Italian Public Health System and private psychotherapy
Nowadays, requests for psychological support and psychotherapy provided by the National Health Service are continuously increasing in number: often, these requests are unsettled because of the shortage of psychologists/psychotherapists. In other cases, patients have to apply to a waiting list and be forced to wait for long periods of time, which can surely worsen their symptoms or, sometimes, lead to fatal consequences. Moreover, it’s possible that physicians, unaware of the best course of action, act as psychologists or ‘confessors’. In other cases, they focus on the patient’s body only, and prescribe drugs without realizing that mental disease must be diagnosed and treated in a specific way. This can culminate in a real disaster for both patients and their families. They might also diagnose an actual physical problem, but neglect the psychological one(s).
But why has private psychotherapy not been approved yet as part of the National Health Service? This is the case with all the other medical exams. This issue is still much controversial: there are several general prejudices on the scientific nature of psychology (sometimes, also among physicians). Everyday new research fields in psychology come to light, and prejudices sometimes are justified: there are, in fact, social psychological managers, social psychologists on the internet, financial psychologists, psychogerontoligists, up to animal psychologists (and probably psychologists for their owners as well!), art therapists, sport therapists and political psychologists. The existence of all these new specializations proves to be confusing, to say the least. In other cases, these fields are not properly grounded.
Let’s go back to clinical psychology and psychotherapy and the advantages that would ensue, if NHS would partially or entirely reimburse private psychotherapy:
- Firstly: this parliamentary bill would determine an actual cultural revolution. Body and mind would not be represented as two separated parts but two intertwined and indivisible poles of the human being. After all, mind should be considered on a level with body. Both should be considered as a whole; and we’d better protect and defend this single entity.
- Secondly: this bill would disprove a common prejudice, “if you reach for a psychologist, then you must be mad”
- Third: people could choose between public psychological treatment (don’t forget that the National Health System is now overcrowded) and private treatment reimbursed by the Government (just as it happens already for medical tests and treatments). Nowadays, only a few people can afford private psychotherapy.
- Fourth: acknowledging psychotherapy as a valid tool for both prevention and treatment would immediately cut pharmacological cost and reduce the impact of psychopathology on society as a whole.
To sum up, if private psychotherapy were provided by the National Health System, many advantages would follow.
Nowadays, psychology is no more under the aegis of the Ministry of Justice, but it is shielded by the Ministry of Health. This fact represent a key factor. Psychology has now the value of a sanitary profession – and psychologists are professionals who do cure – an essential tool for the human psyche, just as drugs are for body.