have a
  • curative (healing)
  • palliative (alleviating)
  • beneficial and preventative effect, and support
  • personality development
Proven factors behind this success are empathetic understanding, emotional acceptance and support by the psychotherapeutic physician. Psychotherapy also works by promoting
  • emotional expression
  • experiences of discernment and the senses
  • communicative competence and the ability to form and maintain relationships
  • awareness and self-regulation
  • learning opportunities, learning processes and interests
  • creative opportunities for experience
and by encouraging the development of positive perspectives for the future. Other very important factors are
  • the development and fostering of a positive, personal set of values, and
  • strong, social networks and
  • experiences of togetherness and solidarity

What Happens in Outpatient Psychotherapy?

  • At the first meeting, you will be asked to describe your symptoms; at this stage it is also important to discuss your expectations and motives.
  • This is followed by the therapeutic intervention, taking into account your physical ailments or disease and your personal history.
  • In a joint reflection you and the psychotherapeutic doctor will integrate the issues you have worked through and the solutions you have developed, which in this way are linked, implemented and encouraged in your everyday life.
  • In residential psychotherapy, the patient is cared for by a team (doctors, psychotherapists and therapists from other professions).

Prerequisites for Starting Psychotherapy

Before you start therapy, we recommend that you gather information about the various psychotherapeutic methods.
  • It is important that you feel you can trust the psychotherapeutic doctor.
  • The methods, techniques and framework of the therapy should be clearly explained to you.
  • At the beginning of the psychotherapy it is important that you and your psychotherapeutic physician reach a working agreement about,
    – why you are seeking psychotherapy,
    – what you wish to achieve with the therapy and
    – how the success of the therapy will be measured once the therapy has come to an end.

Frequency and Duration of Therapy

  • depends on the clinical picture and your personal situation
  • varies depending on the type of therapy.
  • you may end the therapy at any time in consultation with your psychotherapeutic doctor.
  • the length of a psychotherapeutic treatment is something to be jointly discussed by you and your doctor.

Rights and Obligations in Psychotherapy

  • At the beginning of treatment, a therapy contract (written or oral) must be agreed between you and your psychotherapeutic physician. This should include the modalities and the goal of the psychotherapy.
  • The fee and method of payment should be agreed at the first meeting.
  • Psychotherapy can be refunded by the social insurance funds.
  • You may ask questions about the therapeutic approach at any time.
  • Psychotherapeutic doctors may not pursue unethical interests or have sexual relationships with patients.
  • Psychotherapy should encourage social contacts and not place them under strain.
  • The doctor for psychotherapeutic medicine works according to the Medical Practitioners Act and has professional obligations, such as confidentiality and a duty to undergo further training.
  • In Austria there are 23 recognised scientific psychotherapeutic methods.
  • Esoteric practices cannot be used as part of psychotherapeutic treatment.

Side-Effects of Psychotherapy

  • You may experience phases during which your symptoms become worse.
  • Psychotherapy is a process in which relationships between partners, family members and friends may change, improve or deteriorate.
  • You may also find you experience changes in relation to your work, which may be of a positive or negative nature.
  • We recommend that you discuss these changes with your psychotherapeutic physician.
  • If the treatment goals move further and further into the background, it is important to address this problem during the therapy.
If the reaction of your psychotherapeutic physician is not satisfactory, you should raise the issue with other suitably qualified persons, e.g. counselling centres; you might also wish to consider changing doctor.


Who Pays for Psychotherapeutic Medicine?
  • Reimbursement of costs for psychotherapeutic treatment varies between the different social insurance funds.
  • Some physicians may have contracts with insurance funds on your e-card.
  • If you seek treatment from a physician in private practice, you will first of all receive an invoice, which you can then submit to your insurance fund. The share of the costs that are refunded varies between the different health insurance funds.