How to become a psychotherapist

  • Friday 19th October 2018

Professor Digby Tantam answers the question - how to become a psychotherapist?

There is no restriction on who calls themselves a psychotherapist, and so one could just advertise that one is.

Most people who practice as psychotherapists would consider that unethical, though. They would believe, as we at NSPC do, that everyone who works as a psychotherapist should have a theoretical training, supervised practice, and an experience of receiving therapy.

Not only that, but each of these elements should have their quality assured by an independent body that also maintains a register of psychotherapists, and has an ethical process that can investigate any complaints against registrants or any wrong doing reported by the police that might adversely affect their practice.

So who is a psychotherapist?

This is not such an easy question to answer. So one person might use hypnosis to help people with phobias, and call themselves a hypnotherapist, and another person using hypnosis might consider themselves a hypnopsychotherapist.

Some counsellors might call themselves therapeutic counsellors or psychotherapists, and some psychotherapists might say the they provide counselling.

Unless one is in the field, it is probably best not to get too lost in these distinctions but to go with some general definition such as, “A psychotherapist is a professional who is trained to assess and help people in distress, including people suffering from a psychological disorder or mental illness. Unlike some of the other mental health professionals, psychotherapists do not prescribe medication but use the power of their relationship with the client or clients and of dialogue to assist the client to improve their well-being”.

There are six such bodies in the UK that are widely recognized: the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (whose core membership is still counsellors, the Health and Care Professions Council (which registers clinical and counselling psychologists), the Briitsh Confederation of Psychotherapy (whose membership is restricted to psychodynamic psychotherapists), the British Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapists (whose membership is restricted to CBT therapists), and General Medical Council (whose register of psychotherapists is restricted to medical doctors who have had higher training in psychotherapy).

What are the common elements of psychotherapy training?

The training requirements are set by accrediting bodies. Sometimes the registering body is also an accrediting one (this is true of UKCP, BACP, BABCP, and BCP) sometimes the accrediting body and the registering body is different. The British Psychological Society sets the standards for psychologists, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists sets them for medical psychotherapists. There are commonalities in all of the trainings:

  1. An undergraduate degree or equivalent professional experience;
  2. A four year training
  3. A substantial number of hours of supervised practice
  4. An experience of personal therapy or the ability to demonstrate the personal qualities required of a therapist (BABCP)

Does NSPC provide the comprehensive training needed to become a psychotherapist?

Yes,  through a variety of courses. Our DCPsych is a qualification that will make a graduate eligible for HCPC registration as a chartered counselling psychologist, fully qualified to practice psychotherapy and to supervise other therapists

Our DProf leads to a doctoral degree, like the DCPsych, but also to UKCP registration and recognition as a trained supervisor of other therapists

Several of our Masters courses including the fully online MSc in Psychotherapy Studies lead, via an additional pathway of further supervised placement and personal therapy, to UKCP registration. Details of the practical experience required can be found the website of our sister  training organization, the Existential Academy.

Finally any of these degrees may also make the successful graduate eligible for BACP qualified membership once they have acquired the appropriate number of supervised placement hours. 

Finally, how do I found out if psychotherapy is for me?

The existential academy runs short courses, giving some idea of what psychotherapy is like, and also runs a one year Foundation Course that provides both an introduction to the theory, and tasters of what psychotherapy practice is like.

More information about each of these degrees can be found on our courses page or on the Existential Academy pages.

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