You'll need excellent interpersonal skills and experience of working with people with mental health conditions to work as a psychological wellbeing practitioner (PWP)
As a PWP you'll support individuals of all ages and cultural backgrounds who are experiencing common mental health difficulties such as mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and low mood. You'll offer a range of low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) based interventions that will help your clients to manage their own recovery.
You'll work with a large number of people in a practical way, with each client session lasting on average 20 to 30 minutes. A fully qualified PWP can expect to help more than 250 patients every year.
Managing referrals and signposting to other agencies are common parts of the role and you'll need to work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as high intensity therapists, employment advisers, other therapists and support staff.
To fulfil your duties you'll need to:
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.
Salaries in the voluntary and independent sector may vary.
Income data from NHS AfC Pay Rates. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Expect to work 37.5 hours per week, generally 9am to 5pm, with the possibility of extra hours in the evening or at weekends.
Occasionally, an on-call system covering emergency situations may be in operation.
Although you don't need a degree to train as a PWP, in practice many trainee roles request a relevant degree or an equivalent qualification. However, commitment to supporting patients with mental health conditions and relevant work experience are equally important in securing a trainee place. The role therefore appeals to people from a range of backgrounds and competition for trainee places is strong.
Graduates must be able to show that they can study to postgraduate certificate level, whereas non-graduates will need to have a significant range of appropriate experience, plus be able to show that they can be trained to graduate level.
Training for the PWP role is set by the national Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) programme and is delivered by local universities. It follows a national curriculum and trainees are all taught the same specific low intensity interventions:
You'll spend 45 days in training, usually spread over two or three semesters, which consists of one day per week at university and four days in supervised practice within your workplace. Training starts throughout the year, but should be completed within 12 months. On completion, you'll be awarded either a postgraduate certificate or an undergraduate award.
Training courses are accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and a list of courses can be found on their website. As the course is a requirement of the trainee role, it's usually funded by your employer. Individual course centres can advise about any self-funded places that may be available.
You will need to show:
As training often involves local travel, having a full driving licence and access to a car is important.
Experience of working with people with mental ill health is essential to secure a trainee PWP position. You should consider looking for opportunities in primary care services such as community support worker roles.
Evidence of long-term volunteering is also helpful as it shows that you're emotionally strong and committed to working with people with mental health issues. These types of vacancies can be found in the not-for-profit and health sector.
It's sometimes possible to arrange to talk to a PWP or to do some work shadowing in your local IAPT service. Find your local psychological therapies service using NHS Choices.
You could work in a variety of different settings, from GP surgeries to the third sector, as well as in psychological treatment centres.
You may be employed directly by the NHS or by a charity that has been commissioned to deliver IAPT services on behalf of the NHS, such as Mind, Turning Point or Rethink. There are also some opportunities to work within the Prison Service.
Look for job vacancies at:
Local press and hospital websites also advertise vacancies.
You may wish to set up an email alert at the NHS Jobs website to receive notification of PWP vacancies in your area. Further advice about local training and recruitment opportunities can be gained from contacting your IAPT regional team.
As a newly qualified PWP you'll be encouraged to take courses to further develop your knowledge and skills. This post-qualification training can be either short courses, lasting up to one week, or longer courses leading to a diploma or Masters.
You will be expected to identify your continuing professional development (CPD) needs, which may include a range of in-service and external training opportunities.
Areas for further training include working with:
With experience, you could be encouraged to undergo training in supervisory, management and leadership skills to oversee the work of other PWPs. Alternatively you could develop specialist skills in working with specific groups of clients, such as those with a learning disability, veterans or those with medically unexplained symptoms, or in a specialist area such as in a prison. Either way, expertise beyond the core PWP role is required and you'll need to undertake CPD training.
However, CPD is not limited to training courses and you'll also be encouraged to take part in other activities that contribute towards your professional development such as shadowing others, reviewing literature, being mentored or working on specific projects.
Once qualified, you could gain recognition of your skills by applying for individual PWP practitioner accreditation either via the BPS or the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP).
This is a relatively new job role and initially there were limited options for career progression as a PWP. This meant that the career was seen by many as a stepping stone into other careers, such as clinical psychology, rather than as a career in its own right. However, this is now changing with the introduction of senior and lead roles.
Career prospects are now good, although the situation varies according to geographical region. There is a clear progression route in place within the NHS and in order to advance through the pay bands you need to show that you have the required skills, experience and knowledge.
With experience you can apply for senior PWP roles (Band 6) by undertaking additional duties involving supervision, management, project leadership, training, specialism and education.
Once qualified you may also be interested in transferring to train in psychological therapies, e.g. high intensity CBT, counselling or alternative areas such as clinical psychology. Although it's not unusual for newly qualified PWPs to use their experience to move into these kinds of areas, IAPT commissioning services are keen to recruit people who want to build a career as a PWP.
For most PWPs, movement into roles delivering high intensity therapies will take over two years post-qualifying, as this is the minimum time required to develop psychological wellbeing skills.