Taught course

Family Therapy and Systemic Practice

Ulster University · Faculty of Life and Health Sciences

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Entry requirements

Applicants must hold a degree or equivalent (either an existing health and social care qualification, or have completed a psychology degree) or demonstrate their ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior learning. In order to maximise access to training in systemic practice, entry requirements for foundation level training are kept to a minimum. They are:

  • a relevant professional training, or equivalent
  • an opportunity to apply systemic ideas to a current work setting, either voluntary or paid – students must arrange this for themselves

Applicants are required to provide two satisfactory references, outlining their suitability to undertake the course.

All applicants, regardless of qualifications, are advised to use the space provided in the personal statement/additional information section of the online application process, to detail any experience that may be relevant to studying an MSc in Applied Psychology.

Months of entry


Course content

This course provides an introduction to systemic ideas and their relevance in helping us gain a better understanding of individuals, families and the organisations in which we all function. In particular it will appeal to all those working in the caring professions who have an interest in developing their practice in terms of working with families. Moreover this type of training offers a broader perspective and understanding of how crucial family dynamics are in the development and maintenance of problems. At the same time it provides creative ways of involving the family in finding solutions to their difficulties.

The programme is fully accredited for Foundation Level Training with the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice. It therefore forms the first step in training to become a fully qualified Family Therapist. Graduates of the course can go on to undertake the next stages in this training - that of Intermediate Level and Masters Level. In addition to this, students working in a variety of work contexts will also benefit from supplementing their own professional skills with the systemic theory and skills learned on the course. Given the broad appeal and applicability of systemic therapy principles, this course will inform and enhance students' understanding and approach to supporting individuals, couples and organisations, as well as families.

The course aims to:

  • Introduce the participants to the field of systemic theory, practice and research;
  • Introduce the participants to the basic skills, applicable to their work settin;
  • Increase participants’ awareness and acceptance of the need for professional practice to be characterised by respectfulness and reflexivity;
  • Provide a basis from which the student may proceed towards intermediate level training.

At the end of the course, successful students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the development of systemic theory in the context of other therapies
  • Evaluate the various schools of thought pertaining to family therapy
  • Identify how stages in the family life cycle can impact on family dynamics
  • Reflect on the impact of culture on families
  • Define and apply the theories underpinning the Milan/ Post-Milan school of family therapy
  • Reflect on their personal and professional stage of development and the impact of systemic theory on these
  • Identify ways in which systemic theory/ practice can be used in other settings

Structure and content

The course is composed of two modules:

Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 1 (30 credits)

In this module, students are introduced to the major models of family therapy and systemic practice and are given the opportunity to learn and practise specific skills and techniques from systemic psychotherapy. The module offers a broader perspective and understanding of how crucial family dynamics are in the development and maintenance of problems, while also providing creative ways of involving the family in finding solutions to their difficulties. Material is covered via lectures and Peer Groups, where students will have the opportunity to put theory into practice through role play and group discussion.

Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 2 (30 credits)

This module builds on students’ knowledge of the main schools of family therapy, to incorporate considerations of working in different therapeutic contexts, working with bereavement, domestic abuse, and child-focused practice. Students engage in full-day teaching workshops, exploring and experimenting in further systemic principles and techniques. This is cemented in ongoing Peer Groups, where students will expand on experiential learning through associated group tasks.

Information for international students

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PCert
    part time
    10 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Professor Gerry Cunningham
+44 (0) 28 7167 5027