Cognitive Behavioural Therapist

Job Description:

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) practitioners use talking therapy to help patients change negative patterns of thinking or behaviour.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

You’ll work with clients who have mental health difficulties like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic disorders. You’ll help them change the way they think and act.

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • assessing clients to see if they’ll benefit from CBT
  • discussing therapy plans with clients, focusing on what they want to change
  • encouraging clients to talk about feelings and behaviour
  • setting ‘homework’ for clients to do
  • helping clients practise the changes you’ve discussed
  • providing group sessions
  • checking clients’ progress
  • providing advice to other health professionals
  • talking to family members
  • keeping accurate records
  • following data protection and confidentiality rules

In the NHS, you’ll work with other professionals like psychiatrists, other therapists, social workers and mental health nurses.


You’ll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently for recording information
    report writing and presentation skills

As well as:

  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • empathy and the ability to deal with people in distress
  • problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • flexibility / adaptability – while CBT is structured, therapists need to be adaptable and willing to tailor their approach to each client’s unique needs and circumstances.
  • time management – CBT sessions are typically time-limited and goal-oriented. Effective time management ensures that you can cover relevant material within the session time frame (organisational skills)
  • ethical conduct – like all mental health professionals, CBT therapists must adhere to ethical guidelines, including maintaining client confidentiality and ensuring professional boundaries.
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT therapist), you typically don’t need specific GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) subjects because CBT therapy is a field that typically requires higher education and specialized training at the postgraduate level. However, having a strong academic foundation and certain skills developed during your GCSE years can be helpful for your future studies and career as a therapist. Here are some subjects and skills that can be advantageous:

  1. English: A strong command of the English language is essential for effective communication with clients, both in writing and verbally. Good English skills can also help with writing reports and treatment plans.
  2. Science: While not a strict requirement, having a background in science subjects like Biology or Psychology at the GCSE level can provide you with a foundation for understanding some of the scientific principles that underlie CBT principles and psychology in general.
  3. Mathematics: Basic math skills can be useful for understanding research and statistics, which are important in the field of psychology and therapy.
  4. Psychology: Although not typically offered at the GCSE level, if your school offers a GCSE in Psychology, taking it can give you an early introduction to the subject and help you decide if it’s the right path for you.
  5. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: These skills are not specific to any subject but are highly valuable in the field of therapy. They help you analyze complex situations and develop effective treatment plans.

Post School

To become a cognitive-behavioral therapist, you typically need to pursue education and training in several key subjects and areas:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Start by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field. While specific subject requirements may vary by program, taking courses in psychology, human development, and sociology can be beneficial.
  • Master’s Degree: Most CBT therapists hold a master’s degree in a mental health-related field. Common degrees include Master of Social Work (MSW), Master of Counseling, or Master of Psychology. During your master’s program, you’ll typically receive training in various therapeutic approaches, including CBT.
  • Clinical Training: As part of your master’s program, you’ll likely need to complete a supervised clinical internship or practicum. This hands-on experience is essential for developing your counseling skills and gaining real-world experience.
  • Licensing: After completing your master’s degree, you’ll need to become licensed in your state or country. Licensing requirements vary, but they typically involve passing an exam, completing a specified number of supervised hours, and meeting other state-specific criteria.
  • Continuing Education: CBT therapists often engage in ongoing professional development and continuing education to stay up-to-date with the latest research and techniques in the field.
  • Specialized CBT Training: To become proficient in CBT, you may want to pursue specialized training or certification in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Organizations like the Beck Institute offer training programs and certification in CBT.

You usually need:

  • a degree in nursing, social work, occupational therapy, arts therapy, psychology or psychotherapy
  • experience of working in mental health
  • an accredited postgraduate qualification in CBT

To work with children and vulnerable adults, you are likely to need criminal or security clearance from the local authorities in the country where you intend to work.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work from an office or consultation room. You may also visit clients in their homes. Typical hours are between 37-39 hours a week – 8am – 6pm.

You could work in a:

  • GP surgery, health centre or clinic
  • hospital
  • prison
  • community mental health team

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could supervise other CBT practitioners. You could also set up your own practice, working as an independent practitioner and seeing patients privately.

You could also specialise in teaching or research for a college or university.