Introducing IFT’s Family and Systemic Psychotherapy Qualifying Level: MSc Equivalent 

Our core beliefs, values and legacy 

We believe that training should be tailored to fit the communities that we serve.   

A core value at IFT is the importance of meaningfully increasing diversity and inclusivity of clients, trainees, ideas and contexts where we practice.   

  Family and Systemic Psychotherapy was born as a movement away from intrapsychic models and established itself as discipline committed to responding to the complexities and demands of ever-changing contexts. Family and Systemic Psychotherapists have therefore always been part of a genuine force for social transformation, not conformity.  


Shifting Contexts: The Case for Change 

The ‘treatment gap’ highlights that the most marginalised families often don’t meet the threshold for statutory services or do not find those services accessible to them. For those who do meet the threshold, they may not find state funded mental health and social care services relevant and responsive to their needs.    

In this climate it is community-based and voluntary agencies who have exemplified best practice in this area, working with increasing complexity and demand at grass-roots and community levels; often with limited professional training and support.  

Given that the needs of communities are constantly changing, there has been a movement towards increasing service-user involvement and co-production of services. The co-production movement is now calling for increased accessibility of lived experience into professional training, deconstructing and extending our notions of what constitutes ‘knowledge’ and who gets regarded as a professional.   

According to the World Economic Forum, there is also a global shift towards the right skills being prized over postgraduate qualifications alone.   

IFT’s university relationship has been a constraint for a number of years because of reduced student support and increased financial burden. People from community sectors or those with lived experience, who could train as Family and Systemic Psychotherapists often do not see the training as ‘for them’ because of perceived academic elitism, financial barriers and oppressive experiences of academic settings and processes. For those who do enter into the training, they may experience courses that are too narrow to suit their needs and appreciate their experience. As a result marginalised people are often more likely to be failed by the traditional academic system.  

IFT seeks to increase accessibility of people more embedded within community organisations and those with lived experience into professional training. In doing so we are actively targeting capacity building at community level to address the social inequities laid out above.  

Our new model will reinvest funds that would normally go to universities directly back to trainees. This will enable us to;  

  • keep fees significantly lower  
  • invest in technology and resources to further support students with a diverse set of knowledges and academic experience 
  • give students more tutorials and tailored 1-2-1 support   
  • privilege community-based research with community co-researchers to develop action research with real life impact where it matters 


Some Frequently Asked Questions  

How will this course be different from the traditional Masters courses and how will it stay the same?  

There will not be any difference with regards to the quality or standard of training received between IFT’s qualifying Masters Equivalent course and other Family and Systemic Psychotherapy Masters courses.  The main difference will be the course will not be affiliated with a university therefore we cannot call it a Masters. The clinical training opportunities and hours required are all the same, as is the quality of teaching, and curriculum structure. All the robust elements of family and systemic psychotherapy training as identified by the UKCP Standards of Education and Training: The Minimum Core Criteria for Family and Systemic Psychotherapy standards (Systemic ‘SETS’) are met, and there will be no lowering of academic standards or assessment of knowledge or skills.     

The course will not be affiliated to a university but is directly accredited by the UKCP. Although we cannot call this an MSc, it is of an entirely equivalent standard and qualifies students to register with UKCP as Family and Systemic Psychotherapists. Because we do not have university constraints, we will have more freedom and creativity within the course and how individual learning needs are met. One example will be in the research elements of the course, which will give a huge opportunity to engage in innovative and community-based practice and action-based research practices. In this way our research will directly impact on communities in real time, and answer the questions that they think are important, as well as enabling trainees to learn about how to evidence good practice.   

Why have you given up your university partnerships?  

We highly value academic rigour, and contexts within which people can work together to understand how best to serve families. We have not given up our relationship with universities and have good links with many researchers and academics that input into our courses. However, having our qualifying level course accredited by a university without joint working that is meaningful and progressive, is no longer mutually beneficial.  In the past, the expectations of universities have not allowed us or our trainees to develop the course in ways that work for them or help them feel supported in their journey towards being psychotherapists. We are working with different university faculties currently to understand where there will be added value for us in a partnership – for example in sharing research and knowledge at different levels of training. We don’t know yet how this might look, but we know that the way things are currently structured at master’s level doesn’t make sense for us or our trainees and the families they continue to serve.   

How does this compare to other psychotherapy trainings and institutes? 

Currently other family and systemic psychotherapy trainings at qualifying level are called an MSc, and are affiliated to a University that awards Master’s degrees. We are the first organisation to free ourselves from this constraint since this became the precedent in our profession, although it is a relatively recent move to have the trainings as a Master’s course at all. The UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy) are supportive of multiple ways to access trainings. This is true for other psychotherapies of different modalities such as group psychotherapy trainings run by the Institute of Group Analysis (IGA); a close relation of family therapy. The UKCP argue that this is much better for the profession and represents real choice.   

How will academic standards be maintained? 

We are committed to transparency and absolutely clear that our standards for academic and clinical practice are openly moderated and subject to external scrutiny.  Our academic and professional standards are set and monitored through external advisory boards. This also includes how we are including families, trainees, and stakeholder voices in all our developments.  There are three external boards monitoring our work and guiding our standards:  

  1. Academic Standards Board – chaired by Professor Robbie Duschinsky University of Cambridge; including Dr. Eia Asen, and Professor Peter Stratton; 
  2. Professional standards board chaired by TBC; 
  3. Participation board, chair to be confirmed.  

 We will continue to meet the standards for the European Family Therapy Association (EFTA) in so much as their membership concern is regarding hours of clinical experience in courses, and in this respect we exceed their requirements.   

Will I be able to register with UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy) when I have completed it? 

All of our graduates will be eligible to register as a Family and Systemic Psychotherapist with the UKCP.   The important qualification for working in any community, private or statutory setting is the UKCP award.  

Will there be a 2-tiered system? Will some courses be viewed as better than others because they have a Master’s? 

It may be very important to some people to receive the Master’s degree award and we understand this very well, including the global recognition of this kind of recognised standard. We acknowledge the global meanings and importance ascribed to education, particularly the embedded colonial histories of the English Education system.  We also acknowledge that should a 2-tiered system emerge from within our profession, we may risk ‘othering’ the already ‘othered.’ For some people it is the academic award that legitimises their work and achievement at this level of study, and we would never want to dismiss this as an important element of the achievement at qualifying level for a lot of people. We recognise that they will choose to study where this is possible, and we wholeheartedly support other courses who continue in the university context.  

To some people whether their qualification is called a Master’s, or not, will not matter as much to them as being trained as a psychotherapist having received an innovative and quality training where they are supported to be effective practitioners. Given that most other therapeutic trainings already have more than one route into qualifying, supported by the UKCP and given the equivalence precedence that already exists with statutory organisations, the only reason for there to be a 2-tiered system is if we as a discipline create one. We believe that if people are thinking and working in a systemic way there should be a great deal of room for difference.  We also believe that once this relatively subtle change is embedded, like any other change, it will become the norm.   

What are people saying about this change? 

IFT recently had a UKCP review where UKCP highly recommended IFT as an Organisational Member and accredited the course wholeheartedly. They commended how IFT ‘was embedding EDI in everything they do’ and that  ‘the amended programme is a positive step in the organisation’s evolution and systemic psychotherapy community overall and is to be celebrated.’ 

Some people are concerned that not having a Master’s award will somehow discredit the profession and we have given the reasons we don’t agree above.   

A great many people have asked us to persist with this change because of the options it gives people for alternative ways of training in family and systemic psychotherapy. We are regularly asked by people who want to apply if we are going forward with the course. They want to train with us because of our clear commitment to social justice, how this translates increasingly into our trainings in a real way, how this increases access to trainings for community sector workers, and how learning with us will involve a reciprocal relationship with communities. These things are placed alongside our existing and long-standing reputation for robust and high-quality trainings.  

 We believe that the profession has always been radical and we hope that our training course is supporting the profession towards change that will reignite this radical and progressive value base in action. A great many have expressed their wholehearted support.    


If you have a question that is not answered here, then do please talk to us.  

Our open evening where we will be discussing the course will be held on Thursday 12th October 6pm – 7.30 pm online and we very much look forward to meeting you and exploring the potential of the course for you.  

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