How to become a psychotherapist uk
You’ll need to complete:
- a degree in psychology or a related subject like nursing, medicine or social work
- an accredited postgraduate qualification
- 450 hours of practice to be registered as a licensed psychotherapist by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
Your course should be one recognised by the:
Courses can take up to 4 years to complete.
To become a child psychotherapist, you will need to complete 4 years of training with the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP).
You’ll also need experience of working with children or vulnerable adults.
Some courses may expect you go into therapy yourself during your training. This is to help you deal with any issues that may affect you as a therapist, as well as to experience therapy from a client’s point of view.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
Adult psychotherapists work with adults to assess and treat a range of emotional, social or mental health issues.
You’ll help adults tackle problems such as behavioural issues, common challenges such as anxiety and depression or more complex or severe issues, such as psychosis or a personality disorder diagnosis.
Treatment usually begins with an assessment which takes place over a number of sessions between you and the patient.
Having trained in one or more psychotherapeutic approaches, you will provide therapy to help people change the ways they think and behave or find better ways to cope. This therapy will provide space for them to express their feelings and gain a deeper insight into the issues they face. This could include group sessions.
Where will I work?
You are likely to work in:
- local clinics and health centres
- in the community
- an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service
You’ll also work in a multi-disciplinary team including mental health nurses, psychiatrists and a range of other psychological professionals.
To practise as an adult psychotherapist, you’ll need to undertake appropriate recognised training. You’ll usually need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject and/or be a qualified and experienced healthcare practitioner, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse or social worker.
To secure a place on a psychotherapy training course, you will also need to be able to demonstrate that you have relevant experience.
Employers will indicate through the job description/person specification exactly which qualifications they will consider when selecting applicants for psychotherapist roles.
Training usually takes four years, combining study with clinical training under supervision and provided by a number of organisations, which are usually accredited by the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy or the British Psychoanalytic Council.
Clinical training consists of intensive treatment of patients carried out under supervision. Clinical discussions combining theory and practice are held throughout the period of training. Alongside your training, you will be expected to undertake your own personal therapy to build your self-awareness and expand on your ability to relate to others.
The application process for psychotherapy training is administered directly by the individual organisations running the courses.
You’ll need a range of skills to be a psychotherapist, including:
- a keen awareness of people and their behaviour
- a capacity for study and continued learning
- the ability to relate to a wide range of people
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to work on your own as well as in consultation with others
- a responsible, professional approach, respecting the confidentiality of patients
- emotional resilience and maturity
the ability to empathise with others and make positive relationships
an openness to addressing issues of prejudice and oppression
People come to psychotherapy as a career from many different backgrounds and for many reasons. What they all have in common is that they want to help people.
UKCP accredited training is a hallmark of quality, and our qualifications offer an unrivalled depth of knowledge, skill, and practical experience. To become a UKCP-registered psychotherapist or psychotherapeutic counsellor, you need to complete training which typically takes between three and six years, part time. You also need to do approximately 450 hours of practice, theory and skills, and have therapy and supervision yourself throughout. These hours will vary slightly depending on which psychotherapy modality you choose to train in.
If you already have qualifications in psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic counselling, to register with UKCP you must apply through one of our accrediting organisations. You can find out more about this route below.
If you’re still deciding whether psychotherapy is for you, find out more about psychotherapy as a career and read case studies from our members about why and how they became a psychotherapist.
How to choose a psychotherapy training course
UKCP doesn’t deliver psychotherapy training directly, instead we approve psychotherapy training programmes which meet our high standards. We regulate over 70 member organisations who offer expert training, accreditation or both. In turn, we are regulated by the Professional Standards Authority.
It is important to find a course that you connect with, which is right for you. The training can involve quite an in-depth exploration of yourself, and you need to be comfortable with the philosophy of the training and the community of practice in which you will be working and learning.
1) Which psychotherapeutic approach?
We recognise a variety of psychotherapy approaches and philosophies (often known as ‘modalities’) such as psychoanalysis or existential psychotherapy.
These different approaches are represented by 10 UKCP membership colleges. Each of our training and accrediting organisations falls under one of our colleges according to philosophy, client group, or setting, eg training in a university or a medical context.
Once you’ve established which psychotherapy modality feels like the right fit for your values and interests, you can look at which UKCP college represents that approach, and what training courses are offered by the member organisations in that college.
2) Psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic counselling?
Most of our training organisations offer full psychotherapy training starting at postgraduate level, which is level 7 on the standard qualification scale in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. These courses can take four to six years to accreditation – generally four years of taught training, but up to six years to meet all of the requirements for practice with clients.
Some of our organisations offer training programmes which focus on psychotherapeutic counselling. These trainings don’t require you to have done a degree first and start at level 5 on the qualification scale. They typically involve three years of taught training plus additional time to build up the required number of hours in practice, seeing clients, in order to achieve UKCP accreditation.
The main differences between training as a psychotherapist and as a psychotherapeutic counsellor are the breadth and depth of the training, as well as the breadth and depth of your work with clients. What distinguishes psychotherapeutic counselling from other forms of counselling is the emphasis it places on the in-depth therapeutic relationship jointly created by the therapist and the client.
3) What type of course?
When you’re exploring what courses interest you, think about what the course offers, the learning outcomes, how long it will take you to complete, the frequency of seminars, as well as the requirements for your personal therapy.
As with most qualifications, psychotherapy training can be costly. As well as the course fees you should think about your living costs while you study, and the cost of textbooks, your personal therapy and supervision. Many training organisations offer flexible fee payment plans, and UKCP student and trainee members can apply for our annual UKCP Bursary.
Some organisations offer flexible study options. If you don’t see a pattern of training that suits you it may be worth contacting the organisation to discuss your needs, as they may have other potential students interested in a similar approach.
Many training courses offer a foundation level, which will get you up to speed with the course if you don’t have a background in a related field or relevant employment experience, such as working as a counsellor or a mental health nurse. When you apply, the training organisation will assess whether a foundation level is needed.
All training organisations also have accreditation of prior learning (APL), accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) and credit accumulation and transfer scheme (CATS) procedures in place to ensure that you wouldn’t re-take modules or undertake work that you’ve already done. However, no more than 50 per cent of any training course can be achieved through APL/APEL.
4) Which organisation?
UKCP training organisations come in a variety of types and sizes. Some training organisations are small and only offer one training programme, others are larger and may offer several, or a range of qualifications.
Some offer low-cost clinic space where trainees can begin working with clients. Some organisations have a more academic atmosphere, and others have a more informal community feel.
The best way to get a sense of what it would be like to train with one of our member organisations is to explore them yourself, by attending an open day, or speaking with students, graduates and training staff.
Whatever modality, course, and organisation you choose, UKCP will be with you all the way. We offer free student membership, followed by discounted trainee membership when you start working with clients, entitling you to benefits including free webinars, our magazine New Psychotherapist three times a year, and much more.
If you’ve already completed your training with a UKCP training organisation, you can apply to join us online as a full clinical member.
Listen to our podcast
Our My Psychotherapy Career podcast offers guidance and insight to those entering the profession. In the snippet below, psychotherapist John Paul Davies suggests ways to choose a course. You can listen to the podcast series here.
If you already have qualifications in psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic counselling
To become accredited through UKCP, you must apply through one of our accrediting organisations. Like our training organisations, accrediting organisations are grouped under ten UKCP colleges representing different psychotherapy approaches, client groups, or settings.
Once you’ve established which UKCP college most closely aligns with your approach and your existing qualifications and experience, you can find the accrediting organisations which sit within that college.
You can choose to apply to one or more of these organisations for accreditation onto the UKCP Register. They will review your application, your training, and the number of your client contact hours against our training standards.
If you’ve met the requirements, they will support your application for registration with UKCP. If you don’t yet meet the requirements, they will provide feedback and offer recommendations for how to proceed with further study, practice, or training.