Job descriptions and industry overviews


28 Feb 2023, 12:22

Helps and treats individuals who are experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties to understand their problems and help make appropriate changes to their lives.

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Job description

Psychotherapists are trained to relate to and treat people who are distressed, and work to alleviate personal suffering and encourage change. Psychotherapists interact with clients or patients with the aim of facilitating changes and further development. They deal with the diagnosis and planned treatment through scientific and psychotherapeutic methods.

Work activities

  • Working with people suffering from a range of problems
  • Developing a relationship with clients to explore the underlying causes of their conflicts and behavioural difficulties
  • Alleviating patients/clients distress by helping them understand inner conflicts and ways of dealing with them.

Work conditions

Travel: travel during working day is rare or never.
Working hours: extended working day common in private practice as clients come before or after work.
Location: exist mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: commonly possible as many work in private practice.

Typical employers

  • Health Service Executive
  • Child guidance clinics
  • Schools for emotionally disturbed children
  • Student health centres
  • Prison service
  • Private practice
  • Psychoanalytical institutes.

Career development

Still a developing field in Ireland with many psychotherapists working in private practice. Career structures are not yet in place yet, but this is changing. Some psychotherapists write and broadcast.


Rates of pay will vary considerably depending on the client base, employer, hours and nature of the job.

Entry requirements

There is currently no statutory regulation of psychotherapy in Ireland but plans to develop legislation for the statutory regulation of the profession are in place. Entry requirements for training courses in psychotherapy vary. Most psychotherapists have a degree in psychology or related areas such as social work, medicine or psychiatric nursing. Many train in psychotherapy after working in one of these areas. Recognition of courses for the purposes of professional accreditation is determined by each professional body.

Specific degree subjects required

Open to non graduates and graduates of all disciplines.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social work

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is now normally expected. A broad based third level education followed by specialised professional training available from a number of centres is becoming the norm.


In-depth training is required which is usually on a part-time basis and can take several years. Trainee psychotherapists normally meet with clients while under the supervision of an experienced practitioner-trainer. The theoretical orientation of courses differ. It is normally a requirement that trainee psychotherapists have undertaken their own personal psychotherapy. In addition, most professional bodies require that members undertake continuing professional development and supervision.

Tips for application

Think about what type of psychotherapist you want to become: there are many different approaches which can be generally categorised as behavioural, humanistic or psychoanalytic. Gain relevant work experience.

Skills and qualities

  • Active listening, good interpersonal skills and an ability to question, reflect and challenge attitudes and beliefs
  • Ability to empathise and build a supportive relationship with clients
  • Interest in self-awareness and self-development
  • Must be in control of their feelings, thoughts and emotions whilst working with clients.

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