- Psychotherapy Training
Psychotherapy Training at Tavistock Relationships
By Heidi Renton
“Why Couple Therapy?” and “How on earth did you get into it?”
These are two questions I’m frequently asked.
Most people seem genuinely curious about both the nature of my work, and how/why I decided to switch careers. And I always enjoy discussing what was literally a life-changing decision to move completely away from a field of work I knew inside out, and step into the unknown of a wholly different training, and – I hoped – a new, more flexible and rewarding professional life.
Why change career in the first place?
In 2013, a workplace restructure made me wish I had more control over my role and my work-life balance. I wasn’t unhappy in my media education work, but it was London-based, and I live in Hampshire! As well as over three hours daily commuting, the job entailed a huge amount of travel, and very long days. Fast approaching my 50s, I realised I was frequently exhausted, and keen to find a different way of working. I resolved to reshape my working life into an interesting career which was completely under my control, where I could work as little or as much as I wanted to, right up to – and even beyond – retirement age; a career in which my age and life experience would actually count in my favour, rather than against me.
Why train as a therapist?
I’d long thought that I might enjoy counselling work, as I’m always curious to hear about other people’s lives. I was also aware that the NHS had recently launched their national Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, and it felt like people were increasingly prepared to talk about mental health issues – so perhaps it was a good time to train for a ‘talking therapy’. Initially, I was clueless about the different types of therapeutic approaches, or what I might enjoy. After some desk research, I settled on psychotherapy: this ‘classic’ approach, working with the unconscious, made sense to me and greatly appealed.
So why couple therapy?
A conversation with a couple therapist friend proved to be pivotal, as she described the various challenges – but also the joys – of working with three people in the room. We discussed the importance of couple relationships in our society, how they affect every aspect of our lives, and can be crucial not just to adult mental health, but also the welfare of children. Reflecting later on our conversation, and on my own relationship experiences and family history, I decided that couples therapy was sufficiently interesting for me to specialise in it. Once that switch had flicked in my head, I was ready to seriously consider undertaking a psychotherapy training. But where to start? Now I’d made the decision, I had so many questions – the key one being obviously …
How many years does it take to qualify as a couple psychotherapist?
This was crucial, as I couldn’t afford to give up my current work and throw myself into a full-time course – but I also didn’t want to spend ages training. I set myself the goal of taking three to four years from starting my training, to actually being paid as a couples therapist (spoiler alert: I achieved it!). This led to the next important question …
How do I train to become a psychotherapist?
Choosing exactly the right course was obviously vital. My therapist friend had stressed the importance of ensuring that – whichever course I took – it should be accredited by the BACP. I trawled through their list of approved courses and noted with delight that the Tavistock Relationships training centre was within walking distance of my office. Also, not only did they offer evening classes – so I could continue my current full-time work – but they ran a very comprehensive foundation course. This seemed ideal, as I could get a taste of what couple work might involve, without too hefty a commitment or expense.
Why train at Tavistock Relationships?
I read the website information on the Tavistock ‘Introduction to Couple Counselling & Psychotherapy course’ [Foundation Certificate in Couple and Individual Counselling and Psychotherapy] , focusing particularly on the further training it might lead to. A real selling point for me was that the next stage would qualify me not just as a couples specialist, but also as an individual psychodynamic psychotherapist. Enthusiastic about the possibilities, I was keen to hear my friend’s opinion of the Tavistock: she was hugely positive, telling me "It would be amazing if you could train there – they’re like the gold-standard for couple work! You’d be taught by the people who write the textbooks that therapists all over the world use to learn about relationships!". That was the real clincher for me, to feel I would be investing in the best possible training for this brand new career. However, a new, slightly worrying question, then occurred to me …
Do I need a background in counselling or psychology to train at Tavistock Relationships?
I attended an Open Evening at Tavistock Relationships, feeling quite nervous as to whether – with no previous background in counselling (I was in marketing before media education) – I would be considered as suitable counsellor material. However, I chatted to therapists who had trained there, and was relieved to discover that my communication skills, plus my natural curiosity and empathy, would probably stand me in good stead. I came away buzzing at how the therapists I’d spoken to had confirmed how rewarding the work can be, and how happy they were to have such a flexible career. This was exactly what I wanted to be doing! But would Tavistock Relationships accept me, given their reputation and profile in the world of therapy training?
I nervously sent off my application, and was overjoyed to be invited to an interview – which was more like a fascinating conversation. When I was accepted onto the introductory course, it felt like such an achievement. I had made the first, significant step towards changing my career, and I couldn’t have been more excited.