Therapists in the UK can take one of several training pathways in order to be licensed. They can take counselling training, a psychotherapy degree, or they can study psychology then continue into counselling psychology. All of these training streams involve transitional years where the student starts working as a ‘trainee’ before being fully qualified.
The general difference here is that a counselling certification tends to be taken at colleges and takes between three to four years. A psychotherapy degree is a postgraduate university level degree, and students who finish the complete training are given an MA in Psychotherapy. This takes anywhere from four to seven years (or more) depending on the school and the student.
Note that qualified counsellors can then opt to take the last two years of psychotherapy training, which is the MA part, so that in addition to their counselling training they become a psychotherapist.
As for counselling psychologists, they must take a regular bachelors degree is psychology before preceeding to a Masters in Counselling Psychology. This can take five years or more. In some cases, if someone has a university bachelors degree in something other than psychology but wants to be a counselling psychologist, they can take a one-year ‘psychology conversion’ course and then continue into the masters.
After a degree is attained and a therapist is qualified, their training does not stop. In order to maintain their membership with the UK’s therapist registry boards they must take training courses each year to keep their knowledge updated.
Speaking of registry boards. Working with a registered therapist is a great way to know your therapist has the right training (they can’t be registered without it).
You can also access the registry boards online to ascertain if your therapist went to a recommended training program. It is highly recommended you do check if you have decided to work with a non registered therapist, or a therapist trained overseas. If you are not sure you can even give the registry board a call.
Both the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) provide listings of accredited institutions.
On the Harley Platform we take the hassle out of finding a good therapist. We only list counsellors and psyhcotherapists who are registered and have appropriate training.