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Press release: Systemic associations welcome recognition of systemic therapy by Scientific Advisory Board

8 January 2009

Systemic associations welcome recognition of systemic therapy by Scientific Advisory Board

8 January 2009


(Berlin/Cologne, 8 January 2009) In December 2008 the Scientific Advisory Board on Psychotherapy (Wissenschaftlicher Beirat Psychotherapie, WBP) officially recognised systemic therapy for adults, children and adolescents as a scientifically proven practice in the field of psychotherapy. In a joint statement, both systemic associations – the German Society for Systemic Therapy and Family Therapy (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Systemische Therapie und Familientherapie, DGSF) and the Systemic Society (SG) – welcomed the WBP’s decision. According to these associations, systemic therapy is a globally popular, highly effective and cost-efficient procedure whose “official acceptance” in Germany was long overdue.

Both associations expect the country’s statutory health-insurance funds to licence systemic therapy as an outpatient form of treatment in the near future.

In an initial report in 1999, the WBP did not classify systemic therapy as a scientifically proven practice. Now, based on expert opinions submitted by SG and DGSF in 2006, the WBP has reassessed its significance. Today, systemic therapy is recognised as a proven method in line with WBP standards. It is thus recommended as an area for in-depth training among psychotherapists with a university degree in psychology, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapists, as stipulated by the German law on psychotherapists (Psychotherapeutengesetz).

The expert conclusion provided by the WBP on 14 December 2008 was published on the Advisory Board’s website (

(Berlin/Cologne, 8 January 2009)


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Systemische Therapie und Familientherapie (DGSF): Bernhard Schorn, Christophstraße 31, D-50670 Cologne, Tel.: +49 (0) 221 61 31 33, Fax +49 (0) 221 9 77 21 94, Email:,

Systemische Gesellschaft (SG): Franziska Becker, Waldenserstraße 2-4, D-10551 Berlin, Tel.: +49 (0) 30 53 69 85 04, Fax +49 (0) 30 53 69 85 05, Email:,

Responsible for content: Bernhard Schorn, DGSF

Statement of the German Society for Systemic Therapy and Family Therapy (DGSF) and the Systemic Society (SG) in response to the Expert Opinion on the Scientific Acknowledgement of Systemic Therapy issued by the WBP:

During its last meeting on 20 November 2008 in Berlin, the WBP addressed the issue of systemic therapy. On 14 December 2008, the WBP issued a resolution declaring that systemic therapy meets the scientific standards of the WBP and is therefore to be considered as a suitable practice for psychotherapy among adults, children and adolescents. Systemic therapy can therefore be recommended as an area for “in-depth training” among psychotherapists with a university degree in psychology, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapists.

The WBP published this resolution on the basis of the expert report The Effectiveness of Systemic Therapy/Family Therapy commissioned by the DGSF and the SG in the summer of 2006 and released as a book under the same title by a team of authors made up of Kirsten von Sydow, Stefan Beher, Rüdiger Retzlaff and Jochen Schweitzer (Hogrefe, Göttingen, 2007).

Under mandate from the State Examination Office for the Health Sector in North Rhine-Westphalia, the expert report and the additional studies provided later on by the associations were carefully examined by the WBP in order to re-assess the status of systemic therapy. The present assessment of the WBP, classifying systemic therapy as a “scientifically proven method”, marks the end of this two-year examination period.

On the basis of their expert report to the WBP, supported by the results of research studies, the SG and DGSF associations have presented a strong scientific case for the effectiveness of systemic therapy. This holds particularly true for severe disorders which cause considerable suffering to individuals and families and entail high costs for the health-care sector. Drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, eating disorders, depression or schizophrenia serve as examples of this. Apart from the effectiveness of the treatment immediately upon the completion of therapy, it has also been proven that systemic therapy has a positive impact in the long term. In a review study examining success rates four years after completion of the treatment, systemic therapy yielded better results than competing methods. Furthermore, the drop-out rate is lower. For example, with the help of systemic therapy, more drug addicts can be kept in therapy as compared to other therapeutic approaches.

Moreover, systemic therapy is particularly cost-effective thanks to the relatively low number of treatment sessions required. By involving not only the patient, but the patient’s social environment in the therapy as well, family members can also benefit from the positive results. Systemic therapy may hence play an important role in saving costs in the health-care and welfare systems.

As for its immediate impact, the decision taken by the WBP will result in systemic therapy being taught as a standard practice. In-depth training in systemic therapy will, in accordance with the law on psychotherapists, also be sufficient in order to obtain the licence to practice psychotherapy – something that has not been possible in the past. However, this decision does not mean that systemic therapy will be paid for by the statutory health-insurance funds in the context of outpatient psychotherapy. The acknowledgement by the statutory health insurance funds requires a second decision which must be taken by the Federal Joint Committee (Gemeinsamer Bundesausschusses, G-BA).

However, the decision made by the WBP paves the way for systemic therapy to gain a strong foothold in theory and practice. This will be particularly important for all those domains where systemic therapy has so far been rejected due to the lack of scientific acknowledgement by the WBP – e.g. psychotherapy research funding, drug rehabilitation financed by pension providers, or continuing education for medical specialists. Furthermore, the decision will serve as a solid argument in the drive to include systemic therapy as a form of psychotherapy covered by the statutory health-insurance funds.

We welcome the recent decision of the WBP and are confident that systemic therapy will be accepted by the statutory health-insurance funds for outpatient treatment.

Furthermore, we firmly believe that systemic therapy/family therapy plays a significant role in psychotherapy itself – both in theory and in practice – and will be a cornerstone of the overarching principle of psychotherapy in Germany in the years to come.

Dr. Cornelia Oestereich,
Chairperson of the Systemische Gesellschaft (SG)

Prof. Dr. Jochen Schweitzer,
Chairman of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Systemische Therapie und
Familientherapie (DGSF)

Dr. Wilhelm Rotthaus,
Co-ordinator of both associations for the scientific recognition of systemic therapy

Dipl-Psych. Anni Michelmann,
Political spokesperson of both associations

8 January 2009

For more information please visit:, DGSF, Christophstraße 31, D-50670 Köln, SG, Waldenserstraße 2-4, D-10551 Berlin, Expert report of the WBP