DProf Existential Psychotherapy & Counselling

Course Description


This unique Existential psychotherapy programme is a joint programme with Middlesex University. The DProf programme is both an academic qualification and a professional psychotherapy training. Successful completion of the doctoral programme leads to the award of a DProf degree by Middlesex University. You can view the Middlesex Research Degree Regulations here. Successful completion of the DProf also qualifies graduates for full membership of the University Psychotherapy and Counselling Association (UPCA) and thus also for the Universities Training College, which confers eligibility for UKCP accreditation as an existential psychotherapist.

At the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, we consider counselling psychology and psychotherapy to be important evolving professions, which have an essential role to play in the future of mental health services.

The Doctorate in Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling programme at NSPC will involve helping you to acquire the right qualification and expertise in this field whilst enjoying its interconnections with other mental health professions. The programme comprises three different interconnected strands leading to a well-rounded training both academically and as practitioners. These strands comprise of academic a substantial period of supervised practice in placement, a sound knowledge of underlying theory, and the development of critical research skills and self-development. The research project culminating in submitting a thesis.  All these aspects of the training  will be intertwined continuously throughout the programme of studies, so as to bring together all the important elements through concerted work in supervised clinical placements and at our training institution.

We value personal maturity greatly and will seek to enable you to draw from your understanding of your life experiences in becoming a practitioner. Indeed, life crises often represent a special opportunity for personal development and NSPC students will be expected to use individual therapy and personal and professional development groups to achieve such reflection on and understanding of their own experiences in light of the theories and practice of counselling psychology and psychotherapy.

The philosophy of this programme is existential and provides a disciplined philosophical framework. With this framework in mind, students will focus on learning and understanding the human predicaments and attending to their clients in a philosophical way. The existential approach does not focus on what has gone wrong in a person’s life, but on how a person may discover a deeper sense of being through the experience of anguish and a sense of meaning through tackling life’s challenges. The teaching and training provided by NSPC incorporates these basic values by recognising that life experience, in addition to formal academic and practical professional training and alongside careful research together form the four foundations on which students need to build in becoming an accomplished existential psychotherapist.

Existential psychotherapist is committed to exploring these questions with a receptive attitude in the search for truth with an open mind and an attitude of wonder. 

 The therapy draws on the work of existential and phenomenological thinkers and on the practice of existential psychotherapy. Existential thinkers avoid restrictive models that categorise or label people.  Instead, they look for the universals that can be observed transculturally. There is no existential personality theory which divides humanity up into types or reduces people to part components. Instead, there is a description of the different levels of experience and existence that people are inevitably confronted with. The teaching and training provided by NSPC incorporates these basic values by recognising that life experience combined with formal academic, practical professional training and alongside research together form the four foundations on which students need to build in becoming an accomplished existential psychotherapist.

NSPC aims to provide its students with every opportunity to work towards professional competence and academic excellence in an integrated way.

This programme is designed for four years but can be extended up to eight years.

The course leader is Dr Nancy Hakim Dowek, an existential psychotherapist.

Useful link: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7InPSJ1x3KA&list=PL00FF5E6D4B79409F&index=4

Programme of Study


The DProf programme is made up of three modules and each module consists of individual units.  

Review Stage 1 (Year 1) 

This module aims to prepare and ready students for the commencement of their clinical placement. This preparation comes in the form of individual units that the student must complete which aim to develop the student’s practitioner, researcher and experiential skills.

Summative Assessment: Viva in which students will demonstrate their preparation and readiness for practice through the learning they have developed through the module units and through their relevant life experiences.

  • Induction to Existential Therapy Theory and Practice 

This module will enable students to achieve an overall grasp of the profession, and to begin to build an identity as a counselling psychologist in order to establish a solid foundation on which to build for the rest of the training. 

Summative Portfolio 2000 word Essay

  • Existential Theory and Practice 

The aim of the theory element of the unit is to enable students to gain a fundamental grounding in theories of existential philosophy and phenomenology that underpin existential psychotherapy.

The aim of the practice element is for students to achieve an initial aptitude in applying the principles of phenomenological practice and to become familiar with their roots in existential philosophy. 

Formative presentation and experiential work and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Psychodynamic Theory and Practice 

The aim of the theory is to provide a grounding in traditional and contemporary psychodynamic and psychoanalytic theory through a critical examination of key concepts conceptualised by the main schools and traditions. Both traditional and contemporary views will be explored.  

The aim of the practice part of the unit will be to enable students to apply the key concepts appropriately in different clinical scenarios and to compare their impact to the alternative existential formulations. 

Formative presentation and experiential work and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Theory and Practice 

The theory element of this unit aims to enable students to achieve a grounding in the fundamentals of CBT, from its philosophical and scientific origins, to the current 3rd wave approaches. 

The practice element provides an opportunity for students to achieve a basic aptitude for applying CBT interventions in a range of conditions. 

Formative presentation and experiential work and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Overview of Research Methods 

This unit will introduce students to a range of methods that are used in the social sciences and will prepare students to make informed and critical decisions for undertaking future research projects. Students will develop a basic understanding of the underlying principles of quantitative and qualitative research and the links between the two and will develop the knowledge and skill to design a research proposal.  

Formative forum based input and summative 2000 words essay.

  • Critical Reflexive Thinking 

This unit will provide students with a theoretical and practical base for critically evaluating the literature and research encountered, as well as providing a critical reflexive thinking framework from which to evaluate their own clinical practice.

Formative forum based input and summative 2000 words essay

Review Stage 2 (Year 2) 

This module aims to prepare students for the commencing their research project. The module also aims to develop student’s practitioner skills, through theoretical learning and clinical practice. The module comprises of individual units that the student must successfully complete.

Summative Assessment: A viva presentation based on the student’s research proposal will be reviewed by the panel and will also verify that all PSRB requirements have been met for this stage of the programme.

  • Advanced Existential Theory and Practice 

This unit will develop and expand students’ familiarity with the existential approach through continuous questioning of the relevance of philosophy to the practice of psychotherapy and counselling psychology. Students will be exposed to the various philosophers and practitioners on whose work existential therapy is based and consider their pertinence to current day clinical practice, with an emphasis on identifying particular human dilemmas and life issues and learning to work with these creatively. Students will be taught how to apply the philosophical concepts in therapy.

Formative presentation and experiential work and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Social, Cultural and Ethical Issues 

To enable students to understand key principles in the philosophy of ethics, and to apply these in practice by developing an ethical attitude to working with diversity and difference. Students will be able to describe cultural variations and develop their cultural competence in working with others. Students will understand the key terms in social theory and be able to apply these to global and local social organisation and forces.  

Formative forum based input and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Development through the Life Span 

The aim of the unit is to enable students to critically appraise developmental theories, including existential reflections, demonstrating how physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development interact and how theories of development can be applied in practice. 

Formative presentation and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Qualitative Research Methods 

The aim of this unit is to enable students to describe and contrast the main qualitative research methods and to illustrate various types of mixed method combinations. Students will be able to design, conduct, and critique qualitative studies and take into account how individuals interpret experience. 

Formative forum based input and summative 2000 word essay.

  • Placement and Supervision 1 

The aim of this unit is to enable students to develop their therapeutic skills in a variety of placement settings under clinical supervision, thus allowing students to demonstrate their developing professional competence. 

Formative Class input and transcript and summative: Process Report and Evaluation and case study after 150 hours

  • Research Supervision 1 

The aims of the unit are to enable students to design, plan, implement, and complete independent and original research that can be written up as an acceptable programme planning document. To assist the student to monitor their progress on a regular basis. To enable the student to present their work at a Review Stage Viva and make the necessary corrections. 

Summative: Research Supervision Progress Form

  • Research Preparation

The aim of this unit is to enable students to plan their learning and research in relation to their future contribution to their field of practice, through preparing a detailed research proposal. 

Formative forum based input, Summative supervisor registration form, research proposal (8000 words).

Review Stage 3 (Year 3) 

This module aims to develop and advance student’s practitioner and researcher skills to enable them to go forward with their research to Final Viva and also complete the training necessary to gain BPS Chartership and HCPC accreditation. The module comprises of individual units that the student must successfully complete.

Summative Assessment: A viva defence of the student’s research project will be conducted by two examiners, one internal and one external. Before the final viva verification will be given that all units have been completed and passed and that all PSRB requirements have been met.

  • Families and Systems Therapy

The aims of this unit are to provide a thorough grounding in the family and systems perspective on therapy and to show the development of this approach from its inception to the present day. It will enable students to think of individual problems as located in the nexus of the family and to apply this way of looking at issues to their own clinical work.

Formative presentation and summative 2000 words essay.

  • Gender, Sex and Sexuality

The aim of this unit is to explore contemporary theories of gender, sex and sexuality recognising the range and complexity of current debates around these topics. These topics will be explored through a cultural, biological and social lens and from a phenomenological perspective.  By the end of the unit students will be able to effectively challenge themselves and others to overcome discriminatory practices around sex, sexuality or gender. 

Formative presentation and summative 2000 words essay.

  • Critical Psychopathology 

The aim of this unit is to enable students to recognise the characteristics of principal diagnostic categories used in mental health settings, assess risk, increase awareness of the student’s own limitations in practice and be familiar with mechanisms for referring onwards. 

Students will also gain an understanding of the differing applicability and value of diagnoses, the links between diagnosis and treatment, the major critiques of diagnoses, and the criteria used in assessment. 

Formative presentation and summative 2000 words essay

  • Advanced Research Seminar 

The aim of this unit is to enable students to address ethical aspects of their proposed research project. By the end of the unit, students will be able to construct a successful research ethics application.  

Formative forum-based input and Ethics application

  • Placement and Supervision 2 

The aim of this unit is to enable students to develop their therapeutic skills in a variety of placement settings under clinical supervision, building on the work in Placement and Supervision 1, thus allowing students to demonstrate their developing professional competence. 

Formative Class input and transcript and summative: Process Report and Evaluation and case study after 300 hours

  • Research Supervision 2 

To enable students to design, plan, carry out, and complete independent and original research that can be written up as a completed research dissertation through regular monitoring of progress through ethics and the pilot study. 

Summative: Research Supervision Progress Form

  • Part 1 Research Project 

To enable the student to complete part of the requirements of their final dissertation by submitting a document that will be a near final draft of their literature review and intended methods and an analysis of one transcript or an example of practice.

Formative class input and transcript. Research Part 1 Submission (15,000 words).

Review Stage 3 (Year 4) 

  • Existential Supervision Training 

The unit aims to enable students to critically appraise theoretical models and skills to supervise others in the practice of existential psychotherapy. 

Formative experiential and summative 2000 words essay.

  • Existential Group Training 

This unit aims to enable students to critically appraise a range of group psychotherapy approaches and demonstrate their links to existential psychotherapy. Students will apply the work of existential philosophers to develop an existential practice of group psychotherapy and will develop skills in running groups along these lines in a competent and responsible manner.

Formative experiential and summative 2000 words essay.

  • Leadership Training 

This unit aims to enable students to incorporate existential philosophy into their leadership roles leading them to be effective and authentic leaders in their work of supervising other staff, leading and evaluating service designs and implementing service innovations upon graduation. Students will develop their leadership skills and consider how existential concepts can be used in democratic and inspirational leadership. 

Formative presentation and summative 2000 words essay.

  • Preparation for Viva 

This unit aims to prepare students for the successful presentation of their research project at a viva voce examination. It will provide students with the information required in regard to disseminating their work (conferences, books, articles). It will provide students with practical experience of a viva voce examination. 

Preparation dissemination workshop, mock viva and clinical assessment

  • Research Supervision 3 

To enable students to design, plan, carry out, and complete independent and original research and monitor the writing up process for the completed research dissertation through regular monitoring.

Summative: Research Supervision Progress Form

  • Placement and Supervision 3 (advanced) 

The aim of this unit is to enable students to develop their advanced therapeutic skills, where they can also practice some leadership skills, either leading a group, offering supervision or providing training sessions. 

Formative Class input and transcript and summative: Process Report and Evaluation and case study after 450 hours

What can you expect?

Year one introduces the key concepts of existential philosophy and existential psychotherapy. It will provide you with the opportunity to start building your practitioner skills. You will start with core competencies, and you will gradually be introduced to existential and phenomenological practical work. You will also take part in learning units introducing different psychotherapy disciplines and you will have the opportunity to practice these. In addition, you will study a unit involving an overview of research methods.

Year two provides an opportunity to start building experience in a placement with the support of Clinical Supervision. You will take part in three advanced academic learning units. Following two additional research units, you will start looking into your research subject and, with the help of your supervisor, you will be able to design an academic proposal for your research. This will consist of choosing the subject of your research and will include the aims and objectives for this research, the literature review, and your chosen research method. Your proposal will also include your reflection on the process which is an important part of this research project.

Year three will continue to provide the opportunity to add to your psychotherapy skills through your placement(s) with the continuous support of Clinical Supervision. You will develop your research through an Advanced Research Seminar and the Research Pilot unit. In parallel, you will continue your academic and theoretical education with three academic units pertaining to different aspects of the therapeutic work.

Year four will continue to provide you with a platform to further develop as a psychotherapist in general and as an existential psychotherapist in particular through your placement(s) with the support of Clinical Supervision. You will take part in three advanced academic seminars whilst also concentrating on your research. You will conduct your interviews, redraft your literature review, adapt your research method, analyse your data and conclude your research. Finally, supported by your academic supervisors, you will write your thesis.



Accreditation and Careers

Completion of the full professional doctorate or the MProf (4 years or 3 years of study respectively) together with further placement and supervision at NSPC (up to 450 hours of supervised practice) qualifies graduates to apply for accreditation with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). 



Fees 2023-24

Year of course 

Units to be completed in year 

Fee payable per year  

(if no units have to be repeated) 

9 units over 3 terms 

£10260 

10 units over 3 terms 

£11400 

11 units over 3 terms 

£12540 

10 units over 3 terms 

£11400 

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) 

£400 per submission 

NB: You should also expect to pay for books, personal therapy, student membership of an accrediting organisation, and practice indemnity.  

Students on doctoral programmes are eligible to apply for Student Finance through Middlesex University. 

There is a £50 non-refundable application fee for all courses, to cover administrative costs. An interview with a member of the course staff will only be arranged once this has been received.   

A registration Fee of £150 will be paid when you accept your place on the course. This is non- refundable. 

For more detailed financial terms and conditions click here.



Entry Requirements

  • A good Bachelor degree in any fields
  • An introductory course in psychotherapy and counselling such as the Foundation Course offered by the Existential Academy
  • Some counselling practice, either professionally or in a voluntary position, for instance with Childline or the Samaritans
  • Personal suitability for the course to be demonstrated at interview
  • Fluent English (ELTS for study score of 7.0 or TOEFL score of 87) 
  • A clear DBS check or equivalent


How You Study

The course is a part-time programme over 4 - 7 years, although a January start may extend the course by one term; or part-time for a longer period. For the first two years, students may participate as distance learners, attending on an intensive basis for blocks of study, or as weekly attenders, attending NSPC in London either on a Wednesday for three ten-week terms, or on a Saturday. Some of learning the units may also be studied online with intensive online tutor support. Weekly attenders may also be required to attend some intensives.

The third and fourth years of the course are provided by 5-day intensives or, for some learning units , online with intensive online supervision.

While studying on our programmes, you will be actively engaged in theory and practice-based learning units which take the form of seminars. You will also take supervised clinical placement units , and research units . Each unit is linked to an assessment. We aim to give prompt feedback, and you will progress by gaining a pass. We anticipate that you will be a mature, independent, and experienced learner. There is also an expectation that you will work with varying tutors, supervisors, and learn from your fellow students. You will take some learning units via Moodle, an online system where you will also upload your assignments and report on your progress, thereby building your personal development-planning portfolio. You will receive formative assessment on your class presentations, forum posts, skills practice, self-reflective essays, research progress, and your clinical placement work. You will receive summative assessment on the degree to which your theory-based assignments meet units aims and objectives, on the case-studies you submit, and on your final thesis and viva.

MIddlesex University