How to Train as a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists use their specialist skills and knowledge to work with infants, children and young people up to age 25, and their families.

This page sets out the training route to qualification as a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist (CAPT) which is comprised of pre-clinical studies and experience and a clinical training that develop the necessary skills and competences to assess and treat infants, children and young people up to age 25, and to work psychoanalytically with them, their parents, carers and the networks surrounding them.

Pre-training Requirements

The Standards for Entry into an ACP Accredited Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Clinical Training are described in detail here. Applicants to the training must have complete either a course of study leading to a PG Diploma/Masters (UK academic level 7) that includes the prescribed minimum components or these components, or their equivalent, gained through a combination of other courses that provide some elements of a pre-clinical course but not others. The minimum components are extended psychoanalytic infant observations, work discussion seminars, psychoanalytic theory and child development research lectures. 

The pre-clinical studies help to develop an observational, reflective stance which, allied with an understanding of child development and the unconscious mind and its manifestations, is the cornerstone of the CAPT approach. Click here to view the range of pre-clinical courses that are available in the UK.

The courses are normally self-funded and offer an opportunity to decide whether psychotherapy with children and young people is the right profession for you. They help in the development of reflective practice, emotional availability and awareness of oneself. The courses are at post-graduate level and are undertaken full-time or part-time over two or three years to allow students to simultaneously develop their work experience with children and young people. Because CAPT is a graduate entry profession, students who do not have an honours degree must complete the course to Masters level.

In addition to the pre-clinical course, applicants to train as a CAPT must have experience of working with children and adolescents. This experience may be gained in a wide range of occupations across health, education, social care and other sectors. Prior experience of working in mental health services is not essential and applications from those with lived experience and from a diverse range of backgrounds are encouraged.

Personal psychoanalysis (three/four/five times a week) is an essential component of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy training.  Therefore, as a minimum, applicants to the training should have an understanding of the importance of a personal psychoanalysis in order to undertake psychoanalytic work and what this might entail in terms of the exploration of their conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings. A period of personal psychoanalysis or psychotherapy is not a requirement within the ACP entry standards, however, where it is possible, applicants should be supported to begin personal psychotherapy or analysis before they apply to the training as this is an important developmental opportunity. Please refer to the Standards for Entry for more detail.

Clinical Training

The training of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists (CAPTs) is longer than most psychological professions to enable the breadth and depth of skills and competences to develop that are required for complex work with children and young people. The ACP clinical training in CAPT is an NHS funded programme. In England there is a National Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Scheme funded by Health Education England. Different local funding arrangements are in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the programme of training is the same.

The clinical training is a four-year full time programme which includes teaching, supervision, personal psychoanalysis and a salaried training post (on NHS Band 6) in a child and adolescent mental health service. A part-time training option may be available. Most of the trainings offer a Professional Doctorate qualification. The training provides a thorough understanding of child development, childhood psychopathology and psychoanalytic psychotherapeutic technique linked with direct experience of clinical work across the 0 to 25 age range and enhanced by research knowledge and skills. Trainees work intensively with three patients of different ages and also learn to apply the psychoanalytic understanding gained in this experience to other interventions, such as brief work, consultation and work with families, groups, teams and networks.

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. Click here for information about the ACP accredited Clinical Training Schools.

Explore the Competence Map for CAPTs at the Point of Qualification here.

Professional Registration

The standards of training and practice of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists (CAPTs) are regulated by the Association of Child Psychotherapists. Qualified CAPTs must be a registered member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists and appear on the ACP register of CAPPTs which is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority. Trainees must be Trainee Members of the ACP.

Further information about the accreditation of training and the Quality Assurance Framework can be found here.