Intermediate course in family therapy: Embedding the evidence into practice

NSFT is offering graduates who have already completed foundation level training courses in systemic family therapy, the opportunity to undertake a further year's study on an intermediate course in family therapy.

  • This training has been commissioned by Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust as a local strategic response to workforce development across health, education and social care.
  • This course has been designed to meet the Association of Family Therapy's criteria as an intermediate course in the practice of systemic psychotherapy.
  • The intermediate course involves one year's part-time study and builds on the knowledge, theory and practice gained at foundation level. Its central focus is on the further development of the therapeutic skills required to work with families, couples and individuals, as well as on the application of systemic ideas across a range of different work settings.
  • In keeping with NSFT's foundation course, trainees will again be encouraged to explore the interface between themselves as people, and the therapeutic work that they do with others. Emphasis is placed on applying theory to clinical practice, with a key aim of the course being to facilitate clinicians' development as 'self-reflexive thinkers'.
  • A further aim of this course is to prepare students for qualifying level training in family & systemic pychotherapy. Successful completion of this course is a requirement for all those intending to undertake a MSc in Family Therapy.

Further information

  • The course will consist of up to 30 participants.
  • The venue for the course: In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, this will now be predominantly taught online with up to 4 days face-to-face teaching at Hellesden Hospital, Drayton High Road, Norwich NR6 5BE, if applicable and/or possible.

  • Each teaching day will include 5 hours of direct contact with course staff. Participants are expected to attend each training day and in order to graduate are required to attend at least 80% of the teaching sessions.

  • All Candidates should have successfully completed a foundation level training course in systemic practice or equivalent.

  • All participants are required to have the consent of their line manager and be working in an environment that supports the development of their systemic practice.
  • As part of the selection process, two references are required supporting each applicant. These should include an academic reference from your foundation year tutors/supervisor and a professional reference from your clinical team leader/manager. At least one of these must be able to comment on the applicant's professional practice.

Study structure

This course will involve a total of 300 study hours, including:

  • 60 hours of direct teaching from course staff whilst on the training days. The training days provided being equally balanced between theory and case discussion, and there will again be a strong emphasis on the application of theory to clinical practice as well as development of clinicians/therapists as self-reflexive practitioners.
  • 60 hours of face to face systemic practice to be completed throughout the duration of the course. Participants without any prior systemic experience will be expected to observe a minimum of three sessions of systemic family therapy and participate/observe both pre and post session discussions. Similar opportunities will be made available for all interested trainee's and negotiated based on individual learning needs.
  • 180 hours of independent study throughout the eleven month duration of the course. This works out at between 16-17 hours per month that will need to be set aside for reading, completion of assignments, and portfolio preparation.

Essential workplace requirements

Over the eleven month duration of this course, all applicants must be in a position to complete at least 60 hours of systemic practice in their place of work, and must also have negotiated permission for this work to be discussed in a confidential academic/training environment. This will be verified when the course begins.

In keeping with the first year foundation course, we are keen for course participants to apply systemic thinking to their daily practice in their place of work. However, at this stage of family therapy training, the requirement is for trainees to be in a position where they are able to carry out work related 'systemic practice' rather than 'systemic psychotherapy'.

Course aims and objectives

This course has been designed to provide a thorough grounding in systemic theory and practice and is suitable for those wishing to take their family therapy training further than foundation level.

  • This course is an essential requirement for those intending to undertake an MSc in Family Therapy. However, you should also be aware that a prior professional qualification is generally required at this level.

  • Graduation from the intermediate course brings clinicians up to 'practitioner level' in terms of their knowledge of systemic theory and practice.

  • Although graduates at this level are not yet sufficiently qualified to practice independently as psychotherapists, nor should they use the title of Family Therapist and/or Systemic Psychotherapist, this course will provide applicants with a sound understanding of systemic thinking, which added to a prior mental health and/or social work qualification is invaluable and will significantly influence both their clinical understanding and practice.

  • This course encourages the development of self-reflexive thinking, so that participants are able to critically evaluate the theories they are using and able to explore their application in clinical practice with different families.

  • Participants are familiarised with a range of approaches to systemic psychotherapy, which helps them develop their ability to describe the different models, exploring the similarities and differences between them.

  • Participants are familiarised with a broad range of family therapy literature, including more recent publications.

  • This course helps participants to develop a theory of change, based on their own personal lived experiences and current theoretical knowledge/understanding.

  • Participants are familiarised with the Association of Family Therapy Code of Ethics and Practice and its implications for clinical practice.

  • Participants are engaged in discussions about what constitutes and informs good ethical practice within the field of systemic psychotherapy.

  • Participants are encouraged to develop 'critical thinking and analysis' so that they are more able to evaluate and constructively challenge cultural, class and/or institutionally based assumptions and actively promote anti-discriminatory practice.

  • Participants are familiarised with a range of approaches to systemic consultation.

  • This course helps participants to develop skills to critically examine research in the field of systemic psychotherapy and to evaluate its relevance for both their own and others clinical practice.

  • This course helps participants to develop their ability to appropriately adapt skills and techniques to their own personal area of practice.

  • This course helps participants to develop their ability to discuss the impact of systemic practice on key legislative frameworks and provision covering children, mental health and community care.

  • Participants will develop the skills required to convene and engage a range of client groups, and work with them systemically across a variety of different contexts.

  • This course helps participants to develop their ability to discuss systemic practice in both verbal and written forms.

  • This course provides opportunities for participants to openly explore their own personal backgrounds, and increase their awareness of how our beliefs, values and lived experiences whilst growing up, impact on our professional roles as therapists, social workers, nurses etc.

  • This course encourages the development of all participants as self-reflexive thinkers, so that they are able to reflect on how their training, personal background and organisational context all impact on their clinical practice.


  • A familiarity with a broad range of literature relating to family therapy and systemic practice, which should include more recent publications.
  • An ability to evaluate theory critically and to explore ideas and the application to different families.
  • An ability to describe the differences and similarities between approaches in systemic therapy, including the theory of change.
  • An ability to show a commitment to actively promote ethical, anti-discriminatory practice and to highlight and critique culturally-based assumptions.
  • A familiarity with the Association of Family Therapy Code of Ethics and Practice, and its implications for practice.
  • A capacity to use the consultation process in relation to systemic factors.
  • An ability to evaluate critically some errors of relevant research.
  • Further development in participant awareness of personal development processes, and an ability to begin to use self-reflective ways in practice.
  • An ability to appropriately adapt skills and techniques in own personal area of practice.
  • An ability to discuss the impact of key legislative frameworks, covering the three jurisdictions of children, mental health and community care on systemic practice.
  • Knowledge of skills required in convening and engaging a range of client groups and working with them systemically.
  • And ability to discuss systemic practice in both oral and written forms.
  • Once you have passed the second year, you will be able to register as a qualified Systemic Practitioner as long as you have a relevant professional qualification.

Teaching methods

  • This course is now predominantly taught online, but also includes four face-to-face teaching days, if practicable or possible.
  • Reading materials.
  • Power-point and lecture style presentations.

  • Workshops facilitated by teaching staff and visiting tutors.

  • Small and large group discussions anchored by course staff and assistants.

  • Role-plays primarily informed by case material. 

  • Case consultation including the use of reflecting teams.

  • Personal/professional mapping of the mutual influence of systemic ideas.

  • DVDs, internet downloads & films.

Course evaluation

  • Informal, ongoing group review during each session

  • Structured mid-way and final session individual and group review and feedback

  • Written individual evaluation forms for each session  

  • Written evaluation forms at end of course

Apply to do a family therapy course

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