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Psychology Applied - Mental Health & Psychological Therapies


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.

This course is undergoing academic revalidation during 2016/17, and course content/modules are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please contact theCourse Director.


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.

Entry requirements

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. For general entrance requirements go to:

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.

All applicants, regardless of qualifications, are advised to use the space provided in the personal statement/additional information section of the online application process, to detail any experience that may be relevant to studying an MSc in Applied Psychology.

For those students interested in undertaking Route 1 on the programme (Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner), you will be selected through an interview process - this interview specifically determines entry to Route 1, and does not affect the offer of a place on the MSc.

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.

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.



Duration One year full-time or 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 and Thursdays in Semester 1, with an additional two days per week in their placement context dedicated to placement-related activities; and then Wednesdays and Thursdays in Semester 2, as well as two additional days per week in their placement context.

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.

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, with an additional day per week in their placement setting in Semester 2.

Skills Block: All students will be expected to attend an initial skills block at the start of the programme – students on all routes will attend for 4 days of this skills block; PWP students will also attend on the fifth day. Classes will then commence the following week, on the days outlined above.

Start time and finish time on taught days:

Each taught day will commence at 9:15am and run until 5:00-5:30pm. This applies to the days during the skills block and the days throughout each semester.

Start time and finish time on placement days:

If you are undertaking a placement of any kind, then these days should be treated as full days in a professional work context.

Careers or further progression

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.

Professional recognition

British Psychological Society (BPS) 

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

Further enquiries

Faculty Office
T: +44 (0)28 7167 5027

Course Director: Dr Donal McAteer
T: +44 (0)28 7167 5427

Subjects taught


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.

Year one

Advanced Research Methods in Applied Psychology
Research Project
Professional Issues (with Community Engagement Project)
Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health
Adult Mental Health
Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 1
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Family Therapy and Systemic Practice 2
Psychological Assessment and Engagement (with Placement)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Low Intensity) for Common Mental Health Problems (with Placement)
Professional Issues for Practitioners
Values, Diversity and Context (with Placement)

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).

Assessment method

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.

Application date

Application is directly to the University via an online system.

The deadline for submission of applications is 15th May. We will consider late applications but these may experience delays in processing.

Enrolment and start dates

Start Dates: September 2017

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