Career prospects: psychological therapies
Career news at a glance:
The job prospects for psychological therapists look bright at present, as across the board the NHS, government departments and private companies are investigating therapy-based solutions as alternatives to drug-based treatments. In addition, the government is funding a project to improve access to psychological therapies in the mental health sector.
Career health advice:
- The various titles of practitioner psychologist are now statutorily regulated by the Health Professions Council. Psychologists will need to be registered with the HPC in order to work under any of the designated titles.
- Counsellors and psychotherapists will also be regulated by the HPC from 2012.
- A degree is not always sufficient for many forms of therapy. Some therapies require a practical component of supervised case work and this is usually undertaken at postgraduate level.
- Employers often prefer to appoint a chartered psychologist because the title is the public’s guarantee that the person is properly trained, qualified and answerable to an independent professional body.
- In addition to consulting NHS Jobs, don’t forget the professional body journals listing job advertisements.
- Consider assistant jobs or voluntary work. Most jobs for psychological therapists, due to the independent nature of the work, require experience. Working as an assistant psychotherapist or assistant psychologist whilst training will provide invaluable experience.
- Be open-minded when looking for posts, as many job titles will not necessarily mention the terms psychotherapy or psychology. Other titles include mental health practitioner or primary mental health worker.
- Certain skills are more in demand than others. There are currently national shortages of clinical psychologists and neuropsychologists, and there is increasing demand for counselling psychologists. The need to lower levels of obesity also means more opportunities for health psychologists and exercise psychologists.
- Psychotherapists often work in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or ‘talking therapies’. The Government has promised more money and access to talking therapies for mental health patients and GPs are being urged to offer CBT to patients with low-level mental health problems.
Career health warnings:
- As more NHS services are shifted into the community it is likely that many more of the psychological therapies will move to primary care or community settings.
- Look for job opportunities throughout England as you are more likely to be successful in securing a job if you can be flexible about where you live and work.
Psychotherapists often work in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or ‘talking therapies’. The government has promised more money and access to talking therapies for mental health patients and GPs are being urged to offer CBT to patients with low-level mental health problems. With larger health centres opening up in primary care settings, it is possible that GPs will want to employ more psychotherapists to treat mental health patients and those chronic-disease patients at high risk of depression.
Child psychotherapists work in specialist child and adolescent mental health teams. Increasingly, they also work in jointly-funded positions within schools, social services and hospitals.
Health psychologists and exercise psychologists are increasingly used in primary care, as GPs are given more say over health budgets and changing people’s behaviours.
Working in the private sector:
Psychological therapists often work in private practice and will treat self-referred patients as well as those referred from private clinics, hospitals and doctors.
Occupational psychologists often work for large companies with human resources or personnel departments, or as overseers of change management.
There is a small, but growing, number of sports psychologists who work either as consultants and/or are employed by elite athletic and sports teams.
Psychology graduates are prized by market research firms, personnel management firms and employment agencies. There are also opportunities for psychology lecturers in nursing and medical schools.
As the NHS opens up to other providers many private clinics and hospitals are starting to expand and employ greater numbers of psychologists and psychotherapists.
Working in the independent/charitable sector:
Many charities and voluntary organisations employ therapists, particularly those dealing with children and young people, inter-cultural relations and ethnic minorities, drug and alcohol dependencies and sexual health agencies. Job opportunities for graduates in these organisations may grow in the future as some charities prepare to take on NHS services.
The current opening up of NHS services also opens the way to groups of therapists working in not-for-profit companies, to contract their services to the NHS or GPs.
Each country has different regulation and education requirements for counsellors and psychotherapists. Graduates looking to work overseas need to research these and the rules each country operates in admitting overseas workers.
In general the job prospects for psychological therapy graduates look very good. The overall demand for therapists is increasing due to the government’s focus on improving mental health, public health and obesity.
In psychotherapy there is likely to be a big demand for less intensive therapies, such as CBT, for minor mental health problems.
In child psychotherapy there are many more new jobs being created than in the past, particularly jointly-funded posts between the NHS, social services and education departments.