Belgium’s healthcare system includes mental healthcare provision that is available to all residents with health insurance, including expats.
Like many European countries, Belgium has undergone changes in the way mental health is viewed and how care is delivered in recent times. There has been an increasing emphasis on looking after mental health, recognizing symptoms and moving towards more integrated care. Although the standard of life is good, the country has the sixth highest suicide rate in the EU. Problems such as stress and depression are not uncommon, and around one in three people will suffer poor mental health in Belgium during their lifetime.
Although Belgium has a lower than average number of mental health professionals per capita, there is generally slightly less stigma around mental health issues and services than in many other countries. Around 4% of adult citizens report having used a psychologist, which is higher than the EU average, and between 5–8% have reported experiencing chronic depression.
There have been government initiatives to remove stigma and exclusion concerning mental illness and a shift from psychiatric to community-based treatments, partly influenced by the historic community care model found in the city of Geel.
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What mental health services are available in Belgium?
Mental healthcare in Belgium is available through public, voluntary and private provision.
Public mental healthcare in Belgium is delivered at both federal and regional level (Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia, Brussels and the German-speaking region). This includes:
- Services provided through mental health care centres by multidisciplinary teams including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals working in the community. Services include counselling, day care, residential care and sheltered housing.
- Care provided through psychiatric hospitals to patients experiencing a range of mental health conditions.
- Preventative and educational programs (e.g. to young people, elderly, employees)
Voluntary provision is available through the Community Help Service (CHS), based in Brussels, which offers support to English-speaking expats experiencing problems with their mental health in Belgium (some services are available in other languages). Services include:
- Counselling and psychotherapy
- 24/7 helpline offering crisis support
- Information and practical advice, e.g. how to find a doctor, lawyer or electrician
There are also many private psychotherapy and counselling services available, including English-speaking psychiatrists and therapists in Belgium.
How to access mental healthcare in Belgium
You don’t need a referral to access mental health services in Belgium. You can visit a mental healthcare centre or make an appointment with a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or counsellor directly. English-speaking residents can book an appointment with a CHS therapist at their Mental Health Services Centre in Brussels and the CHS helpline is available to all. However, if you’re having problems with your mental health in Belgium, it’s advisable to first speak to your doctor as they can offer support and will be able to help you find the most appropriate services.
How to find a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist in Belgium
Finding the right mental health professional in Belgium can be difficult for expats, as they must feel comfortable with the psychiatrist or therapist — and, preferably, speak the same language.
You can find a registered psychologist in Belgium through the Belgian Federation of Psychologists website, whose search function offers the ability to search by English, French or Dutch. More English-speaking psychologists and therapists in Belgium can be found at Psychologist-Belgium.be, or you can contact the CHS Mental Health Services Centre.
The Flemish Health and Care Agency website also has information on mental health care centres and other services in the Flanders region, while Dutch-speaking psychologists and psychotherapists in Belgium can be found through the Find A Psychologist website.
For French-speaking mental health professionals in Brussels, you can search on the Information on French-speaking mental health and care services in Brussels can be found at the French Community Commission website. You can also search for mental health services, psychiatric hospitals and services, day care and home care services in Brussels on the Common Community Commission (COCOM) website.
The Belgian Association of Hospitals has information on hospitals in Belgium that provide psychiatric services, and the Belgian government website features a search portal for health care providers including therapists, available in Dutch or French.
Costs of mental healthcare in Belgium
The costs of mental healthcare in Belgium, including therapy sessions and medication, can be partially covered by health insurance. You will need public health insurance to access public mental health services. Typically, state health insurance in Belgium covers between 50-75% of treatment costs and around 20% of prescription costs.
Costs of therapy sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist can vary but are usually around €50-70 for a 45- to 60-minute session. If you are seeing a private therapist, you will need to check with your insurer to see if they will cover any of the costs. Private health insurance can be bought to cover amounts not covered by state insurance.
If you see a therapist through the CHS, costs are discussed beforehand to decide on a suitable charge. Again, you’ll need to check with your insurer regarding coverage. The CHS emphasizes on its website that nobody will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Mental healthcare for children in Belgium
Mental health provision in Belgian schools has improved in recent years. Schools now have services for mental health promotion and support for behavioural and emotional problems. The Flanders region has developed an integrated strategy to promote collaboration between youth and health services.
The CHS has a specialist team consisting of children’s mental health professionals offering support, advice and psychological testing. Many hospitals also offer paediatric mental healthcare in Belgium, including the Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital, which has a dedicated children’s psychiatry unit.