Study Counselling, Psychotherapy & Occupational Therapy, why & how to study
Counselling and therapy are essential professions, especially for mental health. Study Counselling, Psychotherapy & Occupational Therapy, and you'll know how to impact people's lives.
- Have any questions?
Counselling and Psychotherapy are types of verbal therapy that allow a person to talk through their problems, thoughts and feelings in a confidential and dependable environment. A counsellor or psychotherapist is trained to listen with empathy and without judgement, to understand the patient’s problems and help them deal with negative thoughts and feelings.
Occupational Therapy is the support given to people with mental or physical disabilities. Occupational therapists improve patients’ lives by helping them learn new ways to do things and changing their environments to make everyday tasks easier.
Undergraduate degrees in Counselling, Psychotherapy & Occupational Therapy include:
- Psychology and Counselling BSc
- Humanistic Counselling BA
- Counselling and Psychotherapy BA
- Occupational Therapy BSc/MOccTh
Options may include an integrated foundation year or master’s degree. Courses include practical placements.
For occupational therapy, degree apprenticeships may sometimes be available, where you can work and earn at the same time as gaining a qualification. You have to apply through an employer, and you’re not eligible for student grants.
Most undergraduate Counselling, Psychotherapy & Occupational Therapy courses ask for 88–152 UCAS points. Not every university will base their offer on UCAS points and some courses may have lower or higher requirements. Qualifications may include:
- A Levels: AAB–CCC
- BTECs: DDD–MMP
- Scottish Highers: AABB–CCCCC (Advanced Highers: ABB)
- International Baccalaureate: 33–25
Good subjects to have studied include:
- A science or social science at A Level (or equivalent), particularly if studying Occupational Therapy
- General studies or critical thinking A Level may be excluded
- You’ll also need five GCSEs in grades C/4 and above, including one in science
Experience that would look good on your application:
- Talking to a practitioner to understand the requirements of the role
- For occupational therapy, work experience or shadowing in a hospital or clinic, care home or day care centre
- For counselling or psychotherapy, completing an introductory or active listening skills course
- Volunteering in a support role with diverse groups of people, such as for a mental health charity or with disabled children
- Finding out more about the profession and its work from the websites of bodies like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) or Royal College of Occupational Therapy
Other requirements for this subject include:
- Pass in the practical element of science, if taken at A Level
- Due to the nature of this work, you’ll need to complete Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checks (PVG scheme in Scotland)
Typical modules for courses in counselling and psychotherapy include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Core counselling skills and processes
- Developmental psychology
- Humanistic frameworks
- Introduction to listening skills
- Psychodynamic counselling
- The integrative practitioner
- Understanding the therapeutic process and ethical awareness
For courses in occupational therapy, modules may cover:
- Inter-professional working in health and social care
- Investigating trends in occupational therapy practice
- Leadership and enterprise: essential skills for practice
- Occupational performance through the lifespan
- Occupational perspective of population health
- Professional reasoning for occupational therapy practice
- Structure and function of the human body
Assessments are usually carried out by a mixture of the following, and will vary depending on what you study:
- Presentations such as posters or group talks
- Skill improvement work
Courses provide a balance between academic work, skills development, professional practice, individual personal development and self-awareness. Therapeutic models are consistently being researched, and you can be at the forefront of improvements. If you’re studying occupational therapy, you could also get financial support from an NHS bursary.
Career-specific skills, depending on your course:
- Counselling skills including active listening or techniques like CBT
- Development and management of therapeutic groups
- For OTs, use of special equipment, such as wheelchairs and hoists, and designing adaptations to living environments
- Plenty of opportunities to gain real-life experience throughout your course
- Communication and other interpersonal skills
- Empathy and nurturing
- IT literacy
- Undergraduate degrees in Counselling & Psychotherapy may be accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), offering a route to professional membership
- Degrees in Occupational Therapy must be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and may be accredited by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists
Occupational Therapy graduates will work within the NHS, with most roles paid between £25,500–£39,000 (NHS Band 5 or 6). Higher salaries are paid to those who manage a team or a department.
Counselling & Psychotherapy graduates can also work in the NHS within IAPT services (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), if they have the right qualifications. In 2021, a paid training pathway was piloted for counsellors in the NHS, with training offered at master’s level. Counsellors might be paid on NHS Band 5, 6 or 7 (up to £45,800) depending on their role and experience.
Outside the NHS, salaries can be variable. Other sectors employing counsellors include schools, with pro-rata pay commonly around £25,000–£30,000. Often work is part-time, and many counsellors and psychotherapists will also work in private practice or as part of a counselling agency. As with most occupations, managerial experience brings with it higher earnings.
Courses are specific, so students generally go on to practise as counsellors or therapists. With experience, you could become a more senior clinician or manage departments and teams. Alternatively, you could work with general health or social services, teach, go into research, or start a private practice. Roles could include:
- Community-based mental health OT
- High-intensity therapist
- Occupational therapist
- Probation or prison officer
- Social worker
- Special educational needs (SEN) teacher
- Trainer or lecturer
- Wellness coach
- Youth worker
- READ MORE
- How to become a counsellor or therapist
Postgraduate courses also offer a way to train as a counsellor or psychotherapist and may be accredited by a professional body. For occupational therapy, those with a first degree in a related subject can take a graduate-entry pre-registration course to qualify. Other postgraduate courses provide the chance to specialise or extend your skills.
Examples of taught master’s and research degrees at postgraduate level include:
- Advanced Occupational Therapy MSc
- Art or Music Therapy MA
- Counselling Studies MSc
- Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy MSc
- Occupational Therapy (pre-registration) PGDip/MSc
- Rehabilitation MSc
If you’re interested in providing practical support to people or in the workings of the mind, you could also consider:
If you’ve got any questions about studying Counselling, Psychotherapy & Occupational Therapy, you can email our experts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to hear from you!