This week we are focusing on mental health and its insurance coverage in The Netherlands. We recently sat down with Valerie Nayer, a psychologist and Belgian expat who has lived in The Hague for more than 10 years. You can make an appointment to visit Valerie at her clinic, which was founded in 2015 and located in Rijswijk.
As a psychologist, please give us your opinion on the health system in The Netherlands
The Dutch healthcare system is often viewed as ambivalent by an expat. In contrast to many other European members, the Dutch health system is based on private insurance rather than on a national system. This public insurance system is based on a risk equalization through a risk equalization pool. To keep it simple: all citizens are required to acquire an insurance from private providers. The government is responsible for the accessibility and equality of the health care system but is not in control of its management. The system encourages competition but is regulated by the risk equalization pool to avoid private insurers from “selecting healthy patients”.
Personally, the commercial aspect of the Dutch health care system remains difficult for me to appreciate. Apart from that, it is effective.
Is it difficult to be a psychologist in The Netherlands?
Yes and no. The title of a psychologist is not statutorily protected in The Netherlands. It means anybody can use it. However, a psychologist with a Master of Science in Psychology may register with a few organizations which defend the client and the profession against fraud. Amongst others, the BIG-register (Professions in the Healthcare of the Individual) and the NIP (Dutch Institute for Psychologists).
If you have the required diplomas and work accordingly to the Code of Ethics, it is not difficult to work as a psychologist in The Netherlands.
What methods do you use, and what are the reasons a patient might visit you?
I obtained my master in clinical psychology at the ULB (Free University of Brussels) in 2006 and I have been working mostly with adults, according to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy theory. I am specialized in the treatment of anxious and depressive disorders, burnout, paraphilia and clinical sexology. Sometimes I also use art therapy which allows a creative and non-verbal expression of the patient’s issues. It’s a very interesting approach but unfortunately rather unknown to the public.
Could you describe Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in more detail?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a present-oriented psychotherapy directed on solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior. CBT is based on the cognitive model: our thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected. By changing unhelpful cognitions (thoughts) and/or actions (behavior), CBT aims to improve patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties. CBT has been shown to be an effective way of treating various mental health conditions such as depression and anxious disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, panic disorders and much more.
What are the most common calls for help you receive from your patients?
I often receive requests concerning anxious and depressive disorders and also about sexual issues. What I love most about my job is that each person is unique and carries their own story. So, even though two individuals may come for the same problem, the therapeutic work will be different. It is a very diversified and satisfying job in which you constantly must ask yourself what is best for your patient and maintain a good therapeutic alliance to encourage changes and help them face their reality.
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