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Overview

Accredited therapy training, practice-relevant research methodolgies, and the application of mental health theory across the lifespan.

Summary

Study Applied Psychology (Mental Health and Psychological Therapies) at Ulster University in the United Kingdom.

The programme provides an opportunity for students to enhance their skills and knowledge in areas of applied psychology related to mental health practice and research. It trains and equips students wishing to:

  • Enter further professional training in Clinical, Counselling, Educational or Forensic Psychology;
  • Become more employable for positions in the public and private sector (such as Assistant and Associate Psychologist posts, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner posts, and Research Assistant/Analyst posts);
  • Pursue PhD research in the area of mental health.

In addition, the course has gained full AFT accreditation for Foundation Level training in Family Therapy and Systemic Practice, and full BPS accreditation for Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner training. These can be taken as routes within the MSc programme.

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About this course

In this section

About

The comprehensive syllabus of this MSc programme provides an opportunity for students to enhance their skills and competencies in areas required by all professional psychologists. This includes an exploration of the professional issues encountered in practice, the advanced research methods employed by scientist practitioners, and the techniques and theory associated with psychological assessment, formulation and intervention. The course also provides an in-depth consideration of psychological theory and research concerned with the aetiology, assessment and treatment of psychological problems across the lifespan. Students are provided with a comprehensive knowledge of some of the major psychological therapies, (namely Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Family Therapy and Systemic Practice), and gain practical experience in their use - through live role play and video analysis in the School's skills labs, and experiential group work within lectures.

On certain training routes within the programme, students will have the opportunity to put these skills into practice within a clinical placement. In addition, students undertake a Masters level research project, taking the study from inception and ethics approval, through to data collection, analysis, and writing up for publication. As the course is taught by both experienced researchers and practising clinicians, there is also excellent opportunity to enhance knowledge and skills that will be invaluable for applications and CVs, as well as gaining experience in interview techniques for further professional training and jobs in the field. Finally, the MSc presents a further placement opportunity for students who have completed the course, in the form of a 15-credit standalone placement module ('Clinical Placement in Applied Psychology'). A selection of clinical placements have been secured in Psychology Services in the local Western Health and Social Care Trust, in specialisms including Adult Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Paediatric Psychology, Older Adults, Personality Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder Services. Students who enrol on this post-MSc module will be working as the equivalent of Assistant Psychologists on a voluntary basis in these services, providing valuable work experience to draw upon when applying for posts or further training in professional applied psychology.

Structure and content

To complete the Masters programme, students are required to successfully complete 180 university credits. Programme Routes: There are three different ‘routes’ that students can take during their time on the programme, depending on their interest or the experience they would like to gain from their training. These routes have been designed because feedback from students suggests that some people like to maintain a broad range of skills and experience, whereas others prefer to focus on a particular area of practice. The route students choose may depend on the kind of work or further training that they want to pursue beyond the MSc course itself (note that all 3 routes include the carrying out of an MSc Research Project):

  • The ‘Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner’ route – This route incorporates training as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP), which is fully accredited by the British Psychological Society. PWPs work in primary care mental health services, delivering low intensity psychological interventions (with a CBT focus) for people experiencing mild to moderate emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. This is a well-established role in mental health services in England, and services in Northern Ireland are developing to include a focus on this way of working. Students taking this route will spend time on clinical placement during the course, arranged by the course team (more on this below).
  • The main course route, entitled ‘Mental Health and Psychological Therapies’ – This route offers a breadth of experience in theory and skills training, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Family Therapy & Systemic Practice skills modules, Advanced Research Methods, and a choice amongst key Mental Health and Professional Issues modules.
  • The ‘Mental Health with Family Therapy and Systemic Practice’ route – this incorporates elements of the main course route (e.g. CBT, Mental Health modules, research methods), as well as Foundation Level training in Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (fully accredited by the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice). The training focuses on approaches implemented when supporting families, but also on how these approaches and concepts can be applied to working with individuals. Students on this route must have secured their own work in a therapeutic setting (to enable them to practice systemic therapy skills), including supervision by an accredited therapist.

Route Availability

Full-time students will be able to enrol on any of the three routes on the course (pending any selection procedures). Part-time students will be able to enrol on either the main course route or the ‘Mental Health with Family Therapy and Systemic Practice’ route – unfortunately, part-time students cannot enrol on the PWP route, due to the structure of the training. Route 1: There are a limited number of places on the PWP route, because of the limited number of clinical placements available. Therefore, the course team will be holding interviews for those interested in undertaking this route through the course. Please note:Due to the placement attached to the PWP training, and the supervision provided, there is an increased fee for the modules (worth 75 credits) associated with this training (other modules on the MSc course are charged at the standard rate). Students expressing an interest in this route will be informed of the additional fee (which will depend on university fee levels set for the year). Route 2: The main course route is open to all applicants. Route 3: Students interested in undertaking the ‘Mental Health with Family Therapy and Systemic Practice’ route: Note that those students taking route 2 or 3 will all take the first Family Therapy module (this takes place in Semester 1). Decisions on whether to progress onto taking the second Family Therapy module in Semester 2 can be made during Semester 1 of the programme. Those students who express an interest during Semester 1, and who meet the entry criteria for the second module (i.e. working in a therapeutic setting with appropriate supervision), will be able to continue on the Family Therapy course route and complete the AFT-accredited Foundation Level training (as well as taking the other MSc course modules). Spaces are limited for the second module, so a selection process may take place if there is a high demand. Post-MSc Clinical Placement: Students interested in undertaking the 'Clinical Placement in Applied Psychology' (15-credit standalone placement module that takes place after the course): This module is open to students once they have completed the MSc programme at Ulster, and students enrolled on the programme will be given the opportunity to apply for this as they approach the end of their taught modules in Semester 2.

Attendance

DurationOne year full-time and 2 years part-time.
Mode of Attendance Depending on the route taken, there will be a slight variation in the days that students will be on campus or on placement:

  • PWP students will attend on Wednesdays in Semester 1, with an additional day in their placement context dedicated to placement-related activities; and then Wednesdays and Thursdays in Semester 2, as well as 2 additional days dedicated to placement and placement-related activities.
  • Students on the main course route (‘Mental Health and Psychological Therapies’) will attend on Wednesdays and Thursdays in Semester 1, and Wednesdays and Thursdays in Semester 2. NB: Part-time students will attend on Wednesdays throughout Year 1 and Thursdays in Year 2.
  • Students on the ‘Mental Health with Family Therapy and Systemic Practice’ route will attend on Wednesdays and Thursdays in Semester 1, and Mondays and Wednesdays in Semester 2. NB: Part-time students will attend on Wednesdays throughout Year 1, and on Thursdays (Semester 1) and Mondays (Semester 2) in Year 2.

Skills Block: All students will be expected to attend an initial skills block in the first week of the programme, commencing Monday 26th September 2016 – all students will attend Monday to Thursday; PWP students will also attend on the Friday. Classes will then commence the following week, on the days outlined above.

Start dates

  • September 2016
How to apply

Modules

Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Advanced Research Methods in Applied Psychology

Year: 1

This module is designed to give students training in the advanced qualitative and quantitative research methods that are required for contemporary research in applied psychology. The major focus will be on research methods for mental health and health psychology. Quantitative and qualitative research methods will be covered. Important issues such as data collection and research ethics will also be discussed. Students will become familiar with a single set of data from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) (a population study of mental health disorders in the US). They will also have the opportunity to design a qualitative study and evaluate qualitative evidence.

Research Project

Year: 1

This module will provide students with the chance to develop a substantial piece of work of their own, enabling them to demonstrate their understanding and the application of advanced research methods to a practical research issue of relevance to applied psychology (in the areas of mental health/illness or effective mental health care practice) and at a level of scholarship appropriate to Masters level.

Professional Issues (with Community Engagement Project)

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module aims to introduce students to therapeutic and psychological practice that operates from an inclusive values base, which promotes recovery and recognises and respects diversity. It emphasises the need to respect and value individual differences in age, sexuality, disability, gender, spirituality, race and culture, as well as the need to account for physical and sensory difficulties people may experience in accessing services, and to make provision for supporting these difficulties. The module underlines a clinical responsibility to respond to people?s needs sensitively with regard to all aspects of diversity, and to maintain a commitment to equal opportunities for all and encourage people?s active participation in every aspect of care and treatment. The module also places an emphasis on promoting understanding of social inclusion, the complexity of people?s health, social and occupational needs, and the services that can support people to recovery. It underlines the importance of recognising limitations to competence and role, and to direct people to resources appropriate to their needs. In addition, the module maintains an important focus on the role of supervision and reflective practice in applied psychology settings.

Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health

Year: 1

This module is optional

Developing a broad based understanding and a thorough knowledge base in relation to commonly encountered psychological disorders and disabilities, their classification, aetiology and underlying processes, is recognised as being fundamental to the provision of effective and meaningful treatment interventions. This module considers issues relating to the aetiology and assessment of clinical presentations in childhood, and methods on intervention and prevention. It provides a theoretical background to practice in clinical settings for children.

Adult Mental Health

Year: 1

This module is optional

Developing a broad based understanding and a thorough knowledge base in relation to commonly encountered psychological disorders and disabilities, their classification, aetiology and underlying processes, is recognised as being fundamental to the provision of effective and meaningful treatment interventions. This module considers issues relating to the aetiology and assessment of clinical presentations in adulthood, and methods on intervention and prevention. It is intended to provide a theoretical background to practice in adult clinical settings.

Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 1

Year: 1

This module is optional

In this module students will be introduced to family therapy and systemic practice theories and will be able to understand how problems, mental ill health and distress may be explained through the lens of systemic thinking. The main models of structural, strategic and Milan theories, along with their historical development will be explored. The process of systemic psychotherapy will be explained with opportunity to practice a systemic assessment, hypothesising and use the relevant intervention techniques, with example case studies. Issues relating to culture, the therapeutic relationship, power and gender in systemic practice will be discussed, along with case examples of how family therapy and systemic practice can be applied in various clinical settings.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module aims to develop a knowledge and understanding of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and the skills necessary for its effective application. It will also develop student?s psychotherapeutic skills in order to aid application of CBT techniques and strategies. On completion of this module, students (via role play case vignette work) will have a sound understanding and some skill development on psychological assessment and engagement, understand the concepts of mental health and mental illness, diagnostic category systems in mental health, and a range of social, medical and psychological explanatory models. Within this broader context and in the specific framework of a stepped care model, the module will equip the student with the skills to recognise appropriate symptomology, understand how to engage a client in a positive therapeutic alliance and assist in making informed choices about their treatment. This will be done while acknowledging appropriate risks and managing them appropriately. Finally the module aims to provide students with an extended understanding of the cognitive model, how to move from assessment to cognitive model formulations/conceptualisations regarding not only mild/moderate mental health presentations (step care 1-3), but also some more high intensity presentations, as a way of making comparisons across the step care model.

Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 2

Year: 1

This module is optional

In this module students will be introduced to family therapy and systemic practice theories and will be able to understand how problems, mental ill health and distress may be explained through the lens of systemic thinking. The main models of structural, strategic and Milan theories will be reinforced, and key practice-related issues will be explored. The process of systemic psychotherapy will be explained with opportunity to practice systemic skills and use the relevant intervention techniques, with example case studies. Issues relating to bereavement, domestic abuse, and child-focused practice will be discussed, along with case examples of how family therapy and systemic practice can be applied in various clinical settings.

Psychological Assessment and Engagement (with Placement)

Year: 1

This module is optional

The Psychological Assessment and Engagement Module assists the student to understand the concepts of mental health and mental illness, diagnostic category systems in mental health, and a range of social, medical and psychological explanatory models. Within this broader context and in the specific framework of a stepped care model, the module will equip the student with the skills to recognise appropriate symptomology, engage the client in a positive therapeutic alliance and assist them in making informed choices about their treatment. This will be done while acknowledging risks and managing them appropriately.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Low Intensity) for Common Mental Health Problems (with Placement)

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module aims to support the student to gain advanced understanding, knowledge and competence (yet critical knowledge) of evidenced based low intensity CBT for common mental health problems, at step care level 2/3. The module will focus more so on the use of CBT interventions for depression and anxiety disorders, but will also consider the use of internet and self-guided resources, as well as psychopharmacological interventions. At all times, the module aims to prepare and consolidate the student?s knowledge on when/where and how to refer clients for more intensive therapies, in addition to being aware of continual risk assessment and monitoring of clients welfare. This module forms part of the BPS qualification to become a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, providing evidenced based psychological interventions for common mental health problems.

Professional Issues for Practitioners

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module aims to introduce students to therapeutic and psychological practice that operates from an inclusive values base, which promotes recovery and recognises and respects diversity. It emphasises the need to respect and value individual differences in age, sexuality, disability, gender, spirituality, race and culture, as well as the need to account for physical and sensory difficulties people may experience in accessing services, and to make provision for supporting these difficulties. The module underlines a clinical responsibility to respond to people?s needs sensitively with regard to all aspects of diversity, and to maintain a commitment to equal opportunities for all and encourage people?s active participation in every aspect of care and treatment. The module also places an emphasis on promoting understanding of social inclusion, the complexity of people?s health, social and occupational needs, and the services that can support people to recovery. It underlines the importance of recognising limitations to competence and role, and to direct people to resources appropriate to their needs. In addition, the module maintains an important focus on the role of supervision and reflective practice in applied psychology settings.

Values, Diversity and Context (with Placement)

Year: 1

This module is optional

This module aims to equip students to practice from an inclusive values base, which promotes recovery and recognises and respects diversity. It emphasises the need to respect and value individual differences in age, sexuality, disability, gender, spirituality, race and culture, as well as the need to account for physical and sensory difficulties people may experience in accessing services, and to make provision in their work to mitigate these. The module underlines a clinical responsibility to respond to people?s needs sensitively with regard to all aspects of diversity, and to maintain a commitment to equal opportunities for all and encourage people?s active participation in every aspect of care and treatment. The module also underlines the importance of managing client caseloads, operating safely and to high standards, and using supervision to aid in clinical decision-making. It highlights the need to recognise limitations to competence and role, and to direct people to resources appropriate to their needs. In addition, the module maintains an important focus on social inclusion ? including return to work and meaningful activity or other occupational activities ? as well as clinical improvement. There is therefore an emphasis on promoting understanding of the complexity of people?s health, social and occupational needs and the services which can support people to recovery.

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

In this section

Entry Requirements

Applicants must hold at least a 2:1 degree in Psychology, which confers eligibility for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Status with the British Psychological Society (BPS) or the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI).

Those with a 2:2 are welcome to apply, but preference will be given to those who have some additional relevant clinical experience to add to their CV.

For those students interested in undertaking Route 1 on the programme (Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner), they will be selected through an interview process.

For the more clinical-based optional module of 'Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 2', students will be required to be working in a clinical setting, either voluntary or paid, where having access to clients (under supervision) will be an essential criteria. Students must arrange this for themselves.

Other Qualifications

Unfortunately, those who do not have a primary degree in Psychology are not eligible to apply. However, if you have a degree in another discipline, and feel strongly about making a career change into Psychology, you can apply to the British Psychological Society to undertake a Graduate Conversion Course in Psychology, which then gives you eligibility for Chartered Status in the future. If you have successfully completed the conversion course, your application for entry to this programme will then be considered.

English Language Requirements

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.

Teaching and learning assessment

The modules on the programme are delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, practical skills training, and student-led seminars. There is a strong emphasis on experiential learning and skills analysis. Assessment methods vary across the modules, dependent on their focus - students will undertake a selection of written assignments (essays, reflective commentaries, research reports) and assessed role-plays of clinical skills, as well as a smaller number of written examinations. All students will complete the MSc Research Project over the duration of their time on the programme.

Exemptions and transferability

Those who have already undertaken professional postgraduate training in Family Therapy and Systemic Practice or CBT may be exempt from undertaking the modules related to these therapeutic methods.

Those who have attained a PhD may be exempt from the Advanced Research Methods module. Applicants in either of the above situations can enquire about Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) at the time of applying.

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

Currently, our graduating students are successful in acquiring Assistant Psychologist positions, which with experience is allowing people to apply for Associate Psychologist positions. Others are successful in gaining entry onto Professional Doctorate programmes in Clinical, Counselling and Educational Psychology, or PhD scholarships in Psychology across UK and Ireland. In addition, students who undertake the accredited Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) training strand within the course will be able to seek accreditation with the BPS for working as a PWP. Finally, students who undertake AFT Foundation Level Training will have completed Stage 1 of 3 in their training to become a qualified Systemic Psychotherapist.

Work placement / study abroad

The programme has a number of opportunities to connect clinical placement experiences with studies on campus. The BPS-accredited Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner Training (which composes part of one of the course routes), includes a 9-month clinical placement in low-intensity psychological therapies services, arranged by the course team. The AFT-accredited Foundation Level Training in Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (which composes part of another course route), includes a module that explores and assesses students' clinical experiences in this area of practice - placement for this module is arranged by students themselves. Finally, the MSc presents a further placement opportunity for students who have completed the course, in the form of a 15-credit standalone placement module ('Clinical Placement in Applied Psychology'). A selection of clinical placements have been secured in Psychology Services in the Western Health and Social Care Trust, in specialisms including Adult Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Paediatric Psychology, Older Adults, Personality Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder Services. This post-MSc module is only open to those students who have completed the MSc at Ulster, and students who enrol on this module will be working as the equivalent of Assistant Psychologists on a voluntary basis in these services (length of placements are typically between 6 months and one year).

Professional recognition

British Psychological Society (BPS)

Accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) against the requirements for qualification as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner.

Academic profile

The staff group responsible for delivering the programme includes several staff with professional qualifications in clinical psychology (2), counselling psychology (3), and health psychology (3). It also includes 4 members with internationally recognised research profiles in psychology and mental health. Professor Gerry Cunningham (previous Director of Psychology Services for the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Registered Family Therapist), teaches on this course. The School has also developed strong professional, research and teaching links with the Psychology Department of the Western Health and Social Care Trust - where our students have either undertaken clinical placements or provided research support to various psychological services, such as the Child and Family Team, the Older Adults service, and the Adult Mental Health and Psychological Therapy services.

Apply

Interested candidates should make a direct application using the University's online application system, which can be accessed via the University homepage or by using the following link:

http://www.ulster.ac.uk/apply/how-to-apply

The closing date for applications is the 31 May.

Please note that, when you apply for the course, you will be contacted by the Faculty Office regarding the supporting documentation that you need to provide. You will also be asked whether you would like to be considered for a specific route on the course - in particular, if you would like to be considered for the Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner route, you will be required to attend for interview, and so you will be asked to state your availability for this. The dates for interview are pre-arranged; however, there may be some flexibility in these arrangements under certain circumstances.

How to apply

Start dates

  • September 2016

Fees and funding

In this section

Fees (total cost)

Important notice - Tuition fees for this course may vary Contact us for more details on the price of this course

Additional mandatory costs

'Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner' Route:

In addition to the course fee for the MSc programme, those students undertaking the 'Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner' Route will be required to pay an additional fee for the modules associated with this accredited training. For entry in 16/17 the additional fee will be £645.55.

Access NI check (£33 at time of writing), Graduate Membership of British Psychological Society (2015 fee of £35-65 dependent on income), Professional Indemnity Insurance (Student level – e.g. £60 for one year for BPS members living in UK), Travel Expenses associated with placement (however, this can vary depending on the location of placement – where possible, student placements are allocated close to students’ place of residence) – one day per week on placement in Semester 1, and two days per week on placement in Semester 2.

‘Mental Health and Psychological Therapies’ Route

There are no additional expenses/costs associated with this route.

‘Mental Health with Family Therapy and Systemic Practice’ Route

Travel Expenses associated with placement – placements are arranged by students themselves on this MSc route (as opposed to being arranged by the course team), and so travel costs will depend on where the placement setting is located.

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel and normal living are a part of university life. 

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them in the online prospectus. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course. 

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees. 

Please contact the course team for more information.

Contact

Faculty Office

T: +44 (0) 28 7167 5027

E: flhsmg@ulster.ac.uk

Course Director: Dr Donal McAteer

T: +44 (0) 28 7167 5427

E: dh.mcateer@ulster.ac.uk

Testimonials

In the 2014/15 academic year, the MSc programme was nominated by the students and by the Students Union as 'Ulster Team of the Year', as part of the Ulster University Students Union Learning and Teaching Awards. From multiple nominations across the University campuses, the MSc programme team was awarded as the runner-up in this category.