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How to become a Psychotherapist

psychotherapist careers

What does a Psychotherapist do?

Psychotherapists use a variety of ‘talking therapies’ and psychological treatments (as opposed to drug or physical interventions) to alleviate distress, explore emotional problems, analyse past experiences and develop coping strategies through a collaborative relationship between the practitioner and client. Methods of treatment differ depending on the core theoretical framework that is being used.

Theoretical approaches are broadly centred on combinations, variations and extensions of core models, which include:

  • psychodynamic - based on childhood experiences, dreams, the unconscious and the dynamics of the client-therapist relationship
  • behavioural - based on the belief that damaging behaviours can be unlearnt or reconditioned
  • cognitive - based on questioning and changing self-deprecating thoughts and habitual responses
  • humanistic and integrative - based on self-development and personal growth (sometimes dealing with spirituality and consciousness)
  • person-centred - based on developing inner resources by expressing negative feelings with a permissive and accepting therapist
  • interpersonal/systemic - based on changing transactions and roles within relationships.
This is not an exhaustive list and is by necessity selective. For full details of these models and others see the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy websites.

Treatment is carried out between individuals or groups of clients, and can be with adults or children. Psychotherapists also deliver training to non-therapeutic groups like social workers.

The skills, approach and theoretical understanding of fully-trained psychotherapists overlaps considerably with that of counsellors – see Counsellor profile. Some traditions recognise a distinction between the two; others do not.

What's the working environment like working as a Psychotherapist?

Most psychotherapists work during normal office hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Private therapy sessions often take place in early morning or early evening to accommodate clients who may be at work. A consultation can range from 30 to 60 minutes depending on what is agreed by the therapist and the client. Part-time work is possible.

Psychotherapists work with clients on a one-to-one basis or with larger groups such as couples or families. They work indoors in private surroundings either at home or in an office.

What does it take to become a Psychotherapist?

To be a psychotherapist you should:

  • be empathetic, sincere and sensitive
  • have good listening and questioning skills
  • have a genuine interest in the emotional problems faced by people
  • appreciate and respect the variety of human experience and culture
  • be non-judgmental and tolerant towards taboo thoughts and feelings
  • be able to establish rapport with a wide range of people in a creative way
  • have an energetic and positive outlook
  • be committed to self development
  • be confident enough to explore the painful aspects of a client’s life.

Psychotherapist Career Opportunities

Some opportunities exist in the NHS where psychotherapy can be seen as an additional skill that a psychologist, social worker or health professional might have. Psychotherapists can also work in the public sector or with a voluntary organisation.

Some psychotherapists become self-employed and set up independently in private practice. This is usually after gaining several years of post-qualifying experience.

It is possible for psychotherapists to develop a portfolio of services that they can offer, including:

  • working in a range of different specialisms
  • working in a mental health setting like a hospital
  • working with private clients that wish to make changes in their lives
  • training professionals
  • teaching and lecturing.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Psychotherapist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
BACP House
35-37 Albert Street
CV21 2SG
Tel: 0870 443 5252

United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
2nd Floor Edward House
2 Wakley Street
Tel: 020 7014 9955

British Confederation of Psychotherapists (BCP)
West Hill House
Swains Lane
N6 6QS
Tel: 020 7267 3626

British Association of Psychotherapists (BAP)
37 Mapesbury Road
Tel: 020 8452 9823

Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP)
120 West Heath Road
Tel: 020 8458 1609

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk