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How to become a therapist in the UK

Hi there,

I am currently in the USA (US citizen) and will be moving to the UK with an associate's degree (2 year degree) in psychology. I do have experience in the field but no counselling levels or certificates.

I am wanting to become a counsellor/therapist in the UK. Not a psychologist, as I know it will take a very long time for me to get to that point and prefer the idea of more 1 on 1 therapy.

I don't even know where to start. I have done research and I know there are therapy levels and I need a level 4 to be a therapist I think. I saw relate do a diploma in relationship counselling but need a level 3 first, which I guess could get quite easily on a course? would you then work for them as a counsellor?

Any help on the best way to become a counsellor, if that's working in the NHS or privately would be appreciated. My end goal is to become a sex therapist and I saw can do Psychosexual Therapy courses which need a level 5 certificate to do.

Thank you
Original post by 00sevenmagic
Hi there,

I am currently in the USA (US citizen) and will be moving to the UK with an associate's degree (2 year degree) in psychology. I do have experience in the field but no counselling levels or certificates.

I am wanting to become a counsellor/therapist in the UK. Not a psychologist, as I know it will take a very long time for me to get to that point and prefer the idea of more 1 on 1 therapy.

I don't even know where to start. I have done research and I know there are therapy levels and I need a level 4 to be a therapist I think. I saw relate do a diploma in relationship counselling but need a level 3 first, which I guess could get quite easily on a course? would you then work for them as a counsellor?

Any help on the best way to become a counsellor, if that's working in the NHS or privately would be appreciated. My end goal is to become a sex therapist and I saw can do Psychosexual Therapy courses which need a level 5 certificate to do.

Thank you

According to the following, an associates degree is the equivalent to a Level 4 in the UK system:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associate_degree#:~:text=Based%20on%20assessment%20by%20the,Framework%20for%20Higher%20Education%20Qualifications. In other words, it's the equivalent of the first year of a bachelor's degree. See the following:
https://www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification-levels-mean/list-of-qualification-levels

The following are the job profiles to becoming a therapist and counsellor in the UK:
https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/psychotherapist
https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/counsellor

Whilst strictly speaking counselling is not a regulated profession, it's usually recommended to have done a counselling course at least at Level 3 e.g.:
https://www.bacp.co.uk/careers/careers-in-counselling/training/

For psychotherapy, see the following for accredited courses:
https://www.bpc.org.uk/training/accredited-training-courses/
UKCP is also another body that you want to look out for.

Level 3 courses can easily be found in adult colleges (which is roughly the equivalent of US high school/community college, unless you correct me). Strictly speaking, counselling courses at Level 3 in adult colleges do not require any prior qualifications, but some courses might specify you will need a Level 2 in counselling (why they do that is beyond me). See the following as examples:
https://www.colchester.ac.uk/course/counselling-skills-diploma-level-3/
https://www.learningcurvegroup.co.uk/courses/learners/level-3-course-counselling-skills
https://www.southessex.ac.uk/course/cpcab-counselling-theory-and-skills-level-3-certificate-1
https://stcg.ac.uk/merton-college/counselling/certificate-in-counselling-studies-level-3

For the conversion from US qualifications to UK qualifications, you would need to see ENIC:
https://www.enic.org.uk/

In terms of degrees, you can pursue ones in psychology (ideally BPS accredited) for psychotherapy, or do a counselling/psychotherapy degree for counselling. If you want information on applying for UK degrees, see the following: https://www.studential.com/us/applying-to-UK-colleges
If you do intend to do a degree, it's likely you will be asked to do an International Foundation Program specific to the university that you want to apply to (unless you do A Levels or the like once in the UK)

The alternative would be to do a HND/Dip in HE (level 5) + a top up degree (level 6, equivalent to a bachelor's degree) to get it in psychology, counselling, or psychotherapy, before you do something else (if you want). I think you might be selling yourself a bit short here because you will end up doing parts of a bachelor's degree as opposed to doing the whole thing.

The issues that I have at the back of my mind are:

Will you have to repeat the first year of your university experience if you start all over again?

Will you be able to get funding for the degree or courses, considering your nationality?

Would it be possible for you to skip the foundation year required for all international students even though you have already done an associate


I would double check with the individual university psychology departments (as opposed to general undergrad admissions) to be sure.

You might want to get a second opinion on the above with a psychotherapist or counsellor in the UK to check, since my knowledge on counselling/psychotherapy careers and applying for university from the US are somewhat limited.
Reply 2
I can give you information about the route I took, but I'm not exactly sure if they are as easily accessible for international applicants, so you may need to look into that a bit more.

I did a bachelor degree in Psychology and Counselling with the Open University, which was all online. This wasn't a requirement for becoming a counsellor, but I was interested in both counselling and psychology at the time.

I then did a Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Skills at a local college, which involved going to the college one evening per week for one academic year. I funded this with an Advanced Learner Loan, and I think the overall fees were about £600.

I then completed a Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. This involved going to a local college (The Manchester College) one evening per week for 2 academic years, and a 100-hour placement, which I had to find myself, and which was unpaid. Again, I used an Advanced Learner Loan to fund this, and I think fees were about £1500 in total.

I am now in a role as a Trainee High Intensity Therapist, which is within the NHS and involves completing a diploma, alongside working in an IAPT service as a trainee CBT therapist. This training is for one year and is a paid role within the NHS, but I don't know whether these roles are available to international applicants. An alternative would be to look at postgraduate diplomas in CBT if you are interested in training in this type of therapy.

I was also required to have a good amount of relevant work experience before getting this role, which for me included roles as a mental health support worker, drug and alcohol recovery worker, and assistant psychologist.

I hope this helps. Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions.

Loren
Original post by MindMax2000
According to the following, an associates degree is the equivalent to a Level 4 in the UK system:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associate_degree#:~:text=Based%20on%20assessment%20by%20the,Framework%20for%20Higher%20Education%20Qualifications. In other words, it's the equivalent of the first year of a bachelor's degree. See the following:
https://www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification-levels-mean/list-of-qualification-levels

The following are the job profiles to becoming a therapist and counsellor in the UK:
https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/psychotherapist
https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/counsellor

Whilst strictly speaking counselling is not a regulated profession, it's usually recommended to have done a counselling course at least at Level 3 e.g.:
https://www.bacp.co.uk/careers/careers-in-counselling/training/

For psychotherapy, see the following for accredited courses:
https://www.bpc.org.uk/training/accredited-training-courses/
UKCP is also another body that you want to look out for.

Level 3 courses can easily be found in adult colleges (which is roughly the equivalent of US high school/community college, unless you correct me). Strictly speaking, counselling courses at Level 3 in adult colleges do not require any prior qualifications, but some courses might specify you will need a Level 2 in counselling (why they do that is beyond me). See the following as examples:
https://www.colchester.ac.uk/course/counselling-skills-diploma-level-3/
https://www.learningcurvegroup.co.uk/courses/learners/level-3-course-counselling-skills
https://www.southessex.ac.uk/course/cpcab-counselling-theory-and-skills-level-3-certificate-1
https://stcg.ac.uk/merton-college/counselling/certificate-in-counselling-studies-level-3

For the conversion from US qualifications to UK qualifications, you would need to see ENIC:
https://www.enic.org.uk/

In terms of degrees, you can pursue ones in psychology (ideally BPS accredited) for psychotherapy, or do a counselling/psychotherapy degree for counselling. If you want information on applying for UK degrees, see the following: https://www.studential.com/us/applying-to-UK-colleges
If you do intend to do a degree, it's likely you will be asked to do an International Foundation Program specific to the university that you want to apply to (unless you do A Levels or the like once in the UK)

The alternative would be to do a HND/Dip in HE (level 5) + a top up degree (level 6, equivalent to a bachelor's degree) to get it in psychology, counselling, or psychotherapy, before you do something else (if you want). I think you might be selling yourself a bit short here because you will end up doing parts of a bachelor's degree as opposed to doing the whole thing.

The issues that I have at the back of my mind are:

Will you have to repeat the first year of your university experience if you start all over again?

Will you be able to get funding for the degree or courses, considering your nationality?

Would it be possible for you to skip the foundation year required for all international students even though you have already done an associate


I would double check with the individual university psychology departments (as opposed to general undergrad admissions) to be sure.

You might want to get a second opinion on the above with a psychotherapist or counsellor in the UK to check, since my knowledge on counselling/psychotherapy careers and applying for university from the US are somewhat limited.

Thank you for your very detailed response. It is much appreciated.

From my understanding general basic pathway to becoming a counsellor is level 2 --> level 3 --> level 4. Then qualified. Then can do level 5/diploma/further degree ect for further qualifications. To be a sex therapist need a level 4 or level 5? I beleive? The requirments for one of the main CORST courses are:
- No less than 120 hours counselling or psychotherapy training or equivalent (such as social work, clergy, medicine, as long as they include counselling skills and theories).
- A minimum of 30 hours of personal therapy in the year preceding entry and at least 20 hours concurrent with training.
- 50 hours of providing counselling (or equivalent) with adults under supervision; this may be in-person or via an electronic platform.
http://www.psychosexualtraining.org.uk/entry.html - link to course

There are a few different companies that offer a CORST (sex therapist) accredited certificate to become a qualified sex therapist in the UK. all with different requirments but this is roughly what they all need. some differ a bit. I know relate does a course and they ask for level 5.

from looking at multiple sex therapist websites in the UK, all have this qualification (CORST accredited course) with further study (e.g. level 4 diplomas, other post grad studies) to supplement - however not a requirement as I understand. So this is the aim for myself. The question is how to get there and you have helped a lot explaining the different routes.

level 3, level 4 courses in the UK don't give student visas out from what I have researched. However level 3 can be done fully online so can do this while in USA. nothing saying I can't. The issue is level 4 not fully online but cant get student visa for this. So.. Only option this gives me is doing a degree as the institutions that provide this can sponsor for a student visa.

I know you say the foundation degree (then potentially top up degree) would make less sense than full degree which I understand. However it is very expensive for international students. Foundation 2 year degree which gives level 5 at the end is £18,000 total after 2 years. Compared to £45,000 if do the full 3 year BSc degree. Which for me is kinda crazy and not realistic. I can get private loans and this is what would do but £45,000 in debt for this job role doesn't make much sense in my head. So all of this basically makes my mind up that i should do the foundation degree to get level 5 then after that can maybe apply for a CORST course to be a sex therapist. If still can't get into the CORST course, then I am not worried as I am a qualified therapist right? I can practice in the UK and slowly get further hours ect and slowly do further qualifications ect. I know CORST does foundation courses. one example: https://www.theinstituteofsexology.org/qualification-pathways

Most foundation degrees ask for a level 3 and level 2. I have found a few that only ask for level 2. This makes a difference to me as if need to do both level 3 and 2 will take 2 years to get to that point!

The best one I have found is: https://www.escg.ac.uk/courses/counselling-personal-development/person-centred-counselling-foundation-degree-73081/
Level 2 is needed. Would this give me the needed qualifications for a CORST course? It is in person centred counselling. does this make a difference? Some courses as for a level 5 in counselling ect.. I assume then this would count. My passion is sex therapy. This is my ultimate aim.

I know you mention the international foundation programme i would have to do? If there more info on this? so I would have to do a further year first before doing this 2 year foundation degree? nothing I can see regarding it being a requirments or even a thing.

Any help on this would be appreciated. There just is not a website or guide for this. I know it makes it a lot harder as from the USA. so many courses and routes. But i feel a foundation degree is what will have to do?

thanks again.
Original post by Nerol
I can give you information about the route I took, but I'm not exactly sure if they are as easily accessible for international applicants, so you may need to look into that a bit more.

I did a bachelor degree in Psychology and Counselling with the Open University, which was all online. This wasn't a requirement for becoming a counsellor, but I was interested in both counselling and psychology at the time.

I then did a Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Skills at a local college, which involved going to the college one evening per week for one academic year. I funded this with an Advanced Learner Loan, and I think the overall fees were about £600.

I then completed a Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. This involved going to a local college (The Manchester College) one evening per week for 2 academic years, and a 100-hour placement, which I had to find myself, and which was unpaid. Again, I used an Advanced Learner Loan to fund this, and I think fees were about £1500 in total.

I am now in a role as a Trainee High Intensity Therapist, which is within the NHS and involves completing a diploma, alongside working in an IAPT service as a trainee CBT therapist. This training is for one year and is a paid role within the NHS, but I don't know whether these roles are available to international applicants. An alternative would be to look at postgraduate diplomas in CBT if you are interested in training in this type of therapy.

I was also required to have a good amount of relevant work experience before getting this role, which for me included roles as a mental health support worker, drug and alcohol recovery worker, and assistant psychologist.

I hope this helps. Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions.

Loren

Thank you Loren,

All very useful information and nice to hear there are good opportunities for those with a level 4 qualification. As you are training right now what is your understanding of therapist job prospects right now and in the future? Do those with level 4 normally get jobs or need high qualifications (e.g. level 5). Do most go to work for a company or open privately to start with? Thanks

After doing more research myself most likely option is a foundation degree as I can get a student visa. This would give me level 5. When I finish this would I be employable and get a job? As referenced in my other reply to MindMax2000 I aim to be a sex therapist but likely I would have to practice as a most general counsellor beforehand. There are a lot of level 3 courses online. I have seen NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Counselling Skills a lot. A lot of the websites for this don't say its BACP accredited. Unsure if this would be okay to apply for a foundation degree with. level 3 is level 3 right? I know level 4 or degree needs to be accredited.

I guess I just want to be 100% sure with everything as unlike most whatever I do is such a big thing as in another country. Lots of mixed advise everywhere.

Thanks again.
Original post by 00sevenmagic
Thank you for your very detailed response. It is much appreciated.

From my understanding general basic pathway to becoming a counsellor is level 2 --> level 3 --> level 4. Then qualified. Then can do level 5/diploma/further degree ect for further qualifications. To be a sex therapist need a level 4 or level 5? I beleive? The requirments for one of the main CORST courses are:
- No less than 120 hours counselling or psychotherapy training or equivalent (such as social work, clergy, medicine, as long as they include counselling skills and theories).
- A minimum of 30 hours of personal therapy in the year preceding entry and at least 20 hours concurrent with training.
- 50 hours of providing counselling (or equivalent) with adults under supervision; this may be in-person or via an electronic platform.
http://www.psychosexualtraining.org.uk/entry.html - link to course

There are a few different companies that offer a CORST (sex therapist) accredited certificate to become a qualified sex therapist in the UK. all with different requirments but this is roughly what they all need. some differ a bit. I know relate does a course and they ask for level 5.

from looking at multiple sex therapist websites in the UK, all have this qualification (CORST accredited course) with further study (e.g. level 4 diplomas, other post grad studies) to supplement - however not a requirement as I understand. So this is the aim for myself. The question is how to get there and you have helped a lot explaining the different routes.

level 3, level 4 courses in the UK don't give student visas out from what I have researched. However level 3 can be done fully online so can do this while in USA. nothing saying I can't. The issue is level 4 not fully online but cant get student visa for this. So.. Only option this gives me is doing a degree as the institutions that provide this can sponsor for a student visa.

I know you say the foundation degree (then potentially top up degree) would make less sense than full degree which I understand. However it is very expensive for international students. Foundation 2 year degree which gives level 5 at the end is £18,000 total after 2 years. Compared to £45,000 if do the full 3 year BSc degree. Which for me is kinda crazy and not realistic. I can get private loans and this is what would do but £45,000 in debt for this job role doesn't make much sense in my head. So all of this basically makes my mind up that i should do the foundation degree to get level 5 then after that can maybe apply for a CORST course to be a sex therapist. If still can't get into the CORST course, then I am not worried as I am a qualified therapist right? I can practice in the UK and slowly get further hours ect and slowly do further qualifications ect. I know CORST does foundation courses. one example: https://www.theinstituteofsexology.org/qualification-pathways

Most foundation degrees ask for a level 3 and level 2. I have found a few that only ask for level 2. This makes a difference to me as if need to do both level 3 and 2 will take 2 years to get to that point!

The best one I have found is: https://www.escg.ac.uk/courses/counselling-personal-development/person-centred-counselling-foundation-degree-73081/
Level 2 is needed. Would this give me the needed qualifications for a CORST course? It is in person centred counselling. does this make a difference? Some courses as for a level 5 in counselling ect.. I assume then this would count. My passion is sex therapy. This is my ultimate aim.

I know you mention the international foundation programme i would have to do? If there more info on this? so I would have to do a further year first before doing this 2 year foundation degree? nothing I can see regarding it being a requirments or even a thing.

Any help on this would be appreciated. There just is not a website or guide for this. I know it makes it a lot harder as from the USA. so many courses and routes. But i feel a foundation degree is what will have to do?

thanks again.


I don't think I can add much more to what you have already mentioned then.

See the following:
https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-does-a-sex-therapist-do
https://www.ipm.org.uk/training/default.aspx
https://www.cosrt.org.uk/external-training-accredited-by-cosrt/accredited-professional-qualification-courses/

To be a sex therapist need a level 4 or level 5?
From the looks of it, yeah you need a Level 3 diploma + a Level 4 certificate to specialise in sex therapy

level 3, level 4 courses in the UK don't give student visas out from what I have researched. However level 3 can be done fully online so can do this while in USA. nothing saying I can't. The issue is level 4 not fully online but cant get student visa for this. So.. Only option this gives me is doing a degree as the institutions that provide this can sponsor for a student visa.
From the looks of it no you don't get student visas for level 3 courses. Having said that, international students do come over for schools so it's not like you can't apply for the schools here. It's worth looking into immigration applications regarding this (I don't work in the field, so I can't say).

Foundation 2 year degree which gives level 5 at the end is £18,000 total after 2 years. Compared to £45,000 if do the full 3 year BSc degree. Which for me is kinda crazy and not realistic.
Do what you can, and if it's not realistic then just do what is needed.

If still can't get into the CORST course, then I am not worried as I am a qualified therapist right? I can practice in the UK and slowly get further hours ect and slowly do further qualifications ect.
Places usually look for level 3 qualifications, so I don't doubt that you can get a job with a level 3. Whether you get further qualifications will depend on you.

Level 2 is needed. Would this give me the needed qualifications for a CORST course? It is in person centred counselling. does this make a difference?
I am afraid only CORST can answer that. I would drop CORST and email: https://www.cosrt.org.uk/contact-us/

I know you mention the international foundation programme i would have to do? If there more info on this? so I would have to do a further year first before doing this 2 year foundation degree? nothing I can see regarding it being a requirments or even a thing.
From what I have seen, the international foundation programme is a requirement for international students, but you can check with the individual university just to be sure. I don't know which university you intend to study at, so I can't point out which person to contact, but it's usually the undergrad admin of the psychology department (as opposed to general admissions) of the specific university.
Reply 6
Original post by 00sevenmagic
Thank you Loren,

All very useful information and nice to hear there are good opportunities for those with a level 4 qualification. As you are training right now what is your understanding of therapist job prospects right now and in the future? Do those with level 4 normally get jobs or need high qualifications (e.g. level 5). Do most go to work for a company or open privately to start with? Thanks

After doing more research myself most likely option is a foundation degree as I can get a student visa. This would give me level 5. When I finish this would I be employable and get a job? As referenced in my other reply to MindMax2000 I aim to be a sex therapist but likely I would have to practice as a most general counsellor beforehand. There are a lot of level 3 courses online. I have seen NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Counselling Skills a lot. A lot of the websites for this don't say its BACP accredited. Unsure if this would be okay to apply for a foundation degree with. level 3 is level 3 right? I know level 4 or degree needs to be accredited.

I guess I just want to be 100% sure with everything as unlike most whatever I do is such a big thing as in another country. Lots of mixed advise everywhere.

Thanks again.


There are lots of psychotherapist jobs out there, but not that many paid counsellor jobs. Also, the course I did was not accredited by the BACP, but you can work towards accreditation afterwards, which is what some of my classmates did. Some have gone into private practice already, others are working as counsellors in different services. I went straight into High Intensity Therapist training, so have no experience in paid counselling roles. I also don't know much about the foundation degree.

If you carry on training and specialising, which it sounds like you want to do, there are more job opportunities. The service I am training in have already offered me a permanent role as a CBT Therapist when I qualify, and jobs pop up all the time.

The reason for the mixed advice is that there are just so many different ways to go about training and qualifying, rather than one specific route.

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