Systemic psychotherapy (M6)

Course overview

Taught in a highly regarded NHS setting by experienced clinicians, this course was the first of its kind in the UK and successful completion provides you with a professional qualification accredited by The Association of Family Therapy (AFT) and enables you to register with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).   If you are applying for a Health Education England funded place, please see the Fees and Funding section below.

This course closed for applications for a September 2022 start on Friday 29 April 2022. If you want to know when the applications will reopen, please use the 'Enquire now' button on this page.

Want to hear more? Join this course information session at our virtual open day on Saturday 25 June. Book your place using our booking form here.

This course is a rigorous and intensive programme that will extend your understanding of theoretical concepts in systemic psychotherapy and fully develop your clinical skills as a systemic family therapist. You will learn through theory lectures, seminars, clinical supervision and clinical work.

Clinical supervision

You will provide family therapy to clients while supervised live by a trained systemic supervisor in clinical supervision groups. You will meet in the group for up to five hours per week throughout the course where you will work with families across the life cycle stages either in a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or adult setting taking a range of referrals and presenting problems. Consulting relationships between peers are encouraged as part of the clinical supervision process (and in other contexts). The consultation role that you take within your consulting partnerships will develop your capacity for leadership. This part of the course we arrange for you.

Clinical work

You will also need to set up your own clinical work and systemic supervision in your external agency or placement, and keep a log of your hours and learning. This is required by AFT to enable you to practice new skills and theoretical learnings

We will only be able to accept you on the course if you have set up your own clinical work and you will need a systemic supervisor for this work. The supervision does not need to be live but can be retrospective once a month.

Personal/professional development (PPD)

As a therapist you will be required to reflect upon your own personal life experiences and share these with other students in order to understand the connections between you and the clients you work with. Much of the PPD will take place in groups and this is an important reflective space where you will be encouraged to think about your contribution to group dynamics and the wider organisational system being created in this learning environment.  Attending a Group Relations Conference is a requirement of the course.

As part of your application, you are required to write a personal statement which should include reference to your family of origin and incidents in your personal life that you feel are connected to why you would like to be considered for the Masters training.


The research aspect of this course is designed to help you develop a research ‘frame of mind’ by introducing you to quantitative and qualitative research paradigms and a number of research methods. You will either complete a research portfolio or a research dissertation.

Teaching and consultancy

You will be offered the opportunity to embed your systemic knowledge by teaching and offering consultation to groups of professionals externally. One of your assignments will be setting up a short piece of teaching usually in your work context.

The course is accredited by The Association of Family Therapy (AFT). The Blue Book standardises the courses nationally and the hours that need to be completed. 

This course has been running since 1975 and was the first in the UK. It will provide you with a professional qualification that enables you to register with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).   It is highly regarded and will fully develop your clinical skills to provide family therapy as well as consultation and teaching to the wider system.

What our students say:

This course is for professionals who have completed the foundation and intermediate levels of systemic training, and are currently working in the field of mental health, social work/care or education.

In order to undertake this course, we ask that you:

  • Hold a professional qualification in social work, teaching, psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, nursing or an affiliated discipline, or equivalent. 
  • hold an undergraduate degree or are able to demonstrate that you are able to meet the demands of a Master level course
  • Have completed an AFT-accredited intermediate level systemic/family therapy training course. Please note that this is a mandatory requirement - we can only accept applications from those who have completed or are in the process of completing an intermediate level training.
  • Are currently working in the field of mental health, social work/care or education, where you have regular contact with families and are able to practice systemic psychotherapy for a minimum of 100 hours annually while attending the course.

In addition, as part of your application, you are required to submit a short essay of 1,500 words, discussing one of the following subjects: 

  1. Shame
  2. Power 
  3. Responsibility
  4. Risk  
  5. Protection
  6. Resilience. 

You may venture as widely as you wish or stay close to the subject of therapy in your deliberations, but aim to include personal reflections and any systemic ideas that you connect to the theme. Your grasp of theoretical ideas and the ability to be self-reflexive will be considered. Please note that applicants are required to use Harvard referencing.

Personal Statement 

In addition to the essay, applicants are required to write a personal statement including personal information about your family of origin and how this connects to your development so far.  Please write about your relationships from your early life as well as present day, and any significant episodes that you feel connect to your learning about your self.  Please let us know about your aspirations for your future career. 

This section does not need referencing and should be a maximum of 500 words . 

***If you do not have an undergraduate degree, or have completed your intermediate level training more than four years ago, please see below as you will have to complete a longer essay in place of this. You will only need to complete one essay as part of your application - if you are unsure what you need to complete then please contact us for confirmation.

Applicants without an undergraduate degree and/or who have completed their intermediate training more than four years ago can demonstrate equivalency by completing the following:

  • A 3,500 word essay discussing and critiquing a systemic theoretical idea of your choice. Your ideas must be up-to-date theoretically and you should demonstrate self-reflexivity. Please note that applicants are required to use Harvard referencing.
  • If you have completed your intermediate training more than four years ago you must also provide us with details of any relevant CPD courses you have undertaken during this time frame.

Applicants who do not have a professional qualification

If you do not have a previous professional qualification, you may still be eligible to apply for the Masters programme. However, you will need to complete a portfolio detailing a body of clinical work and training that demonstrates equivalence to a first profession.

You are required to upload your portfolio at the time of application. Please provide this in a CV style, and specify where you have worked, your responsibilities and the duration of each post. In addition, please tell us about any further training or CPD that you have completed.

Please provide as much information as you can; the more detailed the portfolio, the easier it is for the tutors to assess an applicant's suitability for the course.

Clinical experience

Examples of suitable professions are:

  • Social worker
  • Nurse
  • Doctor
  • Psychologist
  • Counsellor (accredited to a professional body)
  • Teacher/pastoral worker with substantial experience working with families
  • Music/drama therapist

If you are unsure about your clinical experience then please contact us to arrange a conversation with  a member of our course team. 

We would encourage you to apply for our second round of interviews by Friday 29 April 2022. If you are invited for an interview, please note that these will take place across Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 May 2022.   


Thursday and Friday, once per month from 9am-6pm. 


There are varies ways that students will be assessed throughout the two years training – A students skills will be assessed by their clinical supervisor on the competencies set by the course and AFT, students need to pass their first year to go on to the second year. There will be several written assignments during the first year and a dissertation in the second year. If students fail these first time round they are able to resubmit under the guidelines of Essex University. Students will also have a viva.


£ 7,200 per year


£ 14,400 per year

For more information about how Brexit may affect your fee status, please see Brexit information for EU & EEA and Swiss Nationals

Please note that course fees are subject to a 3% or CPI uplift each year, whichever is greater.

We are happy offer a range of ways to pay your fees, as well as some funding for specific courses. 

Funded places for 2022

Health Education England (HEE) will fund a number of places on the next MA Systemic Psychotherapy course (M6) for students working in an NHS role who want to gain their clinical qualification. HEE have stated the following criteria for funded places:

  • You must work in an NHS role
  • You must seek approval and support of your team / manager and this must be agreed with your Trust Chief Psychological Professional Officer (or CPPO) 

All Trusts in England have been made aware of the funding and the responsibilities upon them if they apply for you to receive a funded place.

Anyone wanting to apply for a funded place must submit an application of study by Monday 7  February 2022However, ONLY those who can evidence that their Trust has agreed to the conditions above will be interviewed for the funded places. 

If you are invited for an interview, please note that these will take place across Monday 28 February,  Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 March 2022.     

MA / Master's
Course length:
2 years
Thursday and Friday, once per month
Theoretical approach:
Admission status:
Course lead:
Shila Rashid

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