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German psychology students forced to look for new directions: ‘We can’t rely on the university’

07 Dec 2022 ,

Due to a new law, German psychology students at Radboud University might not be able to return to their home country to become psychotherapists anymore. Vox is following three psychology students at Radboud as they navigate the law changes that will likely determine their future careers. ‘At the moment, I’m really struggling with my mental health.’

Psychology students Ann-Kathrin Claßen, Natascha Köcher and Carina Meyer have come to Radboud University with the goal of training as psychotherapists in Germany after the completion of their bachelor’s. All three of them now also face the fact that this goal is likely rendered obsolete: after the introduction of a new psychotherapist law in Germany, the psychology bachelor’s at Radboud is likely not going to meet the requirements that the students need to pursue a psychotherapy master’s in their home country.

It’s been a few months since we first talked to the three students. Over the summer, Claßen and Mayer, who are now in the third year of their study, have tried and failed to change into a psychology bachelor’s in Germany that would meet the requirements for the master’s. For Köcher, who had just completed her first year at Radboud when we spoke before the summer holidays, leaving the bachelor’s in Nijmegen was not an option. All of them have approached autumn in the hopes of more clarity – but a few months later, the question of whether and how they can become psychotherapists remains unanswered.

Some hope left

‘At the moment, I have some hope left that I might be able to get into the master’s in Germany’, says Ann-Kathrin Claßen over the phone when we talk for the first time since the start of the new study year. ‘There was a recent declaration that the admission to the psychotherapy master’s will be up to the German universities themselves, so I will apply and hope for the best.’

Ann-Kathrin Claßen. Photo: Diede van der Vleuten

Her application to transfer into a psychology bachelor’s at the University of Cologne that she had filed when we spoke before the summer, didn’t even receive a response from the university. ‘That was a bit disappointing.’

Claßen, now in her third year, is approaching the end of her bachelor’s at Radboud. In case she will be rejected for the master’s in Germany, immediately applying to a master’s in the Netherlands is not an option. ‘I don’t think it’s feasible to learn Dutch and graduate this year’, she says.

‘If I get rejected, I will take a gap year, take Dutch courses and apply for internships in the mental healthcare field. The experience that I will gain with that is going to be helpful for my future career in any case.’ Even if the career itself, in Claßen’s case, is riddled with uncertainty.

Back to square one

With the end of the year approaching, Carina Meyer is back where she started. Like Claßen, she did not get accepted for a transfer to the University of Cologne that she had applied for when we last spoke. ‘It is very frustrating to see that all the hard work I put into it didn’t lead to anything.’

Carina Meyer. Photo: Diede van der Vleuten

Despite the bad news, Meyer tries to stay positive. She will try to apply for German psychotherapy master programmes this summer, and hopes that she will get accepted. But because of the uncertainty of admission requirements, Meyer is also considering more drastic options: ‘Being a psychotherapist in Germany was my dream job, but now I am also looking at other fields that could interest me.’

For now, Meyer finds herself in limbo: ‘I am not the only one, quite a lot of people are in my situation. There is so much uncertainty about our future, and we are all just waiting to find out what will happen.’

While the German psychology students tried to find solutions together in a shared WhatsApp group earlier this year, there is not a lot of traffic anymore: ‘Many people don’t see any hope anymore and have given up. Only a few people seem to be trying to find solutions’, Meyer says. ‘Or maybe everyone is just looking into solutions by themselves now.’


Since we last talked, Natascha Köcher and some friends have set up a petition and distributed it amongst students in their year. The petition asks for voluntary courses offered by Radboud that would make it possible for German students to bridge the gap that is keeping them for qualifying for a psychotherapy master’s in Germany. Since it went online, the petition has been signed more than three-hundred times.

‘We want to spread awareness that many students are affected by this and would be interested in a solution,’ explains Köcher, who has just started her second year of the psychology bachelor’s. Unlike Claßen and Meyer, her cohort has more time left to figure out their future career opportunities. But that doesn’t make the uncertainty any easier.

Natascha Köcher. Photo: Diede van der Vleuten

‘I’m not in a good place’, Köcher says. ‘I took a deep-dive into a lot of official documents from the State Examination Board in Germany and I fell into a hole. At the moment, this is definitely part of the reason why I’m really struggling with my mental health’, she tells us. ‘We have sent a few emails to the university, asking whether we missed some information and if and how the department is engaging with this issue, but we did not receive a reply.’

Especially now, this lack of information is affecting her studies a lot. ‘I’m taking all my favourite courses at the moment. My intrinsic motivation is higher than ever, but it’s like I’m being continuously distracted by the question whether all this work will lead to something.’

The lack of a response by the university has not helped. ‘I definitely plan to send them more emails, but it’s not a priority right now. I need to focus on my studies at the moment and on myself. It would have been nice to find a solution with the university, but I don’t think that we can rely on them.’

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