How does training to be a therapist work?

If you are considering therapist training in the UK, it is completely normal to have questions about what training is essential, how you might train, and whether training is necessary. To assist you in your journey towards becoming a licensed therapist, here are all the ins and outs of how training to be a therapist works.

What’s the difference between a counsellor and a therapist?

Before we look at the necessary training required, let us first look at the difference between a counsellor and a therapist – terms that are often used as if they were synonymous. Although the roles are arguably quite similar, there are some slight differences to what they require.

A counsellor, who might also hold the title as a therapist, is a person who is a coaching practitioner, offering life advice. Counsellors help clients to identify goals, aspirations, and potential, coming up with solutions to the problems that are causing emotional distress. Some counsellors cover a wide range of issues, whereas some will specialise in certain areas such as depression, relationships, or children.

On the other hand, therapists help to resolve emotional issues by modifying certain aspects of clients’ lives, such as with cognitive behavioural therapy. Therapists are either registered counsellors or psychologists specialising in psychotherapy. Therapists typically help clients over a longer period of time, supporting and treating illnesses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or trauma, analysing unconscious conflicts that might trigger a larger issue.

Training to be a therapist

There are a couple of different routes that you might go down to train to be a therapist, including an academic route, vocational route, plus additional qualifications and training courses that are desirable.

Academic route

You could do a bachelor’s degree in counselling or psychotherapy, or in some cases a related subject like nursing, medicine, or social work might be acceptable. Look for courses that include training in practical skills and supervised placements.

The course you choose must be accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree are typically two to three A levels. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject and are considering a career change, you might undertake an accredited postgraduate course instead.

Vocational route

Alternatively, instead of going to university, you could train to be a therapist at an accredited college. You can start by doing an introduction to counselling course, followed by extended training courses such as the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling, Level 4 Diploma in Counselling Skills, and Level 5 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling.

Entry requirements for these courses may vary, as each college will set their own entry requirements. However, most will typically expect you to have completed introductory and Level 3 courses to be able to progress further.

Desirable qualifications and experience

Many clients will seek out therapists that are accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). While such accreditation is not necessarily an essential step in your training, it is ultimately very desirable to have.

When it comes to work experience, paid or unpaid experience is essential for applications to both courses and jobs. In fact, you must have practised for 450 hours to be registered as a licensed therapist by UKCP.

Many counselling bodies will offer volunteering opportunities for people who are undertaking the relevant training courses. Alternatively, some organisations offer training alongside voluntary work or work experience, which may then lead to paid opportunities.

To become a licensed therapist, you must also be able to pass enhanced background checks. This is because you may work with children and vulnerable adults, and a background check ensures you are safe to do so.

What happens next?

Once you have completed your training, you could work in a therapy clinic, GP practice, at a college, or even from home. Many therapists do a mixture of part-time, voluntary, and private work, as the full-time paid field is very competitive.

If you are competing for full-time roles, or if you want to further your training, you might like to undertake additional training courses. These seminars, workshops and conferences present the latest theories and research to therapy practitioners, allowing them to continue their professional development. Accreditation bodies such as the BACP look for at least 30 hours of CPD per year. 

And there you have it – a complete guide for people who are considering training to be a licensed therapist. To learn more about the possibilities for how we could aid you on your own professional journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us by phone or email.

Working with the Wisdom of the Body

Our understanding of the body as a repository of trauma, as well as Attachment dynamics has opened up a whole new field of how we can use the body’s innate wisdom to help our clients heal from their trauma. This exciting and promising new field of Sensorimotor Therapy has opened up new pathways for therapists to help clients find resolution and heal from both Developmental Trauma as well as Traumatic Injury.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy which has been developed by Pat Ogden, is based upon the understanding of how our nervous system responds to trauma. SP welcomes the body as an integral source of information which can guide resourcing and the accessing and processing of challenging, traumatic, and developmental experience. It is a holistic approach that includes somatic, emotional and cognitive processing and integration. Pat Ogden has combined the latest research in Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychology, and Sociology with her clinical observations of the disconnection between mind and body in trauma clients as well as her understanding of yoga and dance. Therefore, Sensorimotor Therapy can be described more as an experiential therapy rather than cognitive therapy.

As Sensorimotor Therapy enables clients to discover and change habitual physical and psychological patterns that impede optimal functioning and well-being; this modality renders itself especially helpful in working with dysregulated activation and other effects of trauma, as well as the limiting belief systems of developmental issues.

In her approach to SP, Pat Ogden talks about Character Strategies which our clients may  form around the core wounds or ‘missing experiences’ in their development. When we mindfully observe how these experiences manifest in our bodies, beliefs and behaviours, it  helps the clients to understand what was they really needed from their caregivers at the point in their lives and they can then process these observations  in a safe and empathetic manner with the help of their therapist. The therapist can then guide their client gently and with complete consent, to explore movements that help them to release the pent-up energy from the trauma, which leads towards healing. These transformations are termed Acts of Triumph.

Dr Pat Ogden is conducting an online webinar on 30 September 2021 for www.nscience.uk where she talks about how to use Sensorimotor Therapy to help clients heal from Traumatic past experiences.

Understanding the need that adapting Sensorimotor Psychotherapy to an online format presents particular challenges and opportunities, this webinar will also address these difficulties including managing office set-up, use of props, tips to maintain an emotional connection and special considerations in working with posture and movement in a telehealth format.

 To find out more or to register, please visit: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: An Introduction

The Devil You Know – now on BBC Radio 4

After receiving a tremendous response to the online course based on Dr Gwen Adshead’s new book The Devil You Know: Stories of Human Cruelty and Compassion (Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne), we (www.nscience.uk) are pleased to share that Dr Gwen Adshead book has now been serialised and is currently being read on BBC Radio 4.

Dr Gwen has spent 30 years inside secure hospitals and prisons providing therapy to offenders we would flinch from – stalkers, arsonists, murderers and child abusers. Here she views them not just as perpetrators of crimes but also as humans. She tries to look inside their minds and questions whether recovery is possible for individuals who have gone so far on the ‘road to hell’.

What is evil and what is our understanding of it? More importantly, how do we understand evil and work with it? Are there any slivers of hope and a possibility of recovery for these people? Case by case, story by story, we ‘see’ these people as their life stories unfold, leading up to the path to hell and then towards the road to recovery.

In this online course based on the book, which is now available as a recording, (www.nscience.uk/product/the-devil-you-know) Dr Adshead, in conversation with Dr Jan McGregor Hepburn, explores:

  • How do we react when we come face to face with psychopathy or ‘evil’ in our therapeutic interactions?
  • How do psychotherapeutic conversations help men and women explore aspects of themselves that are frightening or difficult to think about?
  • Why is it especially challenging to engage people who find it hard to talk about themselves, their lives and their actions?
  • Is it possible and indeed desirable for us to maintain compassion in the face of cruelty?
  • Can the usual boundaries apply when we are faced with ‘evil’ – how do we look after ourselves as well as clients / patients?
  • As a society, have we become less tolerant of crime over the years? What impact does this have on how we approach therapy?

Praise for Dr Adshead’s book:

A mythbuster of a book -crammed with compelling, candid, constructive and compassionate insights into the criminal mind’. – Val McDermid

Shocking, sad and absolutely fascinating’. – Sebastian Faulks

‘Fascinating, erudite and beautifully written… Christie Watson

The video recording is available at: www.nscience.uk/product/the-devil-you-know

New video resource pack bundles… and lots of savings!

If you’ve had a chance to browse our website www.nscience.uk lately, you might have noticed a new addition to our video courses – video resource pack bundles! You asked, we listened and promptly got to work!

Taking on board your feedback regarding having comprehensive course packs which cover topics such as Attachment and toxic relationships, Narcissism and its manifestations and Intimacy & Sexuality, we have now created bundles of video courses that cover these topics in-depth. The material is covered by renowned speakers such as Christiane Sanderson, Dr Richard Erskine, Dr Gwen Adshead, Dr Michael Beattie, Dr Jan McGregor Hepburn and Kathleen Mates-Youngman. Each bundle covers the topics from various angles and as always includes practical therapeutic interventions derived from case vignettes and real-life examples that we, as practitioners, can apply in our own practice.

As you delve into these extensively researched course packs, you not only have detailed and in-depth material at the touch of your fingertips, you also save a considerable amount compared to if you were buying these courses separately. The idea is to provide all the resources on any given topic to you in a comprehensive format while also providing savings in the process.

The video course pack Attachment and Toxic Couple Relationships: Therapeutic Interventions provides eight hours of CPD. The bundle is priced at £170 instead of the regular price of £210, a saving of £40.

The video course pack Working with Narcissism & its Manifestations provides 11 hours of CPD and is priced at £225 instead of the regular price of £265, a saving of £40.

The video course pack Working with Couples: Intimacy and Sexuality provides eight hours of CPD and is priced at £230 instead of the regular price of £280, a saving of £50.

Video course packs on EMDR and Mindfulness as well as Attachment Disruptions and Borderline Personality Disorders are also being readied and should be available shortly.

Please feel free to suggest which other course packs you would like to be made available. Do write to us at cpd@nscience.co.uk. We love to hear from you and always try our best to incorporate the suggestions you make 😊

For more details on our course packs, check out our video courses.

Changing gender roles in a changing world

To say that family is a dynamic entity which changes based on the landscape of the current economic and social realities would not be far from the truth.

The family structure showed significant departure from the expected societal norms, especially in Britain, during and after the Second World War when women stepped out to work and earn. This was a seismic shift – the well-defined territory of women as homemakers and men as breadwinners was now suddenly blurred.  

From then on, the change has continued in myriad ways – higher education levels for women, women working full-time, falling fertility levels, late childbearing, late or no marriages and couple relationships – both marital and non-marital have become more amorphous and fragile. It’s no surprise then that these changes have bought about complex family compositions and a diverse range of family forms. Let’s just say that the standard nuclear family is no longer standard.

As tremulous as the changes have been for women, men have not been left untouched. In fact, it would be safe to say that men’s roles, both in the public and private sphere, have been transformed beyond compare. And the change has neither been smooth not straightforward. The societal expectation of men as the traditional breadwinners, providers, protectors is being challenged. At the same time, a more nurturing aspect of caregiving, traditionally associated only with women, is now falling more and more on men, as women go out to work, and in some cases take on the mantle of the main breadwinner. The psychological, societal and cultural dilemmas faced by men in trying to navigate their position and male identity in rapidly changing public and private spheres are significant. There is no ‘standard’ male identity that they can look towards.

Coupled with the chipping away of the ‘traditional male identity’, while the acceptance of gay rights is to be celebrated, it is not a smooth path for gay men. Orthodox masculinity involves the stratification of men against an ideal by which they can be measured to determine the extent of their manliness – what is life like for ‘othered’ men, including gay and trans men? This has been covered in-depth by nscience UK. (https://www.nscience.uk/product/working-with-men-meeting-the-challenges-of-orthodox-masculinity/)

With the security of marriage and getting old together now gone, life is more complex and complicated as men and women navigate divorces, second marriages and offsprings from different relationships while trying to keep it as a cohesive whole both within their family structures as well as publicly. In addition, job insecurity brings the added challenge of working with loss of identity through unemployment and redundancy for men, whose societal identity is still tied in a large part to their role as the provider and breadwinner

These are not easy predicaments to navigate, especially for men, as they grapple with a loss of traditional identity while trying to find their feet and a clear reflection in these very fluid times. To learn more about the changing gender roles and the dilemmas faced by men in their public and private lives, you may want to check out  (https://www.nscience.uk/product/private-public-men-exploring-the-construction-of-masculinities-at-home-and-at-work/)

Resilience: the key to facing difficult and uncertain times

Resilience as a key life-skill to navigate the short, turbulent as well as the long, anxiety-inducing phases in life, has perhaps never been as much in focus as during the current pandemic. People have coped in different ways – drawing upon their inner reserves as well as the connections with family, friends, loved ones and even Nature, to get through the current crisis which has been the source of unexpected stress and even adversity for many of us. 

Research on resilience has a rich history, dating back to the 1950s. The overarching conclusion of this research, over the years, has been that during the lifetime of an individual, their attitudes and coping skills can help make all the difference between them being able to manage and even thrive in a crisis, or instead suffer and wither away. Some even say adversity brings potential benefits. “There is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve the next time.”

While it is true that we are born with varying levels of resilience, it is also equally true that we can develop more positive attitudes and effective coping skills that help us to deal with external stresses better.

So how do we cultivate resilience?

Acceptance of reality is the first major step in developing resilience. We can learn the skill to re-wire our thoughts and our responses to the given situation, so that rather than being overwhelmed, we can accept the reality and learn  ways to cope in a more positive and resilient manner.

Drawing upon our resources of family, friends and loved ones who provide comfort and security, and even hobbies and practices that bring us peace and joy such as going for walks, gardening, listening to music or cooking can be turned into therapeutic tools to cultivate resilience and navigate challenging times.

We can then take time to learn body-based techniques to reverse the impact of stress of trauma on the nervous system. We can learn the process for cultivating the positive emotions that antidote the brain’s negativity bias and shift brain functioning from contracted survival responses to openness for learning and growth.

These steps can allow us to move on to appreciating the new life that has emerged because of the challenging times, rather than in spite of them.

If you wish to learn more about cultivating resilience during challenging times, you can check our upcoming webinar with Linda Graham, an experienced psychotherapist in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is the author of The Resilience Handbook: Powerful Practices to Bounce Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, even Disaster (September 2018, New World Library) and Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, winner of the 2013 Books for a Better Life award and the 2014 Better Books for a Better World award. She integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her international trainings on resilience and well-being.

Click here to view our webinar

Announcing: two new books

We are very excited to announce our latest initiative – the publication of our concise, comprehensive and eminently readable books by two of the leading figures in the field of psychotherapy. We are proud to have on our bookshelves, Dr Gwen Adshead’s The Deluded Self: Narcissism and Its Disorders and Dr Jan McGregor Hepburn’s Guilt and Shame: A Clinician’s Guide.

It has been heartening to see your exceedingly positive response to these books – they literally are flying off the shelves! A heartfelt thank you for your positive enthusiasm and support for this initiative!

Our first book The Deluded Self: Narcissism and Its Disorders, published last year, is written by Dr Gwen Adshead. This book is a distillation of Dr. Adshead’s many years of work in the fields of psychiatry and psychotherapy working extensively with the issues around the whole concept of narcissism. Commencing her work by looking at the roots of this issue (The Narcissus Myth), through the whole continuum from healthy to pathological, she uses research, theory and her own extensive clinical experience to delineate and disentangle some of the apparent conundrums of both the cultural and the internal contexts of the topic.

Dr. Adshead discusses relevant issues such as the causes and origins of unhealthy narcissism in general and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in particular, how common NPD is and whether there is a link between NPD and Psychopathy. Finally, she considers clinical work with people who suffer from the extremes of narcissism; finishing with thoughts about the challenges for the clinician in this process.

Dr. Adshead is an international figure in her field and has generously shared her overview and understanding of narcissism in this accessible book.  It is clear, lively and most of all open and honest about the difficulties and challenges faced by practitioners working clinically in this area, the suffers themselves, and the people around them. It will be of interest to all those working therapeutically.

Our second book Guilt and Shame, A Clinician’s Guide by Dr Jan McGregor Hepburnhas just been published. Using her theoretical knowledge and her long clinical experience, Dr McGregor Hepburn examines the interlinked, multi-layered concepts of Guilt and Shame – from their healthy forms to their pathological and persecutory manifestations.

Using clinical examples to illustrate the points throughout, the first few chapters cover the differences between Guilt and Shame and examine their various internal functions. The middle chapters look at clinical issues: how struggles with Guilt and Shame may be manifest, how the clinician experiences them and which specific clinical techniques might be of help. The book explores the more complex nuances of working with these issues and the dilemmas that the clinicians face including Features of Countertransference, Projective Identification, Failure of Attunement and Transmitted Guilt and Shame. The penultimate chapter before the Conclusion looks at some of the social contexts of Guilt and Shame as both these concepts are intersubjective and co-constructed experiences, so the external context has significant impact on these two internal processes. This is a refreshing and accessible guide which will be of interest to a wide spectrum of clinicians.

The Challenges of Working in the Current Context

Being present for clients remotely

Can remote therapy be the answer for our clients’ needs in this pandemic?

Navigating the unusual challenges of therapy in these strange times

It would be safe to say that in the current climate, everyone is stressed. If there is one thing we can say with any certainty about the current situation, it is that everyone is stressed. How that stress shows, for any (all) of us, is more individual, but the stress is everywhere. Where there (were)are conflicts and difficulties to deal with, this current situation has made everything worse for nearly everyone. Even the people for whom it is a relief to not be expected to manage the activities of everyday life and relationships, are still under a lot of mental and emotional pressure from what they can perceive about the world around them, which clearly feels mostly negative and depressing at this point.

So, what can we say about working clinically – remotely and in a pandemic?

Here a few thoughts. Working remotely has particular challenges. If you are working on the phone you only have the person’s voice to tune in to. We know people say so much more than words when they speak. If we just have the words, it’s doubly hard to hear the music behind them. If you are working with video as well, you have more information about the person; their expressions and their body language – from the shoulders upwards at least! But you also have information you otherwise would not have; you can see where they are, and you are in their space. Working in the consulting room together, it is the clinician’s job to safeguard the space, and we are all careful to pay attention to this part of the treatment. Working on video you have no agency about how the therapeutic space is protected. While this can present challenges, still, working remotely is usually infinitely better than nothing. Our clients need us more than ever during this difficult time, and even though providing therapy remotely may not seem ideal, it is a great deal preferable to leaving the clients much like unmoored ships in a storm.

Working in a pandemic, the patient’s/client’s right not to know about their clinician’s life situation and preoccupations is lost. The person is much less free just to concentrate of themselves. Their normal thoughts and fantasies about their counsellor/therapist are inevitably coloured by what they cannot avoid knowing – that we are all anxious and facing the same privations and problems in the outside world.

Another challenge is how to help people whose life experience before this was that the world is a dangerous place, and that people who are meant to look after you either can’t or won’t. They are facing a kind of PTSD; their earlier traumas are evoked by this one, and the many examples of denial, incompetence and callousness around it, that are regularly reported.

Plus, there’s a reason why the plot lines of horror films sometimes involve a silent, invisible, deadly enemy. It’s the stuff of primitive nightmares. It is very hard to find a safe internal place in these circumstances.

Finally, we are now facing questions about who has had the vaccine, who can get it and who has to wait. People are frightened and envious simultaneously. If they have not had the formative life experience of ‘fair shares for all’; the inherent unfairness of the whole pandemic and the vaccine allocations will produce more stress.Anxiety and envy will (may) be looming even larger than usual in the consulting room.

It is important to think about these things, to support each other in our work and to be able to work with the people who come to us for help. And it will be even more important in the future. This is in some way traumatising for everyone, and many more people will need what we can offer.

Jan McGregor Hepburn, 5th Feb 2021

Our recent course on Understanding Coercive, Controlling Behaviour and Domestic Abuse during COVID 19

While pre-COVID, two women a week in the UK were murdered by their partner or ex-partner on average, this particular statistic escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recorded data in the first three weeks of lockdown in the UK revealed that 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children took place. In addition, global data suggests that reported domestic abuse (DA) incidents went up by almost 20 per cent during the same time frame.

In fact, such is the enormity of this problem, that the UK government is planning to implement the Domestic Abuse Bill in 2020.  It will create a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse.

We invited Christiane Sanderson, senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton, and the author of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse as well as Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, to conduct an online seminar that considers the extent to which the stress of lockdown and lack of accessible help has contributed to promoting coercive and controlling behaviour, as well as physical violence.  During this online course, which is now available as a video recording, we looked at the range of power and control dynamics that are used to control partners in intimate relationships– and reviewed how the severity of these dynamics increased during the COVID outbreak. The aim was to enhance our understanding of DA, its impact and long-term effects on survivors. The seminar discussed the spectrum of DA, including the dynamics of control and coercion in emotional abuse through to physical and sexual violence; and the role of shame and humiliation that silences those who are being domestically abused.

Specifically, the seminar considered:

  • The nature and dynamics of DA, such as the role of charm and enticement, the use of control and coercion, the cycle of abuse, the nature of thought blindness that facilitates the trauma bond and the role of silence, secrecy and shame
  • The intergenerational transmission of DA through attachment and relational deficits
  • The characteristics of male and female perpetrators
  • The impact and long-term effects of DA on partners and children
  • Obstacles to leaving an abusive relationship
  • The importance of developing safety plans when leaving
  • The need for safety and multi-agency collaboration
  • The need for longer term therapy using a trauma informed practice model when working with survivors of DA

More details of this online seminar, which is now a video recorded course, can be found here

A new online Directory for Psychotherapists and Counsellors

Here are three good reasons why it makes sense to register with the nscience uk online directory of therapists and counsellors:

  • One – you will be part of an active network of psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors
  • Two – you will save money when you register for nscience psychotherapy and counselling CPD programmes
  • Three – you will have access to the latest technology, making it easy for you to reach out to prospective clients and for them to find you online

An active professional network

By registering with the nscience directory of psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors, you will become part of a unique, international community of practitioners. Each year, thousands of professionals attend CPD programmes in psychotherapy and counselling at nscience, in order to enrich their knowledge base and add to their repertoire of therapeutic skills. 

Why not join this vibrant community today?

Discounts on CPD programmes

nscience aims to present the latest advances in theory and research to psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists through seminars, workshops, conferences, webinars and e-learning programmes, with a view to furthering their continuing professional development. 

As a registered Pro member of the nscience directory, you will receive a 10% discount on the cost of all our psychotherapy and counselling CPD programmes; as a standard member, you will be entitled to a 7.5% discount.  Don’t forget that this discount applies to every course you attend, so you can make a considerable saving if you are a regular attendee at nscience CPD in psychotherapy and counselling programmes.

Cutting-edge technology

nscience is recognised for its commitment to applying cutting-edge technology to CPD programmes for psychotherapists and counsellors: we were among the first to bring webinars, streaming and online self-learning courses to the therapeutic community. But we don’t rest on our laurels: we are continually investing in the latest technology. This means that, as psychotherapy and counselling practitioners, you can reach out to prospective clients online, in a straightforward way. Just as importantly, prospective clients looking for psychotherapy or counselling are easily able to find you  online. 

Our commitment to members of the nscience directory of psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists is that we will continually strive to make it even better and smarter at delivering tangible benefits for members.