Systemic Family Therapy

Clanwilliam Institute

Systemic Family Therapy

This comprehensive programme in Systemic Psychotherapy/Family Therapy has particular relevance for professionals in the health, social services, education, and related disciplines. This programme, which is recognised as one of the foremost psychotherapy training courses in Ireland has been running, subject to review and revision, for twenty-five years. This programme has recently been modified to fit with academic and professional training requirements emerging from both Irish and European Academic and Professional bodies.

Objectives of the Programme
The main objective of the programme is to provide the fundamentals of good practice as a systemic family therapist. The core learning outcomes associated with this objective are the demonstration of the following:

The skills, knowledge and competence to practice as a systemic family therapist;

an ethical positioning that allows them to scrutinise and reflect on their practice;

A familiarity with theory and research that allows them to review and update their clinical work;

A reflexivity that allows them to review and manage the place of their own self in their clinical and research and professional practice

An awareness of the importance of the therapeutic relationship in psychotherapy.

Philosophy of the Programme
The Clanwilliam Institute approach to therapeutic practice and training has been constructed from three principal theoretical and philosophical influences – systems theory, social constructionism and professional ethics.

Systems Theory
The systemic view emphasises the contextual and relational aspects of human experience. It sees the person as embedded in a social and emotional world which s/he is constantly being influenced by and influencing. This approach enables the practitioner to take account of the multi-layered complexity of the many systems within which we live. This focus on context and relationship distinguishes Systemic (Family) Psychotherapy from other forms of psychotherapy. This relational contextual approach emphasises the centrality of the therapeutic relationship.

Social Construction
The Clanwilliam approach identifies with a social constructionist perspective which regards all meaning (and thus identity and problem descriptions) as generated in language between people. Thus it is through the medium of language that new meanings and resources may be accessed and new relationship configurations achieved.

Professional Ethnics
Within the philosophical positioning of the Clanwilliam Institute professional ethics are an integral part of professional thinking and practice and a part of personal and professional growth The Clanwilliam Institute ethos is grounded in ethical principles drawn from professional codes of practice, a duty of care towards all involved – clients, students, colleagues and the public– and a commitment to the development of non-discriminatory practice and service delivery.

The Clanwilliam approach seeks to hold and work with the continuing tension between these philosophical influences, achieving an appropriate professional stance and maintain an ethical position in particular when dealing with issues of inequality, disadvantage and abuse. This approach emphasises that there are no neutral stances and all participants are challenged to reflect on their biases and cultural conditioning. Therapy and training are viewed as co-operative, explorative, mutually respectful processes.

The academic programme is structured around over-arching themes which provide continuity and integration. These include:

Viewing meaning, interactional patterns, structure and communication as inter-related dimensions of human experience and behaviour;

Attending to both the person and the context so that neither is invalidated;

Giving particular attention to an anti-discriminatory position in relation to gender, race, religion, ability, age, culture, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Guided by these considerations, a curriculum has been developed which attends to the person of the client and also to that of the student therapist. The curriculum comprises 4 modules that are developed and integrated throughout the four years of the programme. Reflexivity is a core component of all of these modules.

The learning environments for these five strands include academic seminars, supervised (live) clinical practice in teams; retrospective supervision (in fourth year) and personal group experience.

A high degree of student participation and self-directed learning is expected.

Subjects taught

Year One
Postgraduate Diploma in Systemic Psychotherapy Part 1 Foundation Level Professional Training Programme in Systemic Psychotherapy

Year Two
Postgraduate Diploma in Systemic Psychotherapy Part 2 / Intermediate Level Professional Training Programme in Systemic Psychotherapy (exit award at end of Year 2)

Year Three
Masters in Science in Systemic Psychotherapy

Year Four
Professional Level Training Programme in Systemic Psychotherapy

The programme is comprised of 5 interweaving strands:

Clinical Practice
Ethics & Inclusivity
Personal Professional Development (PPD)

The curriculum comprises 4 modules/subjects which are: Theory, Clinical Practice, Ethics and Inclusivity, and Research. Reflexivity is a core component of all of these modules.

The learning environments for these five strands include academic seminars, supervised (live) clinical practice in teams; retrospective supervision (in fourth year) and personal group experience. A high degree of student participation and self-directed learning is expected.

The Clanwilliam Institute is accredited by EAPTI (European Accredited Psychotherapy Training Institutes), which is an accredited Training Institute with EAP (European Association for Psychotherapy). The Clanwilliam Institute is also accredited through FTAI (Family Therapy Association of Ireland). The first three years are accredited by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). The Four Year Programme is accredited by EAP and FTAI as leading to an award of European Certificate in Psychotherapy.

Progression through the programme is dependent on successful completion of all of the programme requirements.

Entry requirements

Direct Entry

1. To be considered for admission, applicants should hold an honours primary degree (National Framework of Qualifications Level 8) in a field of study in the human sciences or its equivalent.


2. Hold an Ordinary degree (National Framework of Qualifications Level 7) in a field of study in the human sciences or its equivalent and have obtained a minimum of three years relevant post-qualification experience.

RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) – Indirect Entry
Applicants who are not entitled to direct entry may be considered for entry based on their prior learning, that is their knowledge and skills acquired through life, work experience and study, not attested through formal certification. Applicants will be considered provided they can demonstrate equivalence to Direct Entry Requirements which can be verified through the Clanwilliam Institute RPL process. Applicants will be required to demonstrate an ability to contribute to and benefit from the programme.

Applicants who are considering application through this route are encouraged to make informal enquiries to the Head of Training. Applicants will be required to satisfy the Head of Training and the Programme Committee as to their capacity to contribute to and benefit from the programme.

Note: Under Institute RPL procedures, a Support Person is available to assist RPL applicants

RPL applications take a minimum of 9 weeks to prepare and one week for a decision. Therefore, RPL applications should commence at least 10 weeks prior to the closing date for direct entry applications. Late applications may result in less time for preparation of portfolio.

Fees for RPL applications are available on request.

For non-native English speakers tested evidence of competency in English is required.

All successful candidates will be interviewed to assess their suitability for the programme. At interview candidates are expected to demonstrate:

An interest and engagement with the field of psychotherapy and with the Institute's approach and ethos;

A reflexive awareness of their own learning experience;

A willingness to engage with supervisory and support structures;

A sensitivity to group and team processes.

All applicants are required to or be willing to seek a clinical setting in a work setting or hold a role which will provide opportunities for the student to implement the learning from the programme, such as counselling, psychotherapy, support services, or project/community work in either a paid or voluntary position. Clanwilliam can advise applicants about suitable placements, therefore please contact us for further information.

Following registration, students are required to undergo standard Garda vetting procedures.

Application dates

Applications to be submitted by email to and by post.

To apply for Direct Entry to the MSc. In Systemic Psychotherapy we require a completed application form together with Curriculum Vitae including qualifications (awards), personal statement and the names of two referees who are familiar with your work and/or academic abilities, should be submitted to the Training Department.

An application processing fee of €75 is required.

The application will not be processed until the application fee is received. If incomplete applications are received they will not be processed until all documents, forms, etc. are received.


4 years part-time

More details
  • Qualifications

    Postgraduate Diploma (Level 9 NFQ),Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Part time

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    Course provider