UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

This 4 year full time, highly selective professional doctorate aims to develop the academic, clinical and research skills needed to practice as a professional Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, and will lead to the award of DPsych and professional membership of the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP).  The programme is a collaboration between UCL, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the Independent Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Association (IPCAPA) at the British Psychotherapy Foundation (bpf), alongside NHS training placement providers.  The theoretical orientation of the training represents the thinking of the Independent School within the British Psychoanalytic movement. A Jungian pathway has been developed for those in Jungian analysis.  

The programme combines working in a clinical setting, with lectures and seminars to support academic development and the opportunity to complete a doctoral level research project. Teaching is offered in a small-group setting and aims to provide a thorough understanding of normal child development, childhood psychopathology and psychotherapeutic techniques linked with direct experience of clinical work and conducting relevant research. 


The course is 4 years full time, made up of theory, practical work and research.  Students are in clinical placements within NHS or voluntary organisational settings, supervised by a child and adolescent psychotherapist throughout the programme.

Academic Component

A continuous programme of theoretical seminars specific to each of the 4 years of the course is led by experienced child and adult psychotherapists. These cover theories of development, psychoanalytic thinking about the aetiology of psychological problems and how best to treat them, having regard to cultural and social diversity. The curriculum gives attention to knowledge of the evidence-base for the efficacy of psychological interventions and includes information on the impact of neuro-psychosocial factors on the psychological well-being of young people. There is a rolling programme of applied practice workshops, responding to current issues in NHS practice.

Clinical Course Component

Training placements are in NHS or voluntary sector settings, and the placement programme is planned to ensure exposure to a wide range of populations and contexts and to ensure experience of working in multi-disciplinary teams. Trainees are in their funded clinical placements for part of their week over the 4 years, learning and honing their skills, guided by experienced clinicians within their service. In order to fulfill ACP requirements, each trainee must complete a combination of intensive and non-intensive child cases. Each trainee sees three children in intensive psychotherapy, with individual weekly supervision for each case. Trainees are also required to see at least five children in non-intensive treatment, and to have experience of time-limited work; work with parents; diagnostic assessments and of consulting to other professionals who are working to promote children’s well-being. All trainees are required to be in personal psychoanalysis with an approved therapist, at least four times per week throughout their training.

NHS Placements

The clinical training is funded and quality assured by Health Education England (HEE). A limited number of training posts are offered by the NHS, for which trainees can apply. The posts are four year fixed term training contracts, usually based in a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) team, and provide funding (including salary and contributions to training expenses), time for study and training as well as the opportunities to meet all the clinical requirements of the training. There are a number of posts across London and the South East of England.

All trainees must have the experience of working within a clinical placement but in exceptional circumstances, for example where trainees are not eligible to work in the UK or wish to undertake their training on a less full-time basis, trainees may self-fund and IPCAPA will endeavour to organise appropriate clinical experience for them.

Research Component

In year one students receive direct teaching on research methodologies and the critical evaluation of research findings.  They carry out an ‘audit’ within their clinical placement service and attend a series of lectures on evaluating clinical interventions.  From the second year, trainees will undertake a research project on an area relevant to the child psychotherapy profession, fully supported by a supervisor. This course has been created with an emphasis on the practical research skills that will be needed by a modern practitioner and designed specifically to be completed within 4 full-time academic years. In this integrated programme research thinking will sit alongside the clinical programme so that graduates will become able to use research to inform their clinical practice.


Clinical Competence

Clinical competence will be monitored throughout the clinical placements and will be assessed at the end of each year. Candidates must pass the 'practicum component' each year (or pass with stipulated requirements for the demonstration of specific competencies in the following placement year) before they can progress onto the next year. A candidate will be deemed to have failed the Programme if s/he fails a placement.

Clinical skills are also assessed by an oral examination assessing capacity to undertake clinical assessment of a child or adolescent referred to a mental health service, and via a series of clinical case reports (see 'Academic Assessment' below).

Research Competence

During the first two years of the course, research competence is assessed by the service-related research project (which forms part of volume one of the dissertation) and by a two-hour written examination, assessing capacity to critically evaluate research literature. There is also a formative examination assessment in quantitative data analysis, and a formative research proposal.

Academic Assessment

The Dissertation will be submitted at the end of the 4th year of study. Dates for the submission and examination of the dissertation will be announced annually by the course tutors. A viva voce examination will normally be arranged within 3 months of submission of the dissertation.

Volume 1: Case reports and Service-Related Research - 20,000 words

The first volume of the dissertation is made up of four case reports, one of which will be a piece of service-related research. Volume one shall total no more than 20,000 words. The three clinical case reports will demonstrate knowledge of psychoanalytic theory and its application to clinical work. The service-related research report will demonstrate an ability to conduct applied research in clinical service settings.

Case report 1: Service based research project (4,000 words)
Case report 2: On a non-intensive or time limited therapy with a child of adolescent (4,000 words)
Case report 3: On work with parents (4,000 words)
Case report 4: Clinical report on an intensive case with a child or adolescent – 8,000 words

Volume 2: Research Dissertation – 20,000 words

The second volume of the dissertation is made up of three pieces of work. Volume two shall total no more than 20,000 words. It will comprise the following three parts:
•    A systematic review of literature pertaining to a topic relevant to work with children and families (8,000 words)
•    A report of an empirical research project, written to be submitted to a peer-reviewed academic journal (8,000 words)
•    A reflective account of the process of undertaking research, and linking this with clinical work. (4,000 words)


On completion of the Doctorate applicants are eligible to work in the NHS or voluntary sector as child psychotherapists accredited by the Association of Child Psychotherapists. Some continue with academic and research work in parallel with this.


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Applicants for the doctorate must have a 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent) AND/OR a Masters degree from a UK University in a relevant subject. There are a number of additional criteria, laid down by the ACP, which applicants must fulfil before they can apply to this doctoral clinical training. Please see www.childpsychotherapy.org.uk for further details

Those seriously interested in undertaking this doctorate are advised to make contact with the Training Co-ordinator (details below), to discuss their individual experience at an early stage.

Fees: Eligible Students (UK/EU) will have their UCL 2019-20 fees met by the NHS.  There are some costs that would need to be supplemented by the trainees.

Further Information: ipcapatraining@bpf-psychotherapy.org.uk