Cognitive behavioural therapist

CBT, talking therapist, behavioural therapist

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Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) practitioners use talking therapy to help patients change negative patterns of thinking or behaviour.

Salary range: £30,401 to £43,772

How to become a cognitive behavioural therapist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university degree
  • applying directly


You’ll usually need an accredited postgraduate qualification in cognitive behavioural therapy and experience of working in mental health.

You’ll need a degree in a subject related to health and social care to get onto a postgraduate course in cognitive behavioural therapy.

Relevant subjects include:

  • mental health nursing
  • social work
  • counselling
  • art therapy
  • psychology

You may still be able to get onto postgraduate training without a related degree. To do this, you’ll need to show that you meet the knowledge, skills and attitude requirements of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies.

You’ll also need experience of working with people who have mental health issues through your job or from volunteering.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information

Volunteering and experience

You’ll find it useful to get experience of working in mental health, for example with charities like Mind, Rethink and Turning Point.

Do-it also has information on voluntary opportunities in your area.

You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local NHS trust for further advice.

Direct application

If you’re already a qualified healthcare professional, you may be able to do cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) training with the NHS. This could be through applying for roles like trainee psychological wellbeing practitioner or high intensity therapist.

More information

Professional and industry bodies

You could join the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies for professional accreditation and training opportunites.

Further information

You’ll find more details about routes to qualifying through the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and Health Careers.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • active listening skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

You might work on a one-to one basis or in groups to:

  • assess clients to see if they’ll benefit from CBT
  • build trust, discuss therapy plans and focus on what clients want to change
  • encourage clients to talk about feelings and behaviour
  • teach skills and techniques that build positive ways to think and act
  • help clients practise the changes you’ve discussed
  • check clients’ progress
  • provide advice to other health professionals
  • talk to family members
  • keep accurate records
  • follow data protection and confidentiality rules

Working environment

You could work at a health centre, in an NHS or private hospital, in the community, in a prison or in a therapy clinic.

Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could supervise other CBT practitioners.

You could set up your own practice, working as an independent practitioner and seeing patients privately.

You could also specialise in teaching or research for a healthcare trust, college or university.

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