Overview of Medical Psychotherapy Training

The Medical Psychotherapy Training Scheme within Severn Postgraduate Medical Education is a three year training programme. The major psychotherapeutic modality is psychodynamic / psychoanalytic and trainees also gain significant experience in other modalities, such as Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Mentalisation Based Treatment, Family therapy and Narrative Therapy.

The training involves working at different sites with different clinical and educational supervisors: Bristol Complex Psychological Interventions Service (trainer: Dr Thanos Tsapas, Avon and Wiltshire Partnership NHS Trust), South Gloucestershire Psychological Therapies Service (trainer: Dr Claire Davis, Avon and Wiltshire Partnership NHS Trust) and Complex Psychological Interventions Service (trainer: Dr Svetlin Vrabtchev, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust).

The trainees have the opportunity to become confident in assessing for, and delivering, psychological therapies in individual and group settings during the first two years of their training. During the third year of the training, whilst they continue offering psychological therapies, they have the opportunity to clinically supervise less experiences psychotherapists, such as Core Psychiatry trainees and the medical students participating in the Bristol Medical Student Psychotherapy Scheme.

The trainees spend six sessions with their clinical trainers and are entitled to two special interest sessions and two non-clinical special interest sessions. These sessions can be arranged following discussions with the Training Programme Director and clinical trainers and are regularly reviewed.

The small number of training posts of this training programme offers the opportunity for an ongoing assessment of the trainees’ needs and the flexibility to meet their needs according to their interests.

Upon completion of the training the trainees are eligible to register with the College of Medical Psychotherapists within the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

There is also the opportunity for dual training in Medical Psychotherapy and General Adult Psychiatry. This would include 2 years in General Adult Psychiatry (for more information please see General Adult Psychiatry Training and 3 years in Medical Psychotherapy. The aim of integrating the two training programmes is to equip the doctor to practice as a Consultant Psychiatrist in Medical Psychotherapy and / or as a Consultant in General Adult Psychiatry. The overarching principle of the 5 year training is to foster a “training dialogue” between the two sub-specialties.

Personal Psychotherapy

The trainees are expected to engage in personal psychotherapy at least once a week for the duration of their Medical Psychotherapy training. This would provide them with the unique opportunity to think about the emotional challenges of working with their patients in different settings. Severn Postgraduate Medical Education acknowledges the importance of this commitment and financially supports the trainees. They are eligible to claim £2,500 per year towards their personal therapy fees.

Teaching and Education

The trainees are strongly encouraged to become involved with the Medical Education Department and undertake educational roles. Trainees can apply to become Associate locality Tutors and get involved in Postgraduate and Undergraduate Education and teaching. There are also Senior Clinical Teaching Fellowship opportunities for advanced trainees.

The trainees are also encouraged to consider postgraduate teaching qualifications, such as the MSc Teaching and Learning for Health Professionals at the University of Bristol.


The University of Bristol has an active Centre of Academic Mental Health with a strong research culture. Areas of research include maternal depression and its impact of child development and Personality disorders.

The advanced trainees are encouraged to participate in existing research projects or develop and conduct their own qualitative research project using methodology that would be in keeping with their clinical interests (i.e. Narrative analysis).

Management and Leadership

The trainees are expected to actively engage with management and leadership opportunities and Quality Improvement Projects. They are also expected to develop their own projects, which could take the form of introduction of Psychotherapy related services in different psychiatric and primary care settings.

Additional training in psychotherapy and supervision

The advanced trainees are strongly encouraged to undertake additional psychotherapy related training.

Strong links have been established with the MSc Psychological Therapies Practice and Research (Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic Therapy) at the University of Exeter.

Also, trainees can undertake Cognitive Analytic Therapy Foundation Training.

The clinical requirements of the above trainings are met by the clinical experience gained during the trainees’ NHS work.

Advanced trainees are encouraged during the last year of the programme to undertake training in offering clinical psychotherapy supervision. Locally this could be achieved at the Bath Centre for Supervision and Team Development.

For more information please contact the Training Programme Director:

Dr Thanos Tsapas
Bristol Complex Psychological Interventions Service
Tel: 0117 9195680
Email: Dr Thanos Tsapas