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Psychological Professions

Roles within the psychological profession focus on applying a study of psychology to analyse how people think, and behave, to help those that may be struggling with mental conditions – working with people of all ages and from all backgrounds to diagnose issues, help patients to understand their conditions and develop effective ways to cope and manage their own mental wellbeing.

Mental health problems are more common than you might expect, affecting roughly one in four people to varying levels. Psychological professionals can help with mild or more complex conditions including (but by no means limited to):

  • Anxiety
  • Mild to severe depression
  • Psychosis
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Trauma
  • Addiction (e.g. to alcohol or drugs)
  • Bereavement and loss
  • Family issues or breakdowns

Additionally, those with physical conditions such as disabilities, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and much more may develop psychological issues, or struggle mentally, as a result of their health issues… psychologists and counsellors can also be of great help in these scenarios.

The range of opportunities within this sector require varying levels of training – whether this be a three-year doctorate for Clinical Psychologists or a practical counselling qualification, if you have an interest in the human mind, and the drive to help people overcome their problems, a career as a psychological professional could be very rewarding.

Some examples of roles within the psychological profession might include the below, where you can also find guidance on entry requirements:

Counsellor

There are many reasons why a person may need to visit a Counsellor – anything from grief, difficulties in their relationships, coping with illness or receiving bad news, and support with drug-related problems or mental health issues, to struggles within their everyday life. The role of a Counsellor is to encourage their patients to examine their life and find ways to make positive changes; this might be in group or individual sessions but always in a safe, confidential space.

As a Counsellor you will encourage your patients to talk about their feelings, listen carefully and ask questions where necessary, in order to help your clients to see their situation in a different way. You will always remain empathetic but will challenge your patients when you see fit.

Counsellors may be based within GP practices, schools, advice centres or hospitals – and will deliver services in person, online or on the phone.

Typical entry requirements:

  • Usually, at least one recognised counselling qualification – depending on the employer, this may be a diploma, a degree or a post-graduate qualification
  • Health and care employers especially may require you to be listed on the Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) scheme with the Professional Standards Authority
  • Additional experience may be required in specific clinical or professional fields, depending on the position

Forensic Psychologist

A Forensic Psychologist applies their expertise of psychological theory to the area of criminal investigation. Working within all aspects of the criminal system, such as the police, prisons, young offender institutes and probation services, people in this role are trained to understand the psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour and apply this knowledge to prevent criminals from reoffending in the future. In this role, you could work with a wide range of people, including those involved with violent, aggressive, sexual or drug-related crimes, to:

  • Analyse crime from a psychological aspect
  • Implement treatment programmes
  • Complete statistical analysis and provide research results
  • Give expert evidence in court
  • Advise within tribunals and parole boards
  • Reduce stress for prisoners and prison staff

You may wish to specialise in the youth justice system, rather than adults, and may be based within the NHS or private healthcare providers, prison services, social services, specialist mental health facilities or within education systems.

Typical entry requirements:

  • A degree (BA or BSc) in psychology
  • Graduate Membership with the British Psychological Society – which enables you to apply for:
  • A post-graduate qualification in forensic psychology
  • Entry requirements for undergraduate courses vary, but you may require A-Levels / 5 GCSEs or equivalent (A-C/4-9) including maths
    • Otherwise, equivalent qualifications, including Scottish/Irish versions of the above, or BTEC, HND or HNC (inc. science), a relevant NVQ, etc
  • Registration with the Health and Care Professions Council, post-graduation of your master’s degree

High Intensity Therapist

Working with a variety of people (usually adults) from different backgrounds – particularly those with complex issues relating to anxiety and/or depression – a High Intensity Therapist makes a real difference to people’s wellbeing and quality of life.

You will usually work with patients on a one-to-one and face-to-face basis, using evidence-based interventions – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling – to help with a range of conditions (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], obsessive compulsive disorder [OCD] and much more). This includes assessing the patient, managing treatment plans, and monitoring patient progress. You might also work with couples or small groups.

High Intensity Therapists usually work closely with clinical staff and Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs) and you might even work with other services outside of your team – offering advice to mental health trusts, community or voluntary agencies, employment advisors and others.

Typical entry requirements:

  • Undertaking a trainee post within an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service – usually provided by the NHS or other providers such as Mind – in order to access:
  • A post-graduate diploma in CBT
  • Additionally, you will usually need a BABCP-recognised qualification (e.g. in mental health nursing, clinical psychology, social work, occupational therapy, counselling, probation services, medicine, special educational needs)
    • You may be able to secure a trainee position within a core qualification if you can submit a portfolio which provides evidence of your competency
    • PWPs are also eligible to apply for this training once having completed a minimum of two years within the role

Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner

Trained to support patients with common mental health problems (such as depression and anxiety disorders), Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWPs) help people to better manage their own conditions and take some level of control over their recovery. This is usually adults, on a one-to-one basis (in person, online or over the phone), but treatment might be delivered in small group settings.

Working with other professionals (including GPs, High Intensity Therapists, Counsellors and Employment Advisors), PWPs may be based within a Clinical Commissioning Group, an Improving Access to Psychological Therapy service, a specialist mental health trust or within the private sector.

Duties include interviewing patients to identify areas where they wish to change their thoughts, feelings or behaviour, delivering evidence-based psychological interventions, completing risk assessments and other tasks.

Typical entry requirements:

  • A degree or graduate-level qualification (e.g. Level 6 apprenticeship)
  • Undertaking a trainee or apprentice post within an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service – usually provided by the NHS or other providers such as Mind – in order to access:
  • An accredited IAPT training course
    • PWP training is open to people from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds; graduates will achieve a post-graduate certificate, those without a degree will complete and equivalent graduate-level qualification
  • Experience of working with people with mental health problems is advantageous to application to training (as well as post-qualification employment opportunities)