As an education mental health practitioner (EMHP), you'll be able to help children and young people with mental health difficulties and get them the support they need

The relatively new education mental health practitioner (EMHP) role increases the mental health support that young people get, in an environment that is well known to them. It is a part of the government initiative to provide more mental health support in schools and colleges.

You'll work with different primary and secondary schools or further education colleges. Travelling between them, you'll offer low-intensity cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions to children and young people with mental health difficulties, such as depression and anxiety.

You will generally work in a group or one-to-one setting and you will also support the school or college in promoting a whole school mental health approach. In some settings, you will collaborate with parents and carers.

Responsibilities

As an EMHP you'll need to:

  • undertake both group and person-centred one-to-one intervention, generally based on CBT and guided self-help techniques
  • travel between schools and colleges undertaking early interventions and assessments of children and young people - a driving license may be required
  • be empathic and compassionate in dealing with the young people accessing the service
  • communicate effectively and build meaningful therapeutic relationships with young people
  • refer young people to alternative services or to a high intensity support service if necessary
  • plan, implement and manage own caseloads
  • write up confidential notes from client meetings and keep records in accordance to relevant ethics and confidentiality guidelines
  • provide training to schools and other mental health agencies about the mental health needs of children and young people
  • establish and maintain effective professional relationships with a range of staff at schools or further education colleges, with relevant social care and mental health colleagues and with other agencies as needed
  • involve, consult and educate family members or carers as appropriate
  • promote a whole school approach with regards to mental health
  • promote awareness of mental health and the training of self-management of mental health.

Salary

  • Trainee education mental health practitioners are appointed at an NHS Band 4 (or equivalent) level, with starting salaries from £21,892.
  • Once qualified, EMHPs move up into NHS Band 5, where salaries start at £24,907.
  • The British Psychological Society (BPS) and the British Association for Behaviour & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) is in the process of registering the EMHP role in their new Wider Psychological Workforce Register. Once completed, it is expected that experienced practitioners can progress to senior practitioner roles within band 6, with a starting salary of £31,365

The NHS pays a London high-cost area supplement at 20% of basic salary for inner London, 15% for outer London and 5% for fringe areas.

Income data from NHS Agenda for Change - Pay Rates. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You will work a regular 37.5 hours a week, usually 9-5, however some flexibility and evening work may sometimes be required depending on the needs of the school or college.

Part-time opportunities are available as are permanent and fixed-term roles.

What to expect

  • As this is still a relatively new role, you may be studying in a newly set-up course and working in a newly established mental health support team. The ability to adapt, problem solve and ask for help when needed is crucial.
  • The work can be challenging as you will hear and read about distressing experiences from children and young people.
  • You'll usually work both from the office of your employer and at different school and college settings.
  • You will typically work within a mental health support team (MHST). The teams work in schools and further education institutions and usually consist of a group of EMHPs and other more senior mental health and social care professionals.
  • Frequent and local travel is common, and a driving license can be a requirement of the role. Overnight stays are uncommon.
  • Men and those from an ethnic minority background are generally underrepresented in psychological professions in the UK. Health Education England (HEE) are looking into initiatives to improve widening participation into the EMHP role as one of six psychological professions. The NHS is working to increase equality and diversity in their workforce and to ensure an increase in recruitment from underrepresented groups.

Qualifications

The most common route for becoming an education mental health practitioner is via the postgraduate diploma. For the postgraduate course, you can have a degree in any subject, but particularly useful ones are those relevant to:

  • children and young people
  • health and wellbeing
  • education
  • psychology.

Some universities accept applicants without a degree, either completing a graduate diploma or completing a postgraduate diploma if you can show a portfolio of relevant experience. You must be able to study at degree level.

For either programme, there is no set criteria for experience required, however you may need experience of working or volunteering with children or young people, preferably in a mental health or education setting, in order to be successful in getting a place on the course. A broad understanding of mental health and wellbeing issues is also desirable.

To enter both courses, you will need to apply for a trainee education mental health practitioner role with a local mental health support team (MHST). Once you have been offered a trainee position, you can then apply for the diploma. Trainee roles are usually advertised through NHS Jobs and voluntary agencies.

The course is 12 months long and consists of both study days and employment days with your allocated MHST and includes both academic work and supervised practice with your own client caseload. You will need to be organised to divide your time between seeing clients and completing university assignments in your trainee role. The course is funded by Health Education England and comes with a salary at band 4 on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale. Contact individual institutions for queries around self-funded places.

Skills

You'll need:

  • good communication and interpersonal skills in order to form therapeutic relationships with children and young people
  • resilience and to be comfortable with working with children and young people with often distressing experiences
  • the ability to liaise and network with education and mental health colleagues, often from different seniorities in a multi-disciplinary team, in a positive and professional way
  • strong organisational and time management skills to manage own caseload and make sure you keep up with other responsibilities, such as meetings with other professionals and record-keeping
  • the ability to work under pressure and be self-reflective
  • the ability to work independently and often come up with quick solutions as you will often be the only EMHP in the school
  • basic IT skills, especially with regards to word processing and database management, as you will need to create and keep records of client meetings
  • understanding of ethics and confidentiality surrounding working with children and young people.

Work experience

Work experience with children and young people, particularly in a mental health or education setting, is advantageous and may be essential for some roles. Experience in any role within schools is also useful, to gain an understanding in how schools operate and how they are structured.

You may be able to get paid work in a variety of roles, such as a teaching assistant, learning mentor, work in a variety of summer schools or camps, mental health support work or as a healthcare assistant in a mental health ward. Social care work, particularly with families, would also be useful.

You may also be able to gain valuable experience through voluntary work. Contact your university volunteering department for a list of opportunities relevant to mental health and/or education or seek out local charities.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

Employers

You usually work in a mental health support team (MHST) connected to a local NHS trust, council and/or a voluntary agency. Trainees that successfully complete the 12 months training programme typically move into a band 5 role within the same service.

Look for job vacancies at:

Jobs will also be advertised directly by local authority and third sector services.

You can set up an alert through NHS Jobs to be alerted of new vacancies.

Professional development

The British Psychological Society (BPS) and the British Association for Behaviour & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) are in the process of registering the EMHP role in their new Wider Psychological Workforce Register.

This will be something you can join as a practitioner to give you professional recognition and it will allow you to show you're working to high quality standards in clinical practice. If you're working within the NHS, it will be compulsory for you to join the register but you can choose whether you want to do so with the BPS or BABCP. The register should be available to practitioners soon and once it is open there will be a transition period of 12 months for you to become registered.

You'll be required to carry out a certain amount of continuing professional development (CPD) in order to be on the register and the BPS or BABCP will give you access to CPD opportunities, knowledge exchange and professional networking.

The register also offers public protection as it allows those looking for an EMHP (employers, agencies or members of the public) to know they’re accessing practitioners who are meeting certain high levels.

You‘re expected to undertake further courses relevant to your role once you’ve qualified. You will also study courses related to topics such as safeguarding, confidentiality and data protection. Online professional development is available through the NHS online learning platform. Training is also available through MindEd.

You'll be expected to attend regular supervision meetings to improve your own skills and knowledge. EMHP supervision training is available.

At some universities you are able to take on additional study in order to complete a Masters while in the trainee role.

Career prospects

The EMHP role is linked to government guidance related to increasing mental health support in schools. It is expected that there will be a high demand for education mental health practitioners in the future.

There is usually a clear progression route within the NHS, however the EMHP role is new and a structured path does not currently exist. Once the EMHP role has been included on the Wider Psychological Workforce Register, it is expected that you’ll be able to move into more senior practitioner roles. There is currently ongoing work with employers to recognise the expertise and skills of the role to help set up the career progression pathway.

As a senior practitioner you may supervise, mentor and train trainee and qualified EMHPs in your team.

As this is a new role, the EMHP may develop further in the future, with possible specialisms and research opportunities.

As an EMHP you will have great skills and clinical experience for other jobs within education and mental health and may choose to work in the NHS, in education or in the charity sector. You may also want to specialise and take further mental health training in order to advance to more senior mental health and/or psychologist professions, such as clinical psychology, dependent on your education background and experience.

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