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How to become a psychotherapist in europe

Hello Expats! Future Hopeful, here.

TL:DR Partner and I are trying to move to the EU (specifically Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, or Finland, depending on several factors) in the next 2-5 years and I am trying to figure out what of my profession is transferable and how much more schooling and/or certifications I’ll need as a mental health counselor.

My partner and I are working on a long-term plan to either live abroad, in the EU, as expats for a short time or immigrate for the long-haul. He has been working on possibilities with his job, at which there is an office in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He’s a software engineer, so we aren’t very worried about him transferring offices or finding a different job. I, on the other hand will be (when we make the move) a Masters degree holder of Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Our top countries that we’d like to live in (in this strict order), and plan to visit next summer are:


For those of you who have made a move from the US, are a licensed mental healthcare worker in the EU: what did you need to do in order to obtain licensing in the country where you now live? If you feel comfortable, please share your degree(s) and credentials so I can compare with my own current professional path. Did you need license and/or national certification to be recognized in the EU?
Is a PhD required in your current country?

In advance: If I were to gain my license to practice (LPC) in the US, it would take 3 years of work post-grad and the license is state (not country) specific. I do plan to obtain national certification (NCC). We have considered delaying the big move until I am licensed, depending on how much difference that makes for me.

Thank you all so much!

Clarifying edit: several folks have commented the need for being fluent in the country’s official language. I am not currently fluent in anything but English (I know enough Spanish to get around in a Spanish-speaking country but not fluent) but I am able and willing to learn a new language.

As Europe emerges from the Coronavirus crisis 2020 here is a message from the European Association for Psychotherapy to Psychotherapists, to those in need, to Governments across Europe and to the EU.

Patricia Hunt, President of the European Association for Psychotherapy.

EAP 30th Anniversary Congress March 2022

We are delighted to announce the EAP 30th Anniversary Congress in Vienna, March 12th-13th2022.  The Congress theme is “The Hope of Psychotherapy for our Endangered World”.
President Patricia Hunt,  Chair of EAP Congress,  European Association  for Psychotherapy

EAP Congress Information
Programme / Registration / Tickets

Special information for you due to the Covid-19 crisis – including “Interim Advice for Conducting Psychotherapy Online”. Find more information here …

Patricia Hunt, President of the European Association for Psychotherapy

The vision of The European Association for Psychotherapy is of the continent of Europe being a place in which emotional and mental wellbeing is a human right.

The European Association of Psychotherapy aims to make highly professional, high quality Psychotherapy available to those who need it in EU and non-EU countries alike.

More information | by Patricia Hunt 

The Psychotherapy Act

The Psychotherapy Act encompasses all the professional actions, i.e autonomous interdisciplinary, relationship-based and evidence-informed psychotherapeutic methods, for the treatment of psychological, psycho-social and psycho-somatic disorders and diffculties.

Psychotheraphy Act | more information   About EAP | more information

Online Education/CPD

We partnered with PESI UK, the largest psychotherapy online education provider in Europe, to bring you the very best and latest continuing professional development (CPD), education, and events across psychotherapy topics and modalities. All EAP members, ECP holders registered with EAP, and students of EAPTI’s are entitled to a special EAP 15% discount off.

More Information   PESI UK

International Journal for Psychotherapy (IJP)

The IJP is a peer-reviewed, scientific journal; it is published three times a year by the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP). For further information please go to the website of the International Journal of Psychotherapy (IJP).

International Journal of Psychotherapy (IJP) |

European Certificate of Psychotherapy

An European wide standard for psychotherapy education and training

The European Association for Psychotherapy has established the European Certificate of Psychotherapy to ensure the standardisation of the profession of Psychotherapy throughout Europe.

The European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP) was established to create a comprehensive Europe wide standard for the profession of Psychotherapy.  It ensures equal standards of education and training across Europe.

European Certificate of PsychotherapyThe ECP is awarded by EAP on application to psychotherapists who’s psychotherapy education conforms to the ECP standard.

In addition to the ECP standard, EAP has established and defined the core professional competencies of a European psychotherapist as a set of principles or guidelines in relation to the professional practice of psychotherapy, in all its various forms, across Europe.

The European Certificate of Psychotherapy is currently in general alignment with ISO/IEC 17024 (2012).

Apply for an ECP

There are two possible ways to apply for an ECP, one way is the Direct Award (DA) through one of the European Accredited Psychotherapy Training Institutes (EAPTIs), and the other way is to apply is through Grandparenting procedure that involves recommendation from EAP National Awarding Organization (NAO) and European Wide Awarding Organization (EWAO).

More information | How to apply for an ECP

European Register of ECP Holders

All ECP holders are listed in the European Register of ECP Holders (ECP-R). This tool published on the EAP website enables the search for qualified practitioners all over Europe.

ECP holders receive information about the development of psychotherapy in Europe by e-mail. They may attend the EAP Board meetings as observers but have no voting rights.

European Register of ECP Holders (ECP-R)

Fees in connection with the award of the European Certificate of Psychotherapy

For the administration and maintenance of the EAP website and the ECP-R, ECP holders pay an annual registration fee. The amount varies according to the origin of of ECP holders.

More information

The route towards a career in counselling or therapy is baffling. When I began my journey eight years ago, I was struck by the jargon and lack of clear, streamlined advice: would I need a PhD, masters or diploma? Should I specialise or generalise? Work with adults or children, individuals or groups, families or couples? Pursue humanistic, psychoanalytic or cognitive behavioural training?

I couldn’t even comprehend the difference between a counsellor, psychotherapist and psychologist, let alone the difference between a psychoanalyst and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

The process is convoluted and can quickly become overwhelming. But after many years of self-funded study, training, therapy, work experience and personal investigation I have developed a good understanding of the various routes into the profession. If you are thinking of a career in counselling or therapy, here’s a guide to getting started.

Pick your route

There are five main established paths into this career. In order of the minimum time it takes to qualify, they are: counselling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), clinical or counselling psychology, and psychiatry.

Psychiatry requires training as a medical doctor first, which you can find out more about here. Clinical and counselling psychology are legally protected terms that cannot be used by anyone who is not officially trained in these. It is unethical to call yourself a counsellor, psychotherapist or CBT therapist without appropriate training – and recruiters will not consider you unless you are a registered member of a recognised regulatory body.

Each route has its own leading body: for counselling it is the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy; for psychotherapy it is the UK Council for Psychotherapy; for CBT it is the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP); and for clinical or counselling psychology it is the British Psychological Society. Each of these bodies accredits courses, so save time by choosing an accredited one. While there are other accrediting bodies, not all are recognised by recruiters.

Getting into counselling

Professional counsellor training takes three to five years and can be diploma or degree level. Qualification requires a minimum number of client hours acquired through a work placement.

The training begins with an introduction to counselling. This takes up to three months, but it can be waived if you have some previous experience. You then apply for a certificate in counselling skills (one year), followed by a diploma in counselling (two to three years). Alternatively, you can train through a university counselling degree. Every course is rooted in an academic theory that informs the way counselling is conducted in practice. There are numerous counselling theories, and all courses list their theoretical approach in advance – once trained, you become a counsellor of your chosen approach, which has an impact on your style of counselling and the way you work with clients.

The courses are also intense and emotionally triggering, which is important to know before undergoing training

These can be broadly placed into five categories: psychoanalytic/psychodynamic , which takes the view that a person’s issues are rooted in the past; humanistic , which takes the view that a person’s issues are rooted in their environment; transpersonal, which is more spiritually focused; cognitive, behavioural and cognitive-behavioural, which are more practically-focused, goal-orientated and concerned with the interrelationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviour; and integrative, which is a mix of them all based on what works best for the client.

How does this differ from psychotherapy training?

Psychotherapy is a post-graduate qualification, but your first degree does not have to be in a related field. The training is more academically rooted and can take around five years or more, leading to at least a masters degree.

As with counselling, there are different practices that reflect the different theories. The main difference between a counsellor and psychotherapist is in the academic training. In theory, counsellors work shorter term with life issues, such as bereavement and relationships, while a psychotherapist works over a longer period of time with more complicated or enduring mental health issues. In reality, there is a huge overlap and in practice you will see counsellors and psychotherapists doing both.

What’s involved in cognitive behavioural therapy training?

CBT training is also at post-graduate level but requires a previous degree in a mental health-related field in addition to some experience.

There are two ways into this: through a post-graduate diploma in CBT (listed on the BABCP website), or via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), an initiative to help improve access to mental healthcare within the NHS. This is a cost-effective way to train as it is funded by the government and trainees earn a salary. If you don’t already have a prior qualification in a mental health related field, your professional experience may still count for something if you work in a setting where counselling skills are used, or if you have volunteered, for example, for a helpline.

You can either train to be a low intensity/psychological wellbeing practitioner, working with mild anxiety and depression or a high intensity CBT therapist, working with people with more complex symptoms.

What is clinical/counselling psychology?

A clinical or counselling psychologist acquires a PhD and registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. You must have a degree in psychology first, though you can do a conversion course to obtain one. The job involves research, coordinating teams, formulating treatment plans, as much as it does working directly with clients and patients. The psychologists typically work alongside psychiatrists, who are the only ones allowed to make diagnoses or prescribe drugs, when assessing clients.

Be prepared for intensive training

Whichever route you choose, the financial and emotional investment is substantial. For some courses you may have to attend therapy throughout your training. Additionally, you need to pay extra for disclosure checks, indemnity insurance and supervision. The courses are also intense and emotionally triggering, which is important to know before making a decision to undergo training. It isn’t an easy journey to make but it’s a fulfilling career and the rewards are worthwhile.

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