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practice with my own relationship clients in London. To gain further experience outside my core couples-practice, I’ve started an NHS placement, working with adults with mental health problems, something I would never have been able to do without this higher-level training. In my practice, I now notice fewer

discussions with my supervisor about being stuck. This is partly because the course has given me a much wider range of approaches to off er my clients. I think it has also, perhaps like the Buddhist goal of ‘learning to know you know nothing’, helped me feel confi dent about saying, “I am not sure”. Previously, I felt I had to have the therapeutic conversation mapped out before me and would freeze if I could not see a way forward. Now, this internal demand that I always get things right fi rst time seems to have faded. I’m hoping I now appear mellower before my clients and that more humour is present in our sessions. Learning we could trust each other as we

helped clients work through often highly challenging experiences was a privileged experience. Eight months on now, and I am wondering if I am a perpetual student, scanning training opportunities. This makes sense as private practice can be lonely and I think, for me, needs to be matched with other team-based activities. This can help keep me more alive before my clients, even if it means more essay referrals!

Sign off In our experience, the MSc in family and

systemic psychotherapy is an excellent way to enhance professional training. While there is no doubt it is academically tough, we believe it does not require academic brilliance, but rather two things. • First: commitment; preparedness to put the hours in; to play an active part in a team; to take risks and to keep going even when under pressure.

• Second: pragmatism. With assignments, stick to the brief you are given; pick topics you know will allow you to reach the grades you need. We both heard many stories, particularly with the research paper, of colleagues who, with great vision, began exploring topics close to their heart and who subsequently became very lost in the process. Of course, some did exceptionally well but, unless you know you have a track record of success here, our advice is – leave that for your doctorate!

Context February 2012

Helen Atkins relaxing with her nephew, John, at the Cambridge folk festival.

Christopher MacGovern Therapy training courses are confusing

in the UK. If a UKCP qualifying-course is important to you, it will probably be building on your existing training. Make sure the course is a qualifying course by verifying it with the relevant UKCP college.

Helen Atkins works as a systemic psychotherapist in a CAMHS 14-19 Young IAPT team in Cambridge.

Christopher MacGovern is a systemic family psychotherapist working with Relate and in private practice in central London.


So you’re thinking of doing an MSc?

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