Access and Participation Statement

The Institute of Family Therapy is committed to providing the highest standards of teaching and learning to those professionals who are motivated to expand their knowledge in systemic practice, both to enhance their current employment and access new opportunities for future employment. This is achieved through a range of activities that stimulate and inspire interest in courses and support those on their learning journey.

IFT is committed to widening access to its courses and providing respectful and ethical training through its equality and diversity policy, available on our website.

 Outreach activity

The purpose of the Institute’s outreach activity is to offer systemic training to the widest range of students possible. IFT provides an annual open workshop programme that can be accessed by anyone interested in the programme topics, which are delivered by national and international presenters. Participants receive a continuous professional certificate for the training hours completed which can be used for professional registration and part of a portfolio of ongoing learning. Topics are chosen based on the feedback from previous participants to ensure it remains relevant to the professional developments in therapy, health and social care fields.

There are taster events for those people who want to explore the potential utility of systemic ideas in their work. These act as feeder workshops prior to application for the foundation level courses.

In order to reach the broadest audience, IFT provides a range of training options delivered for external agencies. These options include short-focused events as well as more substantial courses. As these options are commissioned by agencies, the training is free at the point of delivery for students. Courses are delivered at the agency site which means that those students with caring or other responsibilities do not have to make additional arrangements. This also means that courses reflect the diversity of the workforce and do not depend on students’ ability to pay or travel distances to access training. As a result of this outreach work, a number of students have been financially supported to progress to more advanced training at the Institute’s central London location.

This outreach work includes supervision and leadership training and coaching with senior leaders who make decisions about strategic directions of organisations and thus seek out the Institute to provide additional support in periods of change.

IFT staff routinely present at national and international conferences to widen our reach. This includes recruitment events such as Community Care Live for social work where a keynote can stimulate interest in agencies and individuals accessing systemic training.

IFT staff also edit and contribute to professional journals such as the Journal of Family Therapy, The Journal of Psychological Therapies and also Context magazine. These are accessed by professionals in the UK and abroad.

IFT staff volunteer for professional committees with the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (the Systemic College) that represent the standards of training and practice across the UK and therefore influence debate about accessibility and equality of access for the widest range of students.

 Programme portfolio

The Institute provides a range of courses that are validated by the University of Bedfordshire and an additional range that are non-validated.

Validated courses

These are also professionally accredited by the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice, the ‘blue book’ for practice training and the ‘red book’ for supervision training. Students who successfully progress through the four-year training programmes qualify as systemic psychotherapists and are eligible for professional registration.

The validated courses are as follows:

  • Post Graduate Certificate in Systemic Practice: Families and Couples (AFT Intermediate level, delivered over one academic year)
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Systemic Practice: Child Focused (AFT Intermediate level, delivered over one academic year)
  • MSc in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy (AFT Qualifying level, delivered over two years)

In order to progress to the Post Graduate Certificate courses, students must successfully complete the Graduate Certificate course or demonstrate through a recognition of prior learning process (‘RPEL Process’) that they have achieved the equivalent.

In order to progress to the MSc course, students must successfully complete the Graduate Certificate and Post Graduate Certificate or equivalent through a RPEL Process.

Professionally accredited, non-validated courses

These are as follows:

  • Graduate Certificate in Systemic Practice: Families and Couples (AFT Foundation level, delivered over one academic year)
  • Graduate Certificate in Systemic Practice: Child Focused (AFT Foundation level, delivered over one academic year)
  • Advanced Diploma in the Supervision of Family and Systemic Psychotherapy (AFT accredited, delivered over one year)

Other courses, delivered in agency contexts

  • Introduction to Systemic Practice – 5 days
  • Advanced Certificate in Systemic Practice – 15 days
  • Diploma in Systemic Practice – 15 days
  • Diploma in Systemic Supervision – 15 days
  • Systemic Approaches to Systemic Leadership and Management – 8 days
  • Bespoke training as required, CPD events, team building, consultations and

In order to progress to the supervision course, students must successfully complete the MSc in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy and have three years’ post-qualifying experience.

In 2019, the Institute plans to expand the continuous professional development portfolio to reach a wider audience.

 Recruitment process

Validated courses

All validated courses have a dual application process between the Institute and the University of Bedfordshire. There is a RPEL Process for those applicants who might not have the traditional formal educational qualifications. All applicants must demonstrate their ability to work directly with families/ children/couples in order to support their practice development. Advice is given about placements to enable applicants to meet this requirement.

For the Post Graduate Certificate, it is common practice to allocate places based on the completion of the application form and two references, one of which is from an employer and the second from a previous tutor. This captures the two aspects of the course requirements which is professional practice and the ability to study at post graduate level. In order to enable the widest access, tutors can request a short essay to enable applicants to demonstrate their ability to learn and/or they may be asked to interview. Applicants must have access to a practice base. The University of Bedfordshire confirms that the academic standards are being maintained throughout the application process.

For the MSc in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy applicants are invited to an interview process that includes individual interviews and a group exercise, all of which is evaluated by three tutors responsible for the course. Places are allocated based on the consensus between the tutors who have assessed different aspects of the applicants’ performance during the interview day. Places are not confirmed until references from an employer and the most recent academic tutor are considered to be satisfactory. There is also an Rpel process for those who have trained in other contexts such as outside of the UK. The academic standard is confirmed by the University of Bedfordshire.

Non-validated courses

Graduate Certificate in Systemic Practice

Places are allocated on the basis of the completed application form and one professional reference. In order to meet the entry requirements as set out by the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (AFT), applicants are required to provide details of how they will fulfil the practice requirement of the course, that is, that they are in a position to meet with at least two families in a professional capacity during the course.

Advanced Diploma in the Supervision of Family and Systemic Psychotherapy. In order to meet the entry requirements as set out by the Association for Family Therapy, applicants must have completed the MSc in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy and usually have three years’ post qualification experience. Places are offered on the basis of an application form which includes position statements and two references, one from an employer and the other from the most recent academic tutor. AFT is introducing a RPEL Process which will be applied when required.

Agency-based training courses. As these are commissioned courses, access is determined by the commissioning agency. This widens access to a range of professionals and reaches those who might not be either in a practical or financial position to apply for the traditional course delivery. Recruitment is often stimulated by IFT’s reputation for delivering relevant and high-quality training to similar agencies, often in large contracts as part of some professional improvement journey and sometimes in support of a larger innovation project supported by the Department for Education. One such project is based on training foster carers who would be unlikely to access more formal academic training.

 Accessing available facilities

In order to maintain IFT’s relevance to professionals working with children and families in the statutory, voluntary and private sectors, courses reflect the changing demands of professional standards. IFT maintains close connections with professional workforce development teams to review and refresh courses. All students are given access to the Institute’s library where they can photocopy materials for their own use. There is open access to the continuous professional development programme.

Additionally students registered with the University of Bedfordshire on the Post Graduate Certificate have walk in access to the university library as well as the IFT library. Students enrolled on the MSc have walk in access to the University of Bedfordshire library, access to the IFT library and membership of Senate House library.

Students on validated courses have tutorials as part of the course standards.

IFT maintains a copyright licence that secures the provision of articles and texts to the agency-based training students. Tutors provide opportunities for group tutorials for assignments.

 Financial support and tuition fees

Training is free at the point of delivery for students accessing agency-based training courses. For those accessing all other courses, students either finance themselves or are wholly or partly funded by their employer. A small number take advantage of student loans. Tuition fees are maintained at the lowest level possible to be competitive with other similar professional courses of which there are two other major providers in Central London and others around the country.

Induction and transition events; academic support

Courses have open evenings prior to the application process when tutors can explain the content of the courses, the professional and academic status and the process for application. Successful students have registration and induction days in which the course content is outlined in more detail as are the course requirements. For those progressing onto the MSc course, three introductory days provide the opportunity for refreshing major theories and orienting students to the higher level of study as well as creating the context for group learning. During these events, students meet their tutors and supervisors who will be responsible for both the academic and practice standards through their learning journey. Tutorials are built into the courses according to the level of study. For example, students on the MSc course engaged in the research dissertation receive 6 hours of individual tutorial time with their research supervisor. This is in addition to support for other activities and assessments.

Students enrolled on agency-based training courses receive half-day induction to set the context for their learning and to make explicit links with the agency professional workforce development teams. There are periodic meetings to review the learning. These students are routinely invited to activities delivered at the Institute’s central London premises.

Inclusive practice

The Institute uses a range of teaching and learning methods including PowerPoint presentations, use of recorded material to illustrate practice, reading seminars, student presentations, case consultations and demonstrations. Many courses use guest speakers who are leaders in the subject field in order to maintain the quality of the teaching and to employ cutting edge theory and practice.

All teaching is constructed in the context of the academic and professional standards that relate to specific courses. It is usual to have two tutors with every training group to ensure that there are multiple points of view.

 Wellbeing, mental health and student support

IFT takes seriously its commitment to supporting wellbeing and good mental health. Courses have personal and professional development requirements embedded in the course construction. This attends to issues that might arise from working in a therapeutic environment and learning about traumatic topics such as child sexual exploitation and family violence. If tutors are concerned about the wellbeing of students that cannot be addressed in the learning context, then they are supported to access personal therapy. Lists of therapists are easily accessed via the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (‘UKCP’) website: find a therapist.

Tutorial support is offered for students who struggle with the academic requirements of courses. If this is not sufficient and there are circumstances that would constrain submission of work or completion of tasks, there is a mitigating circumstances process and an academic panel convened to review such situations and create options to support students’ learning.

Educational guidance

All tutors take responsibility for developing ways to support students who have specific learning needs. As many of the articles are provided electronically or on a USB flash drive, students can print out course materials in a font or one-coloured paper that facilitates appropriate access. Students are also provided with information about an app that can be downloaded to read pdf articles aloud for those who find reading text a challenge. Any additional needs will be addressed in tutorials.


IFT courses are the standard course for preparing and training people to work in the NHS as family therapists either in Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or Adult Mental Health Services. In order to apply for Family Therapy posts in the NHS, applicants must have successfully completed an MSc in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy course and be either UKCP registered or eligible for registration.

Successful completion of agency-based training courses enables students to progress into more senior positions in their agency or can be used as a transferable skill into other contexts and services in health and social care. This is often stated in the job descriptions as essential in order to become a senior manager in some agencies.

IFT’s continued relationship with major Local Authority Children’s Social Care agencies in London boroughs, shire counties and voluntary sector agencies ensures that courses reflect the needs of the workforces and remain both relevant and attractive as part of the ongoing development of staff. Frequent meetings refresh and secure such excellent and fruitful ongoing relationships.


9 January, 2019