Are you thinking about becoming a psychotherapist? Then The Best Psychotherapy Training Courses in Australia is the blog for you!
My colleague Karen Bieman, in search of psychotherapy training for herself, has rounded up the best psychotherapy training institutes in Australia that she could find.
If you are studying a classic psychotherapy training somewhere great and we’ve missed it, do feel free to tell us all about it and add the link in the comments below.
What is Psychotherapy?
What comes to mind when you hear the term “psychotherapy”? Perhaps you see an image of a person reclining on the psychotherapist’s lounge, waiting to be ‘analysed’ by an expert. Or maybe you visualise a movie scene with a psychotherapist (probably bespectacled and definitely male) sitting in a dark room with a notebook and pen, hand on chin, scrutinising the patient. What is psychotherapy? Is it the same as social work, psychology, or counselling? Can any therapist call themselves a psychotherapist?
Whatever your assumptions are about psychotherapy, they are likely to be different from other readers, because up until recently, in Australia, there has been no clear definition of what psychotherapy actually means. Fortunately, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) has come to the rescue, recently updating their Definition of Psychotherapy, referring to it as “a holistic engagement that focuses on the mental, emotional, relational or spiritual health of a human being.” With the relationship central, the “psychotherapist and client work together to understand conscious and unconscious aspects of the present lived experience of the client.” More than just symptom reduction, psychotherapists seek to understand the causes of longstanding patterns and how past experiences impact the client’s present life, helping clients gain new insights and make “conscious choices that lead to a different experience of themselves and the world.”
Psychotherapy training, much like the psychotherapy process itself, is deep journey of the soul. Training is lengthy and requires extensive personal psychotherapy, as the psychotherapist’s own self is an important component of this approach. A psychotherapist needs a deep understanding of the self and their own attachment and developmental injuries and unconscious patterns. For an in depth discussion around why the therapist’s own therapy is the foundation to becoming a great psychotherapist, you can read more at Why Your Therapist Should Be in Therapy.
How to Become a Psychotherapist?
Until recently, there has been much confusion in Australia about what differentiates psychotherapy from other disciplines, and who can call themselves a Psychotherapist? Although it is still an unprotected title, PACFA’s 2020 release of their Psychotherapy Training Standards, will help clarify the distinct profession of psychotherapy and how to become a Registered Clinical Psychotherapist®️ in Australia. This is good news for those called to train to become a psychotherapist and even better news for people wishing to embark on a personal psychotherapy journey – it means they will receive actual psychotherapy by practitioners actually trained in psychotherapy and to a high standard.
The “formation of the psychotherapist” is an integral part of the training and involves:
- Integration of training, supervised practice, and personal therapeutic work
- Relational depth within the training, personal work, client work and supervision
- The ability to critically reflect on and articulate practice
To be accredited by PACFA’s College of Psychotherapy, specialised psychotherapy training must be at a level and depth equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree or higher over a minimum of 3 years, and must include:
- 450 hours of direct training (face to face or online synchronous learning)
- 200 psychotherapy client contact hours, supervised within the training course
- 150 hours of personal therapeutic work with a qualified psychotherapist in the same theoretical orientation of the training
If the psychotherapy training does not meet these standards, psychotherapist formation can take place through additional training, supervised practice and personal therapy. After qualifying as a psychotherapist, accreditation requires:
- 750 post-qualifying client contact hours and 75 individual hours of supervision by a psychotherapist supervisor
- A written case study of a long-term psychotherapy client, demonstrating psychotherapy core competencies
Here are some of the best psychotherapy training courses in Australia:
These courses may lead to accreditation as a psychotherapist with PACFA. Things do change so be sure to check the PACFA and the below psychotherapy training websites for up-to-date information.
Australia New Zealand Process Oriented Psychology (ANZPOP)
Process Work, also known as Process Oriented Psychology is an integrative approach, working with the mind, body, spirit and social context. It is transpersonal, somatic and psychodynamic, working with both known and unknown parts of identity and experience, leading to greater self-awarenesss and integration of inner and outer diversity. It is an evolving approach, based on psycho-social-political and bringing together Taoist philosophy, Jungian psychology, communications and systems theory, indigenous healing traditions, and quantum physics.
Mastery Level Training (AQF 9) by ANZPOP is a rigorous program of study for people who:
- Are already familiar with process oriented psychology through formal or informal study in Process Work
- Wish to deepen their experience and develop a level of mastery in the approach
- Have engaged in personal therapy with a Process Work Diplomate
- Have strong dreaming signals including night-time dreams, life events or synchronicities supporting the desire to undertake this training
The training course is rigorous, demanding, and deeply rewarding, going far beyond learning the theory and intervention tools. It is a transformative experience requiring significant personal development and self-awareness.
The training takes 4-9 years of equivalent full-time study in a blended format, with in-person workshops for each subject. Fee information is available at the website and does not include the cost of personal therapy or supervision.
This course almost meets the stringent PACFA training standards, with 520 hours of training, 200 client counselling hours and 130 hours of personal therapy.
Gestalt Therapy is a unique blend of existential, phenomenological (present focused) and process-experiential approaches, focusing on moment-to-moment awareness, and ownership of the person’s internal and external responses to the environment in which they find themselves. Gestalt therapy is a relational approach, helping people develop in self-awareness and awareness of contact with others. Holistic in nature, Gestalt Therapy incorporates phsycial, psychological, emotional, interpersonal, intellectual and spiritual experience. The goal is to be fully present in the here and now, self-aware and relationally sensitive.
Gestalt Therapy Brisbane
The Master of Gestalt Therapy is a intensive specialist qualification that leads to registration with the PACFA College of Psychotherapy. Students are taught specialised theoretical knowledge and the methodology of Gestalt therapy as applied to individuals, groups, couples, families, organisational settings, corporations and communities.
The course takes a minimum of 4 years, even if students have other relevant qualifications, as it is recognised that the development of therapy skills is a lengthy process of gaining clarity about personal process and possible interference with therapy work.
Entry to this course requires a relevant undergraduate degree and completion of the nested Graduate Certificate of Gestalt Therapy. The course delivery includes monthly weekend residentials and an annual 6-day residential intensive in Brisbane. As this course is an AQF9 Master program, fee help may be applicable. Further information is available at the website. The course includes 688 hours of training, clinical practice hours, and 40 hours of personal psychotherapy with a Gestalt psychotherapist.
The Relational Institute Australia (Sydney)
The Advanced Clinical Training in Contemporary Gestalt Therapy is creative, experiential and dynamic training in Gestalt therapy skills and application. Focusing on student’s personal & professional development lays a foundation for a solid relational clinical practice.
This course is only 2 years in duration, so additional training would be required to meet the PACFA psychotherapy training standards. Entry to this course requires a related bachelor degree, although consideration may be given to those with a counselling diploma or vocational certificate together with extensive relevant work experience.
Gestalt Therapy Australia (Melbourne)
The Advanced Clinical Training in Relational Gestalt Therapy focuses on developing personal awareness and therapeutic skills, enabling graduates to work with others in profoundly healing ways. Far from being a dryly academic course, this is a deeply experiential, holistic learning process that “fosters capacities essential for deep connection.”
The four-year program looks at:
- Year 1 – Self: How am I in the world? What do I sense, feel and think?
- Year 2 – Self and Other: Who am I with you and who are you with me?
- Year 3 – Self in Context: How do the contexts from which I have emerged shape me?
- Year 4 – Self and Other in Context: Who am I as an emerging Gestalt Therapist?
Individual psychotherapy is recommended for the entire 4-year training course. Fifty hours of weekly or fortnightly psychotherapy (preferably with a Gestalt psychotherapist) must be completed by the commencement of 3rd year. 100 hours of supervised client contact is also included in the final two years, which may be conducted as part of an internship at the ConnectGround Clinic.
Admission to the course requires an undergraduate degree and 2 years of supervised work experience. In some circumstances, special admission may be granted where an applicant can demonstrate relevant life or work experience and a history of personal therapy, along with suitability for this work. An individual and group interview are also required.
Australian Association of Buddhist Counsellors and Psychotherapists (AABCAP)
AABCAP seeks to integrate Western Psychology and Eastern Buddhism, bringing together therapists who wish to practice Buddhist-influenced counselling and psychotherapy. The two-year postgraduate Professional Training Course in Buddhism and Psychotherapy involves 10 face-to-face weekend training modules and 3 residential retreats, providing a balance of theoretical and experiential learning with the opportunity to experience Buddhist teachings and practices.
Entry requirements include 200 hours of basic psychotherapy/counselling training, 3 years relevant post-qualifying clinical experience, at least 10 hours of clinical supervision during training and a minimum of 30 hours of supervised clinical practice. Other relevant qualifications and clinical experiences are considered and Monastic applications are encouraged.
The Equine Psychotherapy Institute
Horses and therapy combine in the Equine Psychotherapy Institute’s Postgraduate Equivalent Training in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. This training is a ‘PACFA Accredited Specialist Course’ and Australia’s most comprehensive training in Equine Assisted Practice. It is a trauma-informed psychotherapy model, with its own theory and practice methodology, based on a relational, experiential and experimental approach. With an I-Thou therapeutic relationship at its heart, phenomenological process and client awareness are enhanced by the therapist’s self-awareness and use of the Self as part of the approach. An essential part of the training is the development of core competencies in horse handling based on an I-Thou approach with horses.
Applicants must already be qualified as an allied health care professional with current registration as a Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Psychologist, Social Worker, Mental Health Occupational Therapist or Credentialed Mental Health Nurse. An interview process forms an important part of the application.
This course is not automatically eligible for registration with PACFA, as Specialist Training schemes are a ‘specialisation’, and registrants are required to first have training in counselling and psychotherapy that meets PACFA’s Training Standards. Upon completion, registration with PACFA may be possible if graduates can show that they have another qualification, experience or training that meets PACFA’s Training Standards.
The vision of Metavision Institute is to “Evolve Consciousness through Holistic Education for the betterment of Humankind. They provide “transdisciplinary holistic education “that enhances human potential in the co-evolution of nature, culture and society in sustainable ways.” The universe is seen as sacred, with laws that govern and connect everything and the human being is seen through the lens of eco-spirituality, soul and body awareness. Together, they help to heal despair, depression, isolation and alienation. Metavision offer two PACFA-accreded psychotherapy training courses.
The Specialist Training in Holistic Counselling and Psychotherapy is a PACFA Accredited pathway to becoming a Holistic Psychotherapist. This course is designed to develop specialised and advanced knowledge and skills in holistic counselling and psychotherapy and process-oriented methodologies and skills. The aim is to promote critical questioning and reflection on the human condition, spirituality, and their relationship to wellbeing. Alongside counselling subjects, this training has 3 subjects covering process-oriented psychotherapy and 2 subjects covering inner work.
Admission to this course is based on an online interview, PACFA-accredited training in counselling or psychotherapy and 2 years’ relevant work experience. Applicants who don’t meet this requirement may be granted admission based on either 10 years of relevant work experience or a Metavision Institute Bridging Course for people with no counselling skills training. This 2-year course is offered via blended delivery with intensives at Burradoo, NSW.
Metavision have also recently released an AQF9 Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Holistic Practice), which will be discussed later.
Association of Transpersonal and Experiential Psychotherapists (ATEP)
The Association of Transpersonal and Experiential Psychotherapists offer Transpersonal and Experiential Psychotherapy (TEP) training that falls under the approved training options for membership of the PACFA College of Psychotherapists.
TEP emphasises self-awareness, creativity and the unfolding of the authentic self. It is a holistic psychotherapy approach, incorporating body-mind, soul-spirit and feelings-emotions. Some of the modalities included are:
- Symbol Work
- Transpersonal Breathwork
- Voice Dialogue
- Emotional-processing work
- Body-focused work
- Group sharing
This is a highly experiential training course, inviting students to the experience of inner knowing, sensitivity and skills, to foster personal and spiritual development of the students. Graduates will have learned to trust their intuitive, sensate, feeling and thinking functions; they will be self-aware, authentic, with an awareness of the use of transference and countertransference.
A unique feature of this course is that all subjects are integrated into the entirety of the training, rather than being taught in distinct modules. Overall, Transpersonal and Experiential Psychotherapy involves the restructuring of the personality and the self and use psycho-spiritual approaches to help clients manage their emotional and spiritual health.
The course is conducted over a minimum 3-year period and includes field experiences throughout the training.
What About Psychotherapy Trainings that are not PACFA-Accredited?
The following courses are not currently officially accredited by PACFA, although may be in the process of gaining accreditation. For people who are already eligible for PACFA registration, these courses may be particularly useful for specialisation as a psychotherapist and possible membership of the PACFA College of Psychotherapy.
You may find that one of the psychotherapy trainings below is just what you’re looking for.
Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy
Hakomi is a mindful, somatic psychotherapy, leading towards emotional and psychological transformation. Hakomi graduates have a compassionate, mindful, curious attitude towards the self and the client. The Hakomi practitioner reaches beyond the usual skill set of the therapist into “being” with the client with loving presence. Hakomi therapists are equally as dedicated to fully understanding their own process as they are to understanding others.
The Goals of Hakomi Training are:
- A deep understanding of the principles of the Hakomi Method and the ability to work with them.
- An understanding of the organisation of personality and character, and the ability to use this understanding discriminatingly.
- An understanding of the various maps of the therapeutic process and the ability to use those maps and Hakomi techniques precisely and appropriately.
- An understanding of one’s own personality as an instrument for therapy
There are three levels of training:
- Hakomi Fundamental Relationship Skills
- Two 5-day modules in person (Sydney or Perth)
- Three 2-hour webinars between modules
- Hakomi Professional Skills Training
- Four 6-day modules in person (Sydney or Perth)
- Three 2-hour webinars between modules
- Hakomi Advanced Clinical Skills
- Three 6-day modules in person (Sydney or Perth)
- Two 2-hour webinars
Admission Requirements: Participation in one or two Hakomi workshops. Some background in psychology, basic counselling, bodywork or allied health practitioner skills, or one-to-one communication skills. Also, some personal therapy experience.
Australian Psychoanalytic Society
The Australian Psychoanalytic Society offers a Comprehensive Training Program over a minimum of 5 years. Unlike many training programs, there’s no fixed timeframe to becoming a psychoanalyst. There are 3 main parts to the APAS training:
- Personal analysis – This gives candidates a deep understanding of their own unconscious mental life, helping them work through any potential problems or difficulties that may interfere with their ability to work effectively as a psychoanalyst. Analysis takes place in 4 or 5 x 50-minute sessions per week.
- Seminar program – Students participate in a year-long infant observation and weekly clinical and theoretical seminars.
- Supervised psychoanalysis – Beginning with one patient, the student meets them for one-on-one sessions, four or five times a week, followed up by weekly supervision.
- An undergraduate degree
- Previous psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy
- Curiosity about the unconscious mind and the internal world of self and others
- Willingness to work in a clinical setting, within a therapeutic framework that develops at a deep level, over a long period of time.
Location: Branches are located in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide
The Australian and New Zealand Society of Jungian Analysts
The 5-year Jungian Psychoanalytic Training process is deeply personal. Theoretical and clinical seminars are enhanced by the Trainees’ personal analysis, supervision, clinical practice, infant observation visits and related seminars. The ANZSJA Analytic Training is challenging and for many, it is one of the most profound intellectual, psychological and emotional experiences of their lives.
The 5-year training process includes residential and non-residential intensives, small group seminars, online units, and twice-weekly personal analysis with an ANZSJA Analyst throughout the training
The first stage of training (trainee) lasts from 1-3 years and includes an analytically-oriented infant observation of at least 1 year, along with supervised practise to support the student’s learning and develop analytic skills.
The second stage of training (Candidate) includes weekly supervision with two ANZSJA Training Analysts, a psychiatric observation placement, and clinical experience/supervised practice. Some patients/clients will be seen multiple times a week for two or more years. Each Candidate conducts analyses with at least two adult training cases, which must both be seen at least twice per week for at least two years. A Thesis or Project Progression task of approximately 15,000 words on an aspect of Analytical Psychology or related clinical work is also required.
The University of Sydney
The Master of Science in Medicine (Trauma-Informed Psychotherapy) equips clinicians to work in a trauma-informed, specific way with clients, including those suffering from psychological disorders not aided by the more traditional psychotherapies. This may include personality disorders, traumatic and dissociative disorders, anxiety disorders, dysthymia, chronic depression, somatisation and conditions in which chronic complex trauma is a contributing factor.
The therapeutic approach is based on the psychodynamic Conversational Model, but also incorporates theories from self-psychology, intersubjectivity, development, attachment, trauma, memory systems and neuroscience. Concepts of the self, boundary formation, empathic listening, subjective experience, and unconscious traumatic memory systems are all addressed, informed by emerging neuroscience. This training also incorporates a broad person-centred and trauma-informed approach suitable for settings where psychological factors are important and a good therapeutic alliance is crucial.
This 3-year part-time course is suitable for clinicians such as social workers, psychologists, nurses, psychotherapists, counsellors and school counsellors, with at least 12-months of mental health experience. Supervised training in acute, brief and longer-term work is included.
An advantage of this course is that students may be eligible for a Commonwealth Supported Place, significantly reducing the course fee payable by the student.
Admission is dependent upon successful completion of the embedded Graduate Certificate in Science in Medicine or Graduate Diploma in Science in Medicine, or a bachelor degree in a health or science-related discipline.
- Year 1 (Graduate Certificate): Fundamental knowledge and skills in psychodynamic psychotherapy, focussing on ultra-brief psychotherapy, short-term interventions and Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)
- Year 2 (Graduate Diploma): Training and supervision in the longer form of psychotherapy and an introduction to research methods
- Year 3 (Masters): Training and supervision in longer-term psychotherapy. Students also complete a capstone project that synthesises the learning during the course, together with prior learning and experience, drawing conclusions that form the basis for further investigation, and intellectual and/or professional growth.
Australia & New Zealand Association of Psychotherapy (ANZAP)
ANZAP offers a one-year Training in the Conversational Model for short to medium term psychotherapy. On completion of this training, there is an option for a further two years to develop the clinical skills and personal awareness to deliver long-term therapy. The training focuses on working with people who have experienced trauma, complex trauma and personality disorders, as well as other treatment-resistant conditions.
The Conversational Model is a psychodynamic psychotherapy, incorporating developmental psychology, cognitive theory and attachment theory. It is a relational model, emphasising how early developmental relational trauma shapes many severe adult psychiatric problems and how to deal with this in short, medium and long-term therapy. There are 3 phases of psychotherapy in the Conversational Model:
- The establishment of safety and stability in the therapeutic relationship, and attention to language and the development of self, along with the recognition of transference and countertransference.
- Linking in the transference relationship. Exploring affect states and coping strategies, and identifying and processing intrusive traumatic memories.
- Integrating dissociated affects into ordinary consciousness, transforming maladaptive coping strategies, and working with any attachment disruptions in the therapeutic relationship.
The ANZAP training is clinically and academically orientated, yet the learning, understanding and application of the model are experiential and require stringent self-analysis. The intent is to “demonstrate a deep synthesis of the theoretical framework, practical application and awareness of the complex intersubjective realities of psychotherapy.” The course is suitable for social workers, psychiatrists, general practitioners, psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors, mental health nurses and allied health professionals. It is delivered part-time and online, with seminars delivered synchronously.
Personal Therapy: In the first year of training, personal therapy is highly recommended but not mandated. In the second year and third years of training, personal therapy of at least one session per week is required.
Clinical placement hours: Trainees undertake psychotherapy with patients/clients during each year (or three years) of the course, beginning with the first client early in the first year. At the beginning of the second year, a second client is added, for at least one session per week. The three-year course requirement is for one patient/client to be seen for a minimum of 100 hours and a second patient/client for a minimum of 50 hours.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP)
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, founded by Pat Ogden, is a “complete therapeutic modality for trauma and attachment issues.” Using a three-phased approach of safety and stabilisation, processing, and integration, SP works from the bottom-up, using the body as a vehicle for transformation.
Certification in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a 3 level process covering:
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Themes course (36 contact hours)
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Developmental Themes (126 contact hours)
- Advanced Integrative Training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (108 contact hours)
Although SP training is not Australian-based, it is accessible to therapists living here, with the Level 1 training now offered online. The entry requirement is usually a Masters degree; however, Australian applications are independently reviewed with the understanding that the educational requirements for clinical practice vary between different geographical locations. Successful applicants are required to be a member of a regulating body for the practice of psychotherapy that has a code of ethics.
** NB: We are waiting to hear back about Level 2 & 3 being offered either online or in Australia
Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy at Edith Cowan University
The Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy at Edith Cowan includes theoretical study, experiential-based skill development and self-reflective clinical practice in the fields of counselling and psychotherapy.
The overall theoretical orientation of this coursework Masters is psychoanalytic and to a lesser extent systemic.
To be accepted into this course, you’ll need a three-year degree from a recognised university, in an area such as counselling, social work, psychology, medicine, occupational therapy, nursing, theology or human services.
Preference will be given to applicants with at least two years full-time (or equivalent) experience in a formal counselling role.
In the final year of your study, you can hone your clinical skills in a year-long fieldwork placement. Alternatively, if you have relevant previous experience, you can apply to complete a research project
Wrapping it Up
To comply with the new PACFA psychotherapy training standards for registration as a Psychotherapist, students in some of the above courses may need to have additional hours of personal psychotherapy and possibly undertake additional supervised client psychotherapy hours. All of the training courses require prior study in a related field before commencing the psychotherapy training. Not all of the courses lead to registration with PACFA upon completion; however, if a student is already eligible for PACFA registration due to undergraduate studies, this will be less of a concern.
The courses that do not adhere to a particular model of psychotherapy, such as some of the Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy, tend to be more “light on” in terms of meeting the psychotherapy training standards. Without a clear focus on an integrative approach, it is unclear whether they will be considered adequate for psychotherapy accreditation under the new accreditation scheme.
It is encouraging that PACFA is developing and clarifying the training and accreditation standards for psychotherapists in Australia, as it is helping to reduce the long-standing confusion about what constitutes psychotherapy as a unique therapeutic discipline. My hope is that this will continue, and each therapy discipline will be recognised for what it brings to the important work of coming alongside other human beings in their time of great need and helping them flourish.
If you are interested in studying psychotherapy, I hope you have found this blog helpful. I encourage you to reach out to the training institution that has captured your heart to find out more about what it might take for you to gain accreditation as a psychotherapist. I know I will!