The world of mental health encompasses all different disciplines. These can range from group therapy to one-on-one sessions. However, a psychotherapist will use these and other lesser-known techniques to help those who need it.
What is a psychotherapist?
A psychotherapist works with patients to help them with any issues they may face. Generally, a psychotherapist helps with issues regarding mental health, addiction, learning difficulties or relationship advice, among others.
Psychotherapists carry out their treatment very differently from other medical professionals. A psychotherapist will generally carry out “talking therapy”, wherein they will speak to patients and help them identify issues and speak about them in a calm and safe environment.
Although psychotherapy is generally considered “talking therapy”, other therapy types are also available. Psychotherapists can also offer therapies, including:
- Behavioural therapy
- Family therapy
- General psychotherapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
These are important disciplines of psychotherapy; you must have qualifications in each before you can practice them. Other therapy types are available through the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
Psychotherapy jobs have lots of responsibilities in their role. As a psychotherapist, you will also be responsible for your own training and development too.
The most common responsibilities in psychotherapist jobs are:
- Conduct sessions with patients.
- Create a safe space where patients can freely express themselves and their thoughts.
- Ensure that you are fully trained in the latest therapy techniques.
- Help to supervise other psychotherapists.
- Keep abreast of industry developments.
- Keep meticulous reports on clients.
- Liaise with other medical professionals to help patients.
Some psychotherapists work for the NHS and others are self-employed. If you are a self-employed psychotherapist, then you will also need to take on additional responsibilities like liaising with accountants and ensuring that all of your financial accounts are up to date.
A psychotherapist's salary is directly tied to the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay rates. These rates will vary depending on which band you fall into.
As psychotherapy is considered an advanced therapy role, you will fall into Band 7 to begin with. Within this band, psychotherapists will earn between £40,000 and £48,000. From there, salaries can change depending on which band you move into.
Some psychotherapists have been known to enter into Bands 8a and 8b. At this level, you will be considered a principal psychotherapist and can earn between £48,000 and £65,000.
A psychotherapist salary changes significantly for those not part of the NHS and want to work privately. Private roles are often fixed at your discretion. They will likely have a sliding scale based on various circumstances, such as location, qualifications, which type of therapy you specialise in and how many clients you have.
A degree in psychotherapy is not required for this role but it is helpful. Generally, the main requirement to become a psychotherapist is to have completed an accredited psychotherapy training course, although some degrees may include these when you get to a postgraduate level.
For those looking to go to university, the best subjects to study are:
- Counselling degrees
- Medicine degrees
- Nursing degrees
- Psychology degrees
- Psychotherapy degrees
- Social work degrees
- Teaching degrees
A psychotherapy degree is not always essential. More niche disciplines of psychotherapy, such as psychoanalytical psychotherapy, will require more specific qualifications. In this instance, you would need to study a British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC)-approved postgraduate training programme or pre-approved British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) psychotherapy courses.
Training and development
Unlike other regulated mental health careers, a psychotherapist is currently not required to register with any statutory regulators. Although it is highly recommended to have industry-approved and certified qualifications, either by the BACP, UKCP or any others.
Although psychotherapists are not required to register with any regulators, psychotherapy is still considered a regulated industry. As a result, you will be required to complete a continuing professional development (CPD). The UKCP and the BACP will both offer CPD support to those who need it and give you access to various courses and networking events.
Attending lectures and networking events are not essential but should be considered very important. These are places where you can meet like-minded professionals, share wisdom, and even benefit from the experience of others.
Psychotherapists are also required to undergo a period of supervision. This will generally be done by a fellow psychotherapist who is also qualified as a psychotherapist supervisor. While supervision is not necessarily required if you are a self-employed psychotherapist, the NHS requires all medical professionals to undergo some form of supervision.
There are other non-industry related areas of training you will need to undergo if you are self-employed. You may need to look into marketing courses, finance or even business administration. On top of this, you will also need an accountant to help you with your cash flow and bookkeeping.
A psychotherapist requires several skills to be successful in their role. These skills can be expanded upon through further psychotherapy training and development.
The skills needed to become a psychotherapist are:
- A sensitivity towards confidentiality.
- An ability to liaise with other medical professionals.
- An ability to separate yourself from the problems of those you are treating and your own life.
- Excellent time management skills.
- Excellent verbal communication skills.
- Meticulous note-taking.
- Respect for the professional opinion of fellow medical professionals.
- Respect for those you are treating.
If you are self-employed, you will need other, non-related skills too. This means working on your mathematical skills, keeping meticulous business records and some entrepreneurial skills.
Work experience is hard to come by at a pre-university level owing to the confidentiality of sessions. You may be able to speak to a psychotherapist about their profession or ask for advice on how to break into the industry. Still, actual work experience is near impossible unless you work in a totally different area of a psychotherapist’s private practice.
Although some decide to become a psychotherapist straight away, it is generally recommended to move into other areas first. The main reason for this is that psychotherapists generally tend to rely on the world and career experience when speaking to patients and working in other areas of medical treatment will provide you, not only with life and work experience but also an understanding of how other medical professionals can assist you in your role.
More often than not, a psychotherapist will take after gaining experience in another area. It is not uncommon for a psychotherapist to work as a nurse, a teacher or even as a social worker, before exploring the opportunity to become a psychotherapist. However, some trainee psychotherapist jobs are available and other careers with a psychology degree.
The general career prospects for a psychotherapist will generally rely on your own plans. Many psychotherapists tend to move into other psychology careers, while others can stay and move into management roles.
It is common for a psychotherapist to move into a management role. At this level, you would be responsible for training other psychotherapists and for managing a team of other medical professionals.
Some psychotherapists have been known to move into teaching while still practising. This particular route will require you to complete a PGCE degree before you can teach in schools, colleges or universities, but you can teach at certain night schools or adult learning centres without one.