couple counseling

Therapy still unnecessarily taboo

These days it is almost impossible to find someone who has not been to therapy at some point. More and more people are finding their way to a therapist, coach, or other social worker. This is of course a very positive development, but strangely enough, the taboo on therapy has hardly diminished. Getting professional help is and remains a big step. Because if you go into therapy, isn’t there something completely wrong with you? And isn’t it a sign of weakness not to be able to solve your own problems?

Why is therapy taboo?

Almost everyone encounters psychological problems at some point in his or her life. Yet we often choose to keep walking around with those problems. Men, in particular, often tend to laugh at professional help. Why?

My problem is not ‘bad’ enough

Many people still think that you really have to be at rock bottom before you can seek the help of a therapist. If you have a good life – a roof over your head, a loving partner, healthy children, a challenging job – then you have no right to complain, right? Then you should not be unhappy. This line of thinking keeps many people from seeking help.

It’s a shame because a therapist is not only for people with severe psychological problems. The ‘small’ complaints are also allowed: the dissatisfaction with the daily routine, the stress of work, the recurring fights with your partner. In fact, the sooner these problems are dealt with, the better. Happiness is not found in external factors, but in your psyche. Everyone has the ‘right’ to be uncomfortable in his or her skin and to ask for help.

When I need help, I’m weak

Within society, there is still the idea that you are weak if you need help. And if you don’t care about what someone else thinks of you, you may be your own worst enemy. Many people think of themselves as weak when they need help. That’s a belief we’d better eliminate as soon as possible. Not getting help when you need it is weak. Taking good care of yourself by asking a professional for help makes you stronger.

Therapy is ‘not for me’

For many people, the idea of sitting in a chair across from a total stranger and spilling out your life story is frightening. Isn’t it crazy to talk about the most intimate topics with this unknown therapist? Can I do that at all? What if I have to cry? Many find it hard to imagine that this can really work. Then the excuse “that’s not for me” comes up. These excuses are unnecessary because a therapist is trained to put you at ease and respect your boundaries.

Why you can’t always do it alone

  • You cannot get a good perspective on your own situation. It is extremely difficult to detect where certain problems come from in yourself. We are often not aware of our limiting behaviors and thought patterns and do not see that it can be different. You may know yourself best, but that does not mean that you are the right person to solve your own problems.
  • Friends and family are subjective. You may have already indicated to friends or family that you are not doing well. That’s a good move because a social safety net gives us a shoulder to cry on and gives us a nudge in the right direction. However, friends and family are often in the middle of the situation or know you too well to give you objective advice.
  • A therapist is an equal discussion partner. Because a therapist is an outsider, he or she can assess your situation much better. A therapist is objective, has no prejudices, and thinks nothing is crazy. He or she has also learned not to overwhelm you with advice, but to ask in-depth questions. This way you will look differently at your own life, behavior, and thoughts and you will discover new possibilities and solutions.

The taboo on therapy is unnecessary

One suffers from stress and strain, another from relationship problems, and the next is struggling with questions of meaning. Everyone can recognize themselves in other people’s stories about life phases in which things are not going so well. That’s because we all get stuck at some point in certain routines, habits, and thinking patterns. And sometimes they make sure that we do not succeed in shaping our lives the way we would like to.

Everyone should be in therapy

Everyone can benefit from therapy to a greater or lesser degree. Even if there is nothing concrete wrong, improvement is often possible. You can see a visit to the therapist as maintenance of your mental health. Therapy does not have to last long or be emotionally intense. A visit to a therapist is like taking a step back: how are you really doing? Who knows what beautiful eye-openers will come out of it!

Therapy increasingly accessible

Making the decision to seek professional help is often the most difficult. Fortunately, therapy is becoming more accessible, especially now that many therapists also offer their services online. You can now easily get help from home, without the intervention of your family doctor. And once that first step has been taken, you will undoubtedly find that therapy becomes easier and more natural.


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    online therapy expats

    Online therapy from abroad

    Many people dream of it: emigrating. Some just do it – for work, love, or adventure. But no matter how much fun it seems, you may also find yourself uncomfortable in a foreign country. Maybe that’s even because of emigration and expat life. An online therapist can help you then. Wherever you have moved to.

    Psychological problems after emigration

    • Emigration is quite a drastic event that many people underestimate. Of course, you know that when you go abroad you will have to deal with a different language and culture. That you will have to make new friends and miss friends and family in the Netherlands. That you probably have a lot to figure out and arrange. But often we don’t think about the psychological impact of all this or the consequences. Especially if several problems arise at the same time.
    • Saying goodbye: saying goodbye to friends and family and your old life in the Netherlands is more radical than you might have expected. You can compare it with a mourning process. No matter how nice your new life will be, you will also lose a life. Many expats do not allow themselves the time to grieve.
    • Change of routine and environment: we sometimes don’t think about it, but we are all creatures of habit to a certain degree. When all those habits change in one fell swoop, our system is upset for a while. Moreover, your new life does not run smoothly right away: you forget to charge your phone, your debit card does not work at the supermarket, the mail has not arrived on time, etc.
    • The stress of arranging things: a house, registration, job, car, health insurance, bank account, mobile phone contract … the list of things you need to arrange seems endless. What’s more, things work differently in other countries than they do in the Netherlands. This causes a lot of stress.
    • Uncertainty: If you don’t speak the language, don’t understand the culture yet, and don’t know exactly how everything works, you can become very insecure. It is also difficult to feel at home when everything shows that you are still an outsider.
    • Identity crisis: without your old job, old sports activities, old social life, and old habits, what will remain of your identity? We often link our identity to our jobs and hobbies. Emigrating means that you have to reinvent yourself. This can be uncomfortable. Who are you and what do you want your life to look like?
    • Lack of social safety net: of course your friends and family in the Netherlands are still there for you, but they don’t really understand. Building a new social safety net takes time.
    • Suppressing emotions: Moreover, friends and family back home often have the idea that you have it all well and your life is great. And isn’t that true? You have chosen to emigrate and perhaps you are actually living in your dream destination. This can give you the feeling that you have no right to complain. As a result, expat problems are often ignored for a long time.

    Online expat therapist

    It is perfectly normal to have trouble getting on with life for a while after emigration. However, the problems worsen if they are not taken seriously. Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress can eventually turn into depression – something that is much more common among expats than among people in the Netherlands. 

    Fortunately, nowadays there is the possibility of going to therapy with an online therapist. This has many advantages. It is easy to arrange, you can follow the therapy from home and the conversations are in Dutch. Our expat therapists are expats or former expats themselves and therefore know better than anyone what you are struggling with. It is also possible to follow therapy with a therapist in your time zone – handy, if you end up on the other side of the world.

    Online therapy abroad

    Online therapy works basically in the same way as the traditional, offline version. During an intake meeting, you get to know the therapist and together you map out your problems and goals. Based on this, the expat therapist draws up a treatment plan. 

    Treatment from an expat therapist

    Often the treatment revolves around identifying and breaking through obstructive thought patterns. In this way, you learn to think more in terms of possibilities, to have confidence in yourself, and to find yourself again. Many online therapists give assignments. Once you feel more comfortable in your own skin, it will become easier to adapt to your new environment, make new friends, and deal with any setbacks!


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      eating disorder

      It’s not about food: what do eating disorders have in common?

      Eating disorders are a type of mental illness that can be difficult to understand and are still met with many misconceptions. From a physical perspective, ‘just eat more or less’ seems to be the solution for someone who has lost or gained a lot of weight due to an eating disorder. But eating disorders are about much more than food. Therefore, the eating behavior of someone with an eating disorder is not the cause, but the symptom of the disorder. What is the cause of eating disorders and what do they have in common in this regard?

      Best known eating disorders

      The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (BED). These three differ from each other in the way patients deal with food and, therefore, have different consequences for the body. Therefore, the disorders are also visible to the outside world in different ways, or can even remain hidden.

      Anorexia nervosa 

      People with anorexia nervosa are afraid of becoming fat. Unfortunately, they have a false image of “fat” and continue to lose weight, even though in reality they are far too skinny. Anorexia nervosa involves eating (extremely) little and exercising excessively, vomiting, and taking laxatives.

      Bulimia nervosa

      In bulimia nervosa, losing weight alternates with binge eating, often keeping the patient at a normal weight and making the disorder virtually invisible to the outside world. The binge eating is compensated for afterward by vomiting or using laxatives.

      Binge eating disorder (BED)

      People with BED only suffer from binge eating, but do not compensate for it. As a result, they gain weight over time and can even become significantly overweight. This excess weight can lead to other psychological problems.

      What is binge eating?

      During a binge, patients completely lose control of their eating habits. Interestingly enough, binge eating often involves planning in advance. A person with binge eating often fantasizes about what he or she is going to eat, and then deliberately shops for the binge, sets out all the food on the table, and starts eating until everything is finished. During a binge, much more is eaten than a person normally eats at one time. Often a binge also consists mainly of unhealthy food. Afterward, there is a lot of shame, disgust, and sadness.

      A binge is a coping mechanism, a way of not having to feel emotions. This narcotic effect is addictive, making it difficult to get rid of binge eating – even though patients know exactly how they feel afterward.

      What causes an eating disorder?

      Despite the differences between eating disorders, the underlying causes are often similar. Because eating disorders are more common in women than in men, we tend to think it has to do with losing weight to conform to ideals of beauty. But while that does sometimes play a role, it is by no means the whole story.

      Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can sometimes be life-threatening. They are caused by profound issues, such as negative self-image and low self-confidence, fear of rejection, perfectionism, depressive feelings, and difficulty expressing emotions. Not infrequently, these issues have arisen from major life changes (as occurs in adolescence) or shocking events and trauma.

      Why an eating disorder?

      What kind of eating disorder a person develops varies, but they all give patients the same thing: control. For people with an eating disorder, food and their weight have become an obsession. They have a plan every day regarding food and derive self-esteem from having control over it.

      Symptoms of eating disorders

      There is a great taboo surrounding eating disorders, which means that people suffering from them are not likely to talk about them. Because some eating disorders are not visible on the outside, they often remain under the surface. Also, the line between normal weight loss and an eating disorder is sometimes difficult to determine. The following symptoms indicate an eating disorder:

      • obsessing over food, calories, body measurements, and weight
      • being underweight or overweight
      • feelings of shame regarding their body, food, and eating patterns
      • fear of gaining weight and therefore not daring to eat
      • experiencing food as a constant source of stress and anxiety
      • not wanting to be seen eating and therefore avoiding dinners or parties
      • eating binges, followed by vomiting, the use of laxatives, or extreme dieting
      • a disturbed hormone balance, causing the feeling of being hungry or full to disappear
      • absence of menstruation
      • physical complaints, such as gastrointestinal problems and a sore throat
      • mood swings and depressive feelings

      Treatment of eating disorders

      Overcoming an eating disorder is a long and intensive process, especially if the patient has been struggling with the disorder for a long time. Many patients try to sabotage well-intentioned attempts by those close to them to get them to eat. Food is thrown away or regurgitated afterward. The treatment of an eating disorder, therefore, focuses not only on the eating pattern but more importantly on the underlying causes.

      To cure an eating disorder, attention is paid to the reasons why patients cling so tightly to control, why they have so little self-confidence or belief in themselves, and why their self-image is so negative. Conversation therapy is crucial here, and it can be done excellently online.

      Do you have a difficult relationship with food and suspect that you have developed an eating disorder? An experienced therapist can help you break through negative patterns. This reduces compulsive thoughts and behaviors around food and helps you to master your eating disorder.


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        man with laptop

        Talking to a therapist online: how effective is it?

        Virtually everything can be done online these days, and therapy is no exception. More and more people are sitting on the couch with a therapist online. Online therapy, e-therapy, or e-health has been extensively researched in recent years. It sounds very practical, but is talking to a therapist online effective?

        Effectiveness of online therapy

        Online therapy works just as well as traditional therapy ‘in real life’. This is the conclusion of Claudi Bockting, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Amsterdam. She should know because she conducted ten years of worldwide research on the effects of internet therapy. The effects of online and offline therapy were similar: half of the patients benefited and in a third of the patients the symptoms were demonstrably reduced.

        Patient Background

        Patients’ circumstances were also found to have little effect on the effectiveness of online therapy. Whether you earn a lot or a little or are highly or poorly educated, an online therapist can help patients from different backgrounds equally well. However, patients from urban areas did show less progress than patients living outside of cities.

        Is online therapy right for me?


        The positive results of Bockting’s research apply to almost all mental illnesses. However, opinions are still divided on this. For example, online therapy for depression would initially be very effective, but patients who have had online therapy for this are more likely to relapse. Also, online therapy is less suitable for severely depressed patients, because these patients often shut themselves off during the conversations. At a distance, it is very difficult for a therapist to get in touch with this type of patient.

        Benefits of talking to a therapist online

        • The threshold to seek help is lower.
        • The shame of sitting in the therapist’s waiting room is avoided.
        • Online therapy happens in a pleasant, familiar environment of choice.
        • The therapist can make interventions directly in the patient’s environment, if necessary.
        • Online therapy does not require additional travel time.
        • Many therapists are also available outside of office hours.
        • A video call is easier to schedule into a full schedule.
        • Online therapy is often less expensive.
        • Online therapists often have no waiting list.
        • The patient is not tied to a therapist in their local area and thus has more choice.

        Disadvantages of talking to a therapist online

        • Some patients find it more difficult to connect with a therapist online.
        • Picking up nonverbal cues is made more difficult.
        • A video call is more tiring, so consultations can often last only 30 to 45 minutes.
        • Not every patient or mental illness can be treated online.

        Terms and conditions of online therapy

        To increase the success of online treatment, you must meet the following conditions before you begin online therapy:

        • You are not in an acute crisis.
        • You have confidence in the online therapist and the treatment.
        • You have a stable internet connection and a quiet environment at your disposal.
        • You are proficient with a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
        • You can express yourself well in writing (if email or chat is part of the treatment).

        Do you meet these requirements and have confidence in the possibilities of online therapy? Then online conversations with a therapist can be just as beneficial as traditional, face-to-face conversations. You will also reap the many practical benefits of online therapy.


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          Is a psychiatrist a physician?

          The term “psychiatry” originated from the Greek words for “soul” (psyche) and “physician” (iatros). It is thus a medical specialty and a psychiatrist is, therefore, officially a doctor. Like psychotherapists, psychologists, and other psychiatric providers, a psychiatrist is concerned with the treatment of mental problems and mental illness. A psychiatrist plays a specific role in this regard.

          Training as a psychiatrist

          To become a doctor, you must have studied medicine. It is no different when training to become a psychiatrist. After the six-year medical training, a psychiatrist has undertaken further training to become a psychiatrist. This training takes four and a half years. One of the following three specializations is chosen:

          • child and youth psychiatry
          • adult psychiatry
          • geriatric psychiatry

          A psychiatrist in training, officially called an assistant physician training to be a specialist, can also choose specific subfields. For example, there are psychiatrists who specialize in the treatment of the mentally handicapped. There are also psychiatrists who only work in hospitals, or who are particularly at home in addiction psychiatry.

          Title of ‘psychiatrist’

          The title of psychiatrist, unlike that of psychologist, is protected. Every psychiatrist has therefore officially graduated as such. All psychiatrists are also registered in the BIG register.

          Powers of psychiatrist

          A psychiatrist has more authority than other mental health professionals. Because he or she is a medical specialist and has studied medicine, a psychiatrist is the only mental health professional allowed to prescribe medication. For example:

          • antidepressants
          • antipsychotics
          • stabilizers
          • sedatives and sleep aids

          Comparable to other physicians

          A psychiatrist may also conduct physical examinations and request laboratory tests. The results of these are also evaluated by the psychiatrist himself. The discipline of the psychiatrist is thus comparable to that of a doctor within another medical specialty. Like other doctors, a psychiatrist may also, for example, devote himself (largely) to conducting and publishing scientific research. The purpose of scientific research is to better understand and explain mental illnesses in order to ultimately be able to treat them better.

          Work of psychiatrist

          Does the treatment of mental health problems require medication? Then a psychiatrist is called in. Psychiatrists, therefore, particularly treat patients with severe mental health problems or mental illnesses. Think for example of patients with:

          • psychoses
          • schizophrenia
          • a bipolar disorder
          • a compulsive disorder
          • a personality disorder
          • severe addiction
          • severe depression

          Team of therapists

          In the treatment of such problems, several specialists often work together. The psychiatrist, for example, is responsible for the medical side of the treatment plan, while talk therapy is carried out in most cases by psychotherapists or psychologists. Someone who is being treated by a psychologist for severe depression, for example, will have his or her antidepressants prescribed by a psychiatrist. Thus, psychiatry has all kinds of care providers:

          • psychiatrists
          • psychotherapists
          • psychologists
          • sociotherapists
          • occupational therapists
          • social workers
          • psychiatric nurses

          Medical starting point

          The work of a psychiatrist almost always has a medical premise. In addition to medication, other types of therapy – such as talk therapy, but also things like movement therapy or mindfulness – can be a part of treatment, but they don’t have to be. In psychology, this is the other way around. For psychologists, some form of talk therapy is usually the starting point. Medication, if needed, can be an addition to this.

          Are you encountering psychological problems? Then – provided it is not an emergency – go to your family doctor in the first instance. He or she can refer you to a mental health care provider. You can also go directly to a psychologist, you can even see a psychologist online, for example, at The Online Therapists. All our psychologists are officially recognized and experienced psychologists. If necessary, a psychologist can always involve a psychiatrist in the treatment.


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