How to qualify as a counseling/clinical psychologist (foreign student)

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Report Thread starter 3 years ago
Hi guys,

I've been mulling this over for months and doing tons of research, but I just can't figure out how to continue my studies in the UK. I will graduate September 2019 with a BSc in Psychology from a university in Barcelona and I am then planning to relocate to the UK. The pathway to becoming a clinical psychologist is very straightforward in Spain: you do your bachelor's, then you have two options: you can do a master's degree and become a 'health psychologist', or you can sit a national exam to gain entry into a state-funded 4-year program where you do rotations at different hospitals and amongst different services. After the 4 years, you're a qualified 'clinical psychologist'. That's it.

Now, in the UK, I can see you distinguish between counseling and clinical psychologists. In Spain, both 'health psychologists' and 'clinical psychologists' are competent to give counseling and psychotherapy -- the 'health psychologist' in the private sector, the 'clinical' in the public -- but we do not have 'counseling psychologists' as a distinct category. What exactly would the difference be, in the UK, between a counseling psychologist and a clinical psychologist?

Then, if I were to choose to study counseling psychology, I can see there are multiple levels of study:

- Professional organizations and private institutes have by far the cheapest fees (around 3,000 GBP), and you can sometimes train up to a Master's degree.

- Universities also offer various master's programs at a higher price (around 6,000 GBP).

- The BPS accredits only certain (self-funded) doctorates at a rate of around 10,000 GPB/year.

So I guess I have 2 questions:

1. What is the advantage of studying for a doctorate, and how competitive are the admissions? I would think these professional doctorates qualify you to work in the public sector, but I've heard of psychotherapists accredited by the UKCP and counselors accredited by the BACP who are also working in the public sector. Also, is it possible to apply for these PhDs without first having a master's?

2. If the PhD is out of the question (e.g. if I need prior experience or a Master's degree to really stand a chance), then what difference does it make to study at a private institute or a trust (e.g. Tavistock) or at a university? And does it make a difference if I complete a diploma or certificate vs. if I complete a full Master's degree? Does it make a difference in terms of employment opportunities? And how about in terms of getting accepted into the doctorate in the future?

If, on the other hand, I decided to study clinical psychology, I can really see only one route, which is a doctorate funded by the NHS (though I've recently seen some self-funded programs that are unfortunately very much outside the scope of my budget). If I weren't to gain admissions into the doctorate straight from my bachelor's (which I suppose is the most likely outcome?), then my only chance would be to do a master's degree to get more experience and education, then try again for the doctorate, right? What puts me off this path, though, is that it seems as if I can't really do much with a master's in clinical psychology, whereas a master's in counseling psychology would allow me to register with the UKCP or BACP and give psychotherapy. Is that impression correct?

I know it's a long post, but this is a huge financial commitment and would really appreciate it if you guys could lend a helping hand.

Much love from (right now) Istanbul, Turkey!


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Report 2 years ago
Interrobang are you able to help?
Badges: 20
Report 2 years ago
Firstly, you may not be eligible to study to become a psychologist if your degree isn't accredited by the British Psychological Society, as you can only do one of the qualifying courses if your degree is. or if you do a conversion course.

The doctorate (or the Health Psychology masters plus 2 years supervised training) is the only way that you can be classed as a psychologist. You can still be a counsellor (not a counselling psychologist) without doing the relevant qualifying course. Clinical psychology is incredibly competitive and requires at least 2 years of paid full-time work experience before applying, and many applicants have masters or even PhDs (research) too. It isn't about being able to work in the public/private sector, it's about using the title and being registered with the HCPC (Health Care Professions Council)

It may be worth checking out this website too regarding the different careers in psychology: I'm not an expert on the difference between counselling and clinical psychologists, but it appears from here ( that there is some overlap, but clinical psychologists get more involved in the assessment of people and in doing research. This link also indicates that clinical psychologists work with more complex cases.

Hope that helps!

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