Postgraduate Diploma in Evidence-based Psychological approaches for Children & Young People (CYP IAPT) – Systemic Family Practice (SFP) pathway – AFT Accredited

About the programme

The Systemic Family Practice (SFP) programme is a postgraduate diploma in evidence-based psychotherapies for children and young people, validated by the University of Manchester. The programme is part of the national Children and Young People (CYP) Psychological Trainings project. The course is accredited with the Association of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (AFT). It is a full-time multi-disciplinary programme with two days per week in teaching / supervision with the training centre, and the rest of the week spent working clinically with families in their service.  The course has three 10 week terms, commencing in January each year. The aim of the programme is to provide health and social care professionals working in CYP Psychological Training services with the opportunity to develop general core clinical skills and theoretical knowledge, with specialism in systemic family practice for mood (depression) and self-harm, behavioural (conduct) issues and eating disorders. There are 2 branches and trainees choose to specialise in either eating disorders, or combined mood, self-harm and behaviour issues.

The SFP course has been running since 2015. The staff are all qualified, registered  and experienced family therapists. The course is both rigorous and supportive in its efforts to produce high quality SFPs for the workforce across children and young people’s services.

The programme is grounded in evidence-based practice and is informed by the latest advances in clinical and experimental research. The attainment of clinical competence is measured by validated assessment tools.


Programme Aims

The formal aims of the programme are to:

Provide high quality training in the core therapy skills relevant to SFP for students working with CYP and their families with issues of behaviour, mood, self-harm and eating disorders. This will be done by presenting the relevant theoretical bases of systemic practices alongside research evidence of their effectiveness to enable students to develop an understanding of the links between research in the relevant areas of psychological science and practical applications of systemic therapy. There is then a focus on practice and building the ability to implement these theories into clinical practice settings.

To create a pool of suitably qualified graduates, trained to standards meeting with:

  • The AFT training standards for SFP/Intermediate level (as outlined in the Blue Book untitled (
  • The provision of services as specified by the National Service Framework for Mental Health (National Health Service Executive). The National Service Framework promotes the training of staff and the need for the increased provision of evidence-based psychotherapy to service users.

Provide training consistent with all current key governmental objectives for the CYP Psychological Trainings project, including training in ‘evidence-based practice’ and the provision of ‘lifelong learning’. As the Diploma is a postgraduate qualification programme, suitable for health, mental health and social care professionals with suitable knowledge and experience, the programme aims to develop and extend professional competence in all relevant professions.

Provide practical support, guidance and supervision in the delivery of Systemic Practice for CYP and/or their families, and to help trainees to develop the clinical skills necessary for working with their chosen branch client group.

Ensure that all graduates of the programme evidence the required competence levels to practice as an SFP. Trainees must meet recognised minimum clinical competence in delivering SFP for mood, self-harm and behaviour issues or eating disorders for young people and their families.

The SFP pathway is accredited by the Association for Family Therapy (AFT) and is equivalent to “Intermediate Level Family Therapy” training. Following successful completion of this programme, practitioners will be able to refer to themselves as Systemic Family Practitioners.

Successful completion of the course evidences a suitable level of training for applying for further Masters level Family Therapy training.

Who Can Apply

You cannot apply directly to the training centre for this course.

Eligible applicants will be working within the North West CYP Psychological Trainings Collaborative. Recruitment is a joint process with collaborative partners. 

AFT requires trainees to hold a professional clinical qualification and evidence degree level prior study.  oct2020_dual_qualification_u.pdf (

Applicants will be predominantly qualified members of the main mental health professions (Mental Health Social Workers, Psychiatric Nurses, Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Occupational Therapists in Mental Health, Accredited Counsellors). Please consult the list below adapted from AFTs list of relevant prior professional qualifications:

  • Psychology – Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology and Counselling  Psychology with HCPC registration
  • Social Work – registered with Social Work England.
  • Psychiatry and other medical specialities related to mental health. Staff grade minimum.
  • Nursing – mental health nursing and other nursing specialities which require counselling skills and holding NMC registration*.
  • Art, Dance/movement, Drama and Music Therapy if qualified and registered with the HCPC.
  • Counselling – minimum three year minimum training, full BACP accredited membership and experience of the public or voluntary sector.
  • Occupational Therapy – qualified and registered with HCPC
  • Speech and Language Therapy – qualified and registered with the HPC

AFT requires “some” experience. The course requires a minimum of 2 years of appropriate experience for those with a core qualification rising to 4 years for those evidencing equivalence to a core qualification.


Other qualifications not on the AFT list and therefore requiring a KSA (alternative criteria below must be evidenced):

  • Play Therapists if qualified and registered with the HCPC.
  • **CYWPs / EMHPs.
  • Psychotherapy/ Psychotherapeutic Counselling – UKCP Registered
  • Other forms of psychology not specified above.
  • Counselling at graduate level with BACP registered membership.
  • NB: this list is accepted for SFP level training but AFT consultation may be required before further progression and entry to the MSc is possible.

Alternative Qualification Criteria :

AFT promote a “widening participation” philosophy. The SFP course will therefore consider alternative qualifications on an individual basis. Applicants should be able to demonstrate:

  • Skills knowledge and experience in the field of CYP mental health and wellbeing that would enable successful KSA completion. (inc. child development, and therapeutic approaches)
  • Clinical competence including holding clinical responsibility, i.e. ability to make clinical judgements, hold accountability for practice and maintain the safety of clients in their care.
  • Ability to safely assess and manage risk
  • Appropriate membership of a professional body from the PSA approved list is advised.


*Nursing definition for SFP:

Any branch of nursing (NMC sub part 1 and 2), midwifery or specialist community public health nurse registered with the NMC where the trainee also has the required 2 years post-qualification experience working in children and young peoples’ mental health. This experience should include holding clinical responsibility and experience delivering interventions for improving the emotional, mental health and wellbeing of clients. Associate nurses do not meet the criteria for holding a “core profession”.

** CYWP/EMHP registration is in progress. PPN - Register for Psychological Professions Roles

North West Collaborative

The Northwest CYP Psychological Trainings Collaborative is a partnership between The University of Manchester, Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust and over 70 providers and commissioning bodies of children and young people’s mental health services across NHS, Local Authority and Voluntary sectors working in the Northwest, Yorkshire and West Midlands.

It’s one of five Learning Collaboratives across England that are part of the CYP Psychological Trainings country-wide transformation programme. The collaborative seeks to improve services through better evidence based practice, better collaborative practice, authentic participation and better use of feedback and clinical outcomes across all services.

Training Component

The training component is in the form of lectures, seminars, and supervision of clinical practice. Following the initial five day induction week, attendance will mainly be on two days each week over three 10 week terms (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) but also some Thursdays.  During the year there may be some full day Masterclasses facilitated by national and international speakers in systemic family therapy.   

How to Apply

Internal recruitment : Speak to your local CYP Psychological Trainings Lead in the first instance if you wish to apply, if you do not know who this is, please speak to your service manager. You will need the support of your service manager before applying. Services apply for funded places as early as May for the following January so plan ahead. Application forms are available via CYP Psychological Trainings Leads within Children & Young People’s services across the Northwest Collaborative from August.  Completed application forms with Service Manager and the CYP Psychological Trainings Lead approval should be sent to the CYP Psychological Trainings Lead. They then send them on to the Training Centre. This process happens annually opening in late summer and closing early autumn. Applications must be funded either with service/CCG approval if they are funding the course, or with a confirmed Recruit to Train place from NHSE (confirmed by the CYP Psychological Trainings Lead). Applicants are invited to interview through the autumn in preparation for the course starting in January.

Applications sent directly to the training centre by the applicant will not be accepted.


External recruitment Training posts are advertised by services through the summer and autumn for the January intake. Training posts are usually 1-year contracts initially to cover the length of the course. Applying for the post and for the course is a combined process with a joint interview. Applicants must be in post and able to attend the training for the commencement of the course.

The Training Centre does not have any involvement with the advertising of these posts.

Frequently Asked Questions for SFP

Q: Which programme should I do – the eating disorder branch or the mood, self-harm and behavioural issues branch?

The decision regarding which branch to apply for is a decision to be taken jointly between you and your service. Both branches cover core systemic theory and principles. Both cover the main models of systemic practice. Trainees on both branches learn and study together from the January until the summer, then they split into 2 teaching groups to learn how to apply systemic family practice to their chosen client group(s).


Q:  Why is the mood, self-harm and behavioural issues branch sometimes referred to as depression, self-harm and conduct disorder?

CYP Psychological Trainings and its principles are strongly routed in evidence-based practice and the NICE guidelines. NICE use diagnostic categories for their guidelines which then cascades to us in CYP Psychological Trainings. This gives us the language of “depression, self-harm and conduct disorders”. However, a fundamental principle in systemic thinking is to attend to language. As part of this, we avoid terms that are medically diagnostic unless it is specifically useful or required. So, we have altered the language and use “mood, self-harm and behavioural issues”. E.g., in SFP we would work with someone who feels sad, has low mood, or has a diagnosis of depression – so we use the wider term of “mood” instead of “depression”.


Q: Can you help with arranging placements?

To be eligible for the course, you should be in a service that can provide you with access to families and appropriate clinical work to meet the course requirements. Unfortunately, we are not able to arrange placements to meet the clinical requirements.

 The programme requires you to observe 6 sessions of a qualified Family Therapist working with clients. These should be organised by you and your service, but our tutors can often help with contact details and observation opportunities if you ask.


Q:  Will I be re-banded / given an SFP post at the end of the course?

There is no guaranteed built-in pay or job description progression into the course. We aim to develop your skills and support children’s services to become better at what they do – so you stay in the same job but become better at it with your systemic skills and knowledge. However, once you are qualified, our graduates often find that they are suitable to apply for SFP or promotional posts should you wish to move jobs.


Q:  Which professional body do I register with when I qualify?

At the moment, there is no professional registration for SFPs. You will need to remain registered with your core professional body to meet employment registration requirements.


Q:  Can I call what I do Family Therapy? Or call myself a Family Therapist?

No. You will be practicing Systemic Family Practice and when you qualify you can use the title Systemic Family Practitioner.

 Whilst training, you can refer to yourself as a trainee SFP. After qualifying, you will be eligible to apply to the Masters course to become a qualified Family Therapist if you want to continue your professional development. Qualified Family Therapists hold masters level training and



Q: Can I continue to do my current job whilst doing the SFP training programmes?

The training is a full-time course. You will have 2 days each week attending teaching and 3 days in your service doing clinical work towards the training. The course is intensive, and it is hard to do additional things so you will need to discuss any requests with your service and course staff very carefully before making any additional commitments. If you are an existing member of staff, you should be freed up from your current role to do the course.


Q: Can I do the SFP course if I work part time?

The training is a full-time course. You will have 2 days each week attending teaching and 3 days in your service doing clinical work towards the training. The course is intensive, and it is hard to complete and keep up on less than full time. In exceptional circumstances people have completed the course working 4 days with a specific and tailored plan but this would need individual discussion and agreement with the course lead and the service.


Q: What about the funding?

You cannot self-fund for this course. Funding comes from one of two possible sources:

1) it can be paid for by your work – from either CCG commissioning or from your organisation’s training budget.

2) CYP Psychological Trainings Leads can apply for “Recruit to Train” funding from Health Education England. If successful, HEE will then pay the training cost and the salary cost for you to train. The money goes directly to the organisations to enable your training. It does not come to you.

Contact Us

If you have any queries regarding this course not covered in the information detailed in any of the sections above or in the FAQ section of this website, please email:  In the Subject Line please ensure you put the full title of the course to enable us to forward it to the appropriate programme team.  We will not be able to forward or respond to any emails received without this.

We are happy to answer questions related to the course itself, but unfortunately are unable to provide any general career advice.


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