How I made Cognitive Behavioural Therapy my career
I have always been intrigued by the reasons for people’s behaviour. I knew from an early age that Psychology was a major interest of mine but I wasn’t sure exactly what I would end up doing in that field.
In South Africa, I went down the Psychology route and enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts Degree with majors in Psychology and Sociology. If I could have studied Psychology alone I would’ve done, but in South Africa at the time (based on the American educational system) this was the appropriate option.
Once I had completed my BA Degree I moved to the UK and found, to my dismay, that my BA Degree wasn’t fully recognized in the UK by the British Psychological Society (BPS). In order to work as a Psychologist in the UK, I had to obtain something called the “Graduate Basis for Registration” and was advised to study for a further two years.
I duly completed a further two years in the UK after my five year BA Degree and finally became a graduate member of the BPS.
I gained work experience working in a day centre initially, working with students with learning disabilities. During work experience I also worked as a care assistant on Broadmoor Hospital and moved on to a medium secure unit working as an Assistant Psychologist.
After working in the forensic area of Psychology I moved to the Probation Service working with offenders to rehabilitate them. It was during my time at The National Probation Service that I learned about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I related to it’s concept of how thoughts affect the way we feel and how our emotions influence our behaviour.
I already had a counselling background and gained fantastic experience at the National Probation Service. I realised that if I could work with offenders who were forced to work with me, I could surely work with clients who were already motivated to receive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. So I set out on my own and started my private practice in 2009. After a few years I decided to take the plunge and complete a Post Graduate qualification in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
I applied to New Buckinghamshire University and started a two year part-time course in 2015. I am now accredited with the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) – the ‘holy grail’ for accreditation in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
You need to have an existing degree in a relevant qualification; Mental Health Nursing, Social Work, Art Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Psychology or Psychotherapy or enough experience related to the qualification (the KSA route).
The two year part time qualification also included a practical placement in a relevant organisation where you could practise your CBT skills. I was fortunate to be accepted into an IAPT service in Walton on Thames. The IAPT service was established to increase provision of evidence-based treatments for common mental health problems, with it now being estimated that approximately 900,000 adults access this service each year.
Additionally, to successfully qualify as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, trainees are required to complete many clinical and supervision hours involving direct contact with clients. My post grad qualification stipulated a minimum of 200 face to face hours with clients as wel as a minimum of 40 hours supervision.
What to expect when working as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist
Practising as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist involves working with clients suffering from mental health difficulties by carrying out mental health assessments, developing a formulation of a client’s difficulties to then subsequently deliver CBT.
Therapy involves working with clients to help them change the way they think and act, with the aim of improving the way they feel.
I have worked with many different disorders:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Working in the Private Sector
I personally prefer working for myself. The money isn’t as predictable as it is working within the NHS but I have the freedom to be creative and quirky in my approach. Some individuals get ensnared by the NHS system and never feel brave enough to take the leap into private practice but I am so glad that I did. The type of problems dealt with in the NHS tend to be harsher as there are often money issues, severe substance abuse and all sorts of other lifestyle issues that tend not to arise in private practice, or at leats not as severely.
Skills required to be a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist
You need to be a people-person who has empathy for others. You also need to have an analytical problem solving orientation as your job is to assess an individual’s problems and help formulate a plan towards recovery. It’s vital to be open minded and non judgemental.
Another important skill is to be self aware and to be able to reflect on your own biases and thinking when working with clients. Supervision is a wonderful way to keep on track and receive professional advice regarding working with clients.
• Experience in the field of Mental Health.
• Degree in a relevant area: Mental Health Nursing, Social Work, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Occupational Therapy or Art Therapy.
• Accredited Post Graduate Diploma in CBT.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapists working within the NHS can expect to receive a salary of between £26,500 and £41,500 per annum. A similar rate of pay is usually paid when working as a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist in a private organisation.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapists who practice privately typically charge clients anything between £40 and £100 per hour.
I enjoy my work as I enjoy helping others. I love people and their stories and I am learning all the time. It is very important to be self aware and to not burn out. Dealing with people’s emotional problems can be draining and that is also why self reflection is vital in order to provide yourself with rest and support when needed.
There is an abundance of work for Cognitive Behavioural Therapists as it is evidence based and has been proven as an effective stategy, thus receiving funding regularly from the Government.