Cognitive behavioural therapists (CBT) are trained to assess and support children and young people or adults with common mental health difficulties or severe mental health problems.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that aims to help people manage their difficulties by changing the way they think and behave.
It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression but can be used for other mental health problems like psychosis, or physical health problems such as chronic pain.
As a cognitive behavioural therapist, you will work with adults from many different backgrounds or children and their parents/carers. Interventions are mainly delivered on a one-to-one basis or sometimes in groups.
Where will I work?
Cognitive behavioural therapists work within a variety of mental health settings including adult improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) services, NHS services for people with severe mental health problems, NHS children's and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and third sector organisations commissioned by the NHS. Services can be based in GP practices, healthcare centres or other community venues.
Who will I work with?
As a cognitive behavioural therapist, you will work alongside other clinicians such as psychological wellbeing practitioners (PWPs), clinical psychologists, mental health nurses or psychiatrists. Managing referrals and signposting to other agencies may also be a core part of your role, which will require working closely with other healthcare professionals, employment and education advisers and support staff.
The cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) training is open to people with a range of experience. You will normally need to have a degree to undertake the postgraduate diploma but you may also be able to access the training if you can demonstrate equivalent academic skills.
You will also need to have a core mental health profession or be able to demonstrate equivalence to core mental health professional training. Visit the BABCP website to find out more about the core profession or equivalent knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The course is aimed at mental health professionals (or those with the equivalent knowledge, skills and attitudes) who have had some experience in a mental health environment. Applicants should demonstrate evidence of interpersonal skills and an openness to learning new knowledge and skills.
Training and development
There are several nationally funded ways to train as a cognitive behavioural therapist.
To work as an IAPT cognitive behavioural therapist, you will normally need to complete a high intensity IAPT postgraduate diploma training course.
To work as a cognitive behavioural therapist with adults with severe mental health problems you will normally need to complete a postgraduate diploma in CBT for people with psychosis or bipolar disorder, a diagnosis of personality disorder, or eating disorders.
To work as a children and young people cognitive behavioural therapist, you will normally need to complete a children and young people postgraduate diploma training course. It is also possible to become a CBT therapist by gaining an equivalent accreditation from other training and experience.
Training courses are offered by a range of universities and training providers so courses titles may vary. They typically consist of approximately 60 days of training over a 12-month academic year. During training, you will be employed by a local NHS commissioned service.
Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. This pay system covers all staff except doctors, dentists and the most senior managers. Trainees are appointed at band 6 and can work full time or part time during training (usually a minimum of 22.5 hours per week). Once qualified as a cognitive behavioural therapist, you would usually progress within band 6 or to band 7.
As a cognitive behavioural therapist, you will specialise in working with either children and young people or adults. You may also develop areas of clinical specialism or work with particular groups of patients such as:
- adults with long-term health conditions
- patients who have psychosis, bipolar disorder, eating disorders or a diagnosis of personality disorder
Subject to national and regional developments, you may also have opportunities to progress into more senior cognitive behavioural therapist roles, where you may supervise other cognitive behavioural therapists or manage aspects of a service. After working in the role for a minimum of two years, you may have the opportunity to complete further funded psychological professional training.
To access the training, you will need to apply for a position as trainee cognitive behavioural therapist / high intensity therapist in an NHS-commissioned service. You can search for vacancies on the NHS Jobs website or other local platforms.