Education mental health practitioner is a growing career that helps children and young people to get early intervention for mental health difficulties
As an education mental health practitioner (EMHP) you'll work to increase the mental health support that young people get, in an environment that is well known to them. The role is part of the government initiative to provide more mental health support in schools and colleges.
Your aim is to give early support for emerging mental health needs, possibly to those who may not already receive, or be eligible for, a specialist mental health service. You'll offer low-intensity interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and guided self-help, to children and young people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety and behavioural difficulties.
You will work with children and young people in primary and secondary schools or further education colleges in group or one-to-one meetings. You will also support the school or college in promoting a whole school mental health and wellbeing approach. In some settings, you'll collaborate with parents and carers.
As an EMHP you'll be part of a mental health support team (MHST) with other mental health professionals. You will work collaboratively and may need to refer the children and young people you see to other agencies.
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
- communicate effectively and build meaningful therapeutic relationships with children and young people
- refer children and 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.
- Trainee education mental health practitioners are appointed at an NHS Band 4 (or equivalent) level, with starting salaries from £25,147.
- Once qualified, EMHPs move up into NHS Band 5, where salaries range from £28,407 to £34,581.
- With experience, you can become a senior EMHP where salaries are in NHS Band 6, ranging from £35,392 - £42,618.
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.
You will typically work around 37 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
- 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 taking action to improve diversity and inclusion across psychological professions. The NHS is working to increase equality and diversity in their workforce and to ensure an increase in recruitment from underrepresented groups.
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
It's possible to be accepted onto the training without a degree if you can demonstrate you're able to work at degree level or have equivalent relevant experience. There may also be the option of completing a graduate diploma if you're unable to do the postgraduate course.
In general, there is no set criteria for experience required, however courses and job adverts for trainees may ask for experience of working or volunteering with children or young people, preferably in a mental health or education setting. A broad understanding of mental health and wellbeing issues is also desirable.
To gain a place on a course, 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. Upon successful completion you're guaranteed to be offered a job with a MHST.
- 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
- empathy and compassion for the young people accessing the service
- 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 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 or work in a variety of summer schools or camps.
Experience within mental health support work (or related services) or as a healthcare assistant in a mental health ward is also valued by employers. Social care work, particularly with families, would also be useful.
You may 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.
For free mentoring resources and experiences designed to support aspiring healthcare and legal professionals - including virtual work experience that is accepted by medical schools, see Medic Mentor.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
You usually work in a mental health support team (MHST) connected to a local NHS trust, council and/or a voluntary agency. As part of the team, you'll be based in primary and secondary schools and further education colleges with young people up to the age of 18.
Trainees that successfully complete the 12 months training programme typically move into a band 5 role within the same local 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.
As a qualified EMHP, you can join the Wider Psychological Workforce Register. This gives you professional recognition and allows you to show you're working to high quality standards in clinical practice.
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. CPD activities can include workshops, webinars, self-directed study, mentoring and reading journals and articles.
You will also need to meet certain requirements for the amount of wellbeing practice you need to complete each week as well as certain levels of skills supervision.
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 also be supported by supervisors who will help you to develop professional knowledge and skills and you’ll attend regular supervision meetings. 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.
The EMHP role is linked to government guidance related to increasing mental health support in schools. It is a growing career and a high demand for EMHPs is expected.
Once you have gained experience in the role, it is possible to become a senior EMHP or an EMHP supervisor. As a senior practitioner you may supervise, mentor and train trainee and qualified EMHPs in your team.
As this is a relatively 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 you may choose to move to roles 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.