"Only God knows …"

Johannes Lindenmeyer, MHB Professor of Clinical Psychology, is responsibly involved in the organisation of the new full-time course in psychotherapy.

Neuruppin, 4 February 2020

Interview with Johannes Lindenmeyer, MHB Professor of Clinical Psychology and former director of the Salus Clinic in Lindow, on the full-time course in psychotherapy scheduled for the winter term 2010/21 at the MHB, and the changes and improvements to be expected.

? Prof. Lindenmeyer, on 8 November 2019 the Bundesrat approved the revision of psychotherapy training passed by the Federal Parliament. This leaves universities and equivalent institutions of tertiary education free to organise full-time courses in psychotherapy. What is your view of this change in legislation?

! I am absolutely delighted, since the MHB has already implemented many of the curricular amendments to be realised. Specific MHB formats such as the Clinic Day and TRIK offer exactly what the new guidelines require: clinical orientation, practical relevance and room for reflection. And even more important is that psychologists can now complete their psychotherapy training under humane conditions.

? Which are the essential changes?

! Until today, ten semesters of psychology did not correspond to a vocational qualification. Graduates counted as psychotherapists in training and were obliged to 18 months of unpaid work in health care, and in addition they had to pay approximately € 20,000 for psychotherapy training over at least three years. According to the new training regulations, a 5-year curriculum in psychotherapy with strong practical orientation teaches the essential competences in the field and concludes with a state exam and the licence to practice. Similar to medicine, a subsequent period of further training over several years needs to be spent in in-patient or out-patient facilities for specialisation in the treatment of adults or children and adolescents, pursuant to regulations of the respective federal state. During this period of further training, graduates are in permanent employment and receive an adequate salary.

? In other words, the change in legislation means more recognition and appreciation of the work of psychotherapists?

! This is precisely the point I want to make. Today, the concept of health increasingly includes mental health. And mental health requires psychotherapists first, and psychotropic drugs only in the second place. Legislators have come to understand this and now have created the necessary framework conditions. Students of medicine and of psychotherapy enjoy equal treatment at long last, and they will meet at eye level in day-to-day professional practice. Mental health and physical well-being are to be ranked as equal, and this applies to training and framework conditions as well. What was part of the MHB concept from the very beginning will be implemented elsewhere, and of course we are happy about that.

? Is there a timetable for the start of the new programme?

! We plan to offer the new study programme in the form of Bachelor and Master courses from the winter term 2020/21 onwards as a modern and attractive format of psychotherapy training in Brandenburg. This would once again underline the pioneering role of the Brandenburg Medical School!

? What is the target group?

! The new programme is intended for school-leavers (secondary level) and also for students with an interest in the clinical part of psychology or the intention to work as a psychotherapist. No changes in our current selection procedures will be necessary for the Bachelor programme. From the start, our focus has always been on motivation, experience and personal suitability and less on grades obtained at school. This helps us to identify applicants who show signs of personal suitability for the practice of psychotherapy. However, we can give no assurance today that graduates of the present Bachelor programme in psychology can actually acquire the licence to practice psychotherapy via the new Master programme in psychotherapy; all involved are waiting for transitional arrangements and periods to be specified by the legislator. Our own MHB students will certainly have the best chances here, since our current Bachelor programme corresponds to the new requirements in most parts. But we can promise that we will make full use of all statutory possibilities to facilitate transition to the new formats.

? The current curriculum at the MHB with a focus on clinical psychology already offers early patient contacts and a high degree of practice orientation. Which changes must MHB students be prepared for?

! Our students will see only minor changes. We were pleased and honoured to see that some curricular details designed here now form part of the legislation governing the new full-time programme. For example, the work experience periods now required instead of internships correspond to the concept of Clinic Days which we offer in our Bachelor programme. In terms of teaching and exam formats as required by the new study and licensing regulations, the MHB has several years of experience and the necessary infrastructure. But we will make further efforts to integrate theoretical knowledge transfer and acquisition of practical psychotherapy competences in patient contact.

? What can you add about the structure of the scheduled programme?

! The programme comprises a standard period of five years, which includes a polyvalent three-year Bachelor course and a two-year Master course covering a total of 33 modules. Unlike previously, the new programme will end with a nationally uniform licensing exam. Pertinent licensing regulations which still need the Bundesrat’s approval will stipulate the assignments which students may or may not assume during their work experience, how many therapy sessions they should attend, how many patients they need to examine and how many interviews with relatives of patients they must conduct to explain the therapy. These are genuine psychotherapy duties for which students are trained. And the concept furthers commitment on the part of students and our clinical partners as well.

? What is the future role of our hospitals?

! The introduction of the full-time psychotherapy programme requires qualified clinical partner institutions. The majority of psychology departments at German universities cannot offer sufficient clinical places for the new concept. Applicants should therefore take a close look at the clinical facilities cooperating with the universities of their choice. A major advantage at the MHB is that we already cooperate with three clinics with sufficient clinical capacities for the required practical work experience periods, and that students’ assignments there correspond to our curricular content. In order to further improve this close collaboration between university and clinic, we plan to establish specific positions for instructors within the clinics; this liaison concept is already in the testing phase in our three major cooperating hospitals in Neuruppin, Lindow and Rüdersdorf. Between 10 and 15 additional clinical partners are scheduled to offer placements for so called orientation internships in the first two semesters, pursuant to the new legislation. As before, our Bachelor students will spend one day per week in the hospital, and the Master students up to three days.

? And other universities with Departments of Psychology but without comparable networks of clinical partners, how are they supposed to organise the full-time course in psychotherapy?

! Only God knows…

The interview was conducted by Eric Hoffmann, MHB Head of Communications