Professional Doctorate Counselling Psychology

    Course Description

    This applied professional training course gives you a doctorate-level education leading to a Doctor in Counselling Psychology. It comprises a comprehensive programme of taught modules, 450 hours of counselling psychology practice in a range of placements, and a doctorate-level research project. Experts guide you through integrated theory, personal and professional development, and clinical practice, with focus on the value of research and how it directly informs current practice.

    In-depth preparation for practice

    You receive rigorous training on personal, professional and academic levels, which requires you to combine personal development with explicit psychological theory as a basis for mindful clinical practice.

    The training will equip you to work in a broad range of settings, including the NHS, industry, third sector, private practice, academic and research roles, and many others. Our links with practices and partner providers, such as LIFT, the NHS and the Avon Wiltshire Partnership, make this course highly vocational and popular with employers.

    Based on the relational psychodynamic perspective, coupled with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, this course is designed to help you develop an integrative perspective based on these perspectives and any previous experience. For example, you may already have studied client-centred or existential perspectives as part of counselling certificate courses. The programme team is committed to the view that the therapeutic relationship is a key factor in promoting client change. The relational perspective is therefore a key element taught throughout the whole course. In Year 1 the model taught is relational psychodynamic; in Year 2 it is CBT and in Year 3 we integrate the two.

    You must engage in personal counselling or therapy for the first two years of the course a minimum of 60 hours over the course. This reflects our central focus on a relational approach to practice. Please note, the cost for this is not included in the fees.



    In the first year of the course, the therapeutic approach is relational, and we expect you to adopt and practice this approach in your placements. In Year 2 we focus on the CBT approach, and again we expect you to apply this to your placements. In Year 3, you get to explore your own identity as a counselling psychologist through modules on integration, and the modules on advanced theory and practice in counselling psychology, include teaching on supervision, leadership, psychometrics and neuropsychological assessment.

    If you don't complete the Professional Doctorate route, you may be eligible for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate in Psychotherapeutic Studies, or a Master's in Psychological Therapy.

    Year one

    • Principles of Counselling Psychology - this module introduces the fundamental values and ethos of counselling psychology, with a strong focus on ethics and diversity.
    • Theory and Practice in Counselling Psychology 1 - a look at the relational aspects of therapy.
    • Personal and Professional Development 1 - involving practice placements and personal reflection.
    • Qualitative and Quantitative Methods - this module covers advanced methods in qualitative and qualitative analysis, ensuring that students have the essential skills for carrying out their research.
    • Systemic Thinking and Practice in Counselling Psychology - this module covers issues around working with couples, families and groups. Thus it gives the students the basis for extending their practice beyond the core emphasis on 1:1 work with individuals.
    • Research in Counselling Psychology - this module contextualises research with the field of counselling psychology, covering additional advanced methods, It also provides support for students in developing their initial research ideas, and guides them through the various ethical processes.

    Year two

    • Theory and Practice in Counselling Psychology 2 - a look at the CBT approach.
    • Personal and Professional Development 2 - further development through practice placements and personal reflection, based on CBT.
    • Critical Psychopathology - this module explores key issues which are frequently presented in psychotherapy, for example anxiety, depression and substance use. It also considers mental health issues, such as trauma and psychosis.
    • Professional Issues in Counselling Psychology - this module will present a critical oversight of current issues within the profession, such as the current emphasis on empirically supported treatments. It will also consider current work contexts, including multi-disciplinary working and current structures within the National Health Service. 

    Final year

    • Personal and Professional Development 3 - here we begin to integrate current relational and CBT approaches in applied practical and personal contexts.
    • Advanced Theory and Practice in Counselling Psychology - studies and learning that bring relational and CBT perspectives and practices together.
    • Professional doctorate thesis and viva examination

    This structure is for full-time students only. Part-time students study the same modules but the delivery pattern will be different.

    The University continually enhances our offer by responding to feedback from our students and other stakeholders, ensuring the curriculum is kept up to date and our graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for the real world. This may result in changes to the course. If changes to your course are approved we will inform you.

    Learning and Teaching

    We use a wide range of teaching and learning methods to give you the best combination of personal, peer and applied learning. These include lectures, group discussion, group work, role-play, skills work, demonstrations, trainee presentations, supervised clinical practice, personal therapy and personal development activities.

    For more details see our glossary of teaching and learning terms.

    Study time

    As a full-time student, you attend two days each week in Year 1 (currently Monday and Tuesday) and one day a week in Years 2 and 3 (currently Thursday).

    If you study this course part time, you attend one day each week in Years 1-3 (currently Monday in Year 1, Tuesday in Year 2 and Thursday in Year 3). There is a four-year study option where you attend one day each week in Year 4, on a Thursday. The five-year option requires you to attend a half day each week in Years 4 and 5, both on a Thursday.

    Careers / Further study

    Students completing this course successfully are in a great position to become counselling psychologists and therapists in a wide range of roles in the private, public and third sectors.

    Visit the Professional Doctorate Counselling Psychology page on the University of the West of England, Bristol website for more details!

    Entry Requirements

    Graduate Basis for Chartership with the British Psychological Society
    upper second class or first class degree in psychology
    Certificate in Counselling Skills (comprising a minimum of 75 class hours)
    one year's experience of working in a one to one helping role
    the standard University levels of proficiency for English Language.

    Course Fees

    More information can be found on the Graduate School fees and funding pages.

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