Child and adolescent psychotherapist

Child and adolescent psychotherapists work with children, young people and their families to assess and treat a wide range of psychological difficulties.

Working life 

You will work with children and young people up to the age of 25 and their families and carers to assess and treat psychological difficulties.

Treatment is based on psychoanalytic psychotherapy. You'll use different approaches to suit each individual including talking, playing or drawing and will talk to parents, families and other health professionals. 

Where will I work? 

Child psychotherapists usually work in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). CAMHS teams are based in the community and work with staff from many other children's services, including education and social services. You'll provide a number of interventions including mental health promotion and prevention, through to very specialist psychotherapy for young people with mental health problems. 

You’ll also work in a multidisciplinary team including mental health nurses, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. 

Entry requirements 

To train as a child and adolescent psychotherapist, you must have completed a recognised pre-clinical courseThese courses include psychoanalytic and child development theory and psychoanalytic observations of infants and young children. As well as a pre-clinical course, you must also have experience of working with children and adolescents, but this doesn't have to be in a mental health setting

Training 

The clinical training is a four-year full time programme which includes teaching, supervision, personal psychoanalysis and a salaried training post (paid at NHS Band 6) in a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).  

There are five training centres in the UK: two in London, one in Birmingham, one in Leeds and one in Glasgow. Clinical training placements are available across the UK. See the Association of Child Psychotherapists website for more information about the training schools.   

The NHS offers a limited number of child psychotherapy training posts at NHS trusts, or as a partnership between an NHS trust and one of the training providers. These posts provide paid training and additional financial support for trainees, with trainers providing clinical practice, usually at an NHS site. 

Further information on NHS training posts and grants is available directly from NHS trusts or from individual training organisations. 

Must-have skills

You’ll need a range of skills to be a psychotherapist, including: 

  • a keen awareness of people and their behaviour 
  • a capacity for study and continued learning 
  • the ability to relate to a wide range of people 
  • excellent communication skills 
  • the ability to work on your own as well as in consultation with others 
  • a responsible, professional approach, respecting the confidentiality of patients 
  • emotional resilience and maturity  
  • During the clinical training you will be paid at Agenda for Change Band 6. Child and adolescent psychotherapists normally gain a substantive post at Band 7 after qualification. You could develop to become a highly specialist clinician, consultant or take up teaching and management positions at Band 8a and above. 

  • In addition to community child and adolescent mental health services, you could work in inpatient units, looked after children teams, hospital teams for children with physical illness and disability, eating disorder services, perinatal and parent-infant services, schools, learning disability teams and forensic services. As your career develops, you may choose to specialise in one or more of these areas of work or to progress into service leadership, supervision and teaching roles. 

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