'Bottle of warm beer' more effective than psychotherapy ? German official sparks outrage

Mainz, GERMANY -- A German
health official has sparked
controversy by suggesting that
a "bottle of warm beer" can
sometimes be more effective
than psychotherapy.
Josef Hecken, chairman of
the body which decides what
treatments are offered by the
country's statutory health
system, was quoted as saying he
believes a brew can heal mild
"occasional problems" such as
sleep disorders.
Hecken added that "a
psychotherapist is not needed
next to every citizen" and that
sometimes a beer "is enough."
His comments were recorded in
official notes taken during the
meeting with German health
insurers, according to Spiegel
Online and Berlin's Der
Tagesspiegel newspaper.
Dieter Best, chairman of the
German association of
psychotherapists, described
Hecken's comments as
"unspeakable." He said the
remarks had triggered a
"protest letter" being
circulated among
psychotherapists.
According to Spiegel Online,
the letter read: "You
trivialize and ignore the needs
of our patients with your bottle
of beer metaphor, and subtly
stigmatize people with severe
psychiatric disorders."
In the wake of the criticism,
Hecken issued a statement in
which he called his remarks
"unfortunate."
"I ... know and am aware, that
there are significant
interdependencies between
alcohol consumption and
psychological diseases, which
are documented in studies," he
said. "That is why the last
thing I want to do is to
trivialize psychological
diseases or to even describe
alcohol consumption as an
appropriate alternative for
psychotherapeutic treatment."
The health official also
suggested that his remarks were
"capable of being
misunderstood."
Hecken added: "What I rather
wanted to address, is the
circumstance, that I, as a
private person, do not regard
every indisposition, such as
occasional problems to fall
asleep, as a pathologic
condition that requires
treatment, but that sometimes
the old home cure of a bottle of
warm beer helps me."