Psychological Therapy in Primary Care MSc

School of Medicine

This BPS- and BABCP-accredited, NHS-funded professional training course provides you with the clinical competences to work in modern mental health services

Date of entry

January 2024

Start date
January 2024
12 months (full time)
Ninewells Hospital / Stirling / Placements
Applications for January 2024 are now closed

Applications closed: Tuesday 8 August 2023 at 11:59

You can find out further information at our Interviews and placements for MSc Psychological Therapy in Primary Care guide.

The Programme Administrator can be contacted by email

Mental health services across the UK are facing a growing demand for therapeutic services to treat common mental health disorders. The NHS commitment to delivering evidence-based treatments means that the theoretical focus of this course is on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). 

Delivered jointly by the University of Stirling and the University of Dundee, it is designed by NHS professionals and clinical academics to give you the clinical and professional skills you need to work as a clinical associate in applied psychology within the NHS.

You'll receive expert training in delivering evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to adults in primary care, and develop your knowledge of the prevalence, diagnostic criteria, presentation and treatment of common mental health disorders within a CBT framework.

You'll gain the abilities to meet a range of performance targets safely, while responding constructively to clinical supervision, in line with professional and ethical guidelines.

Applicants to this course simultaneously apply for employment with the NHS and, if accepted, their tuition fees are paid by NHS Education for Scotland. You'll undergo training and clinical supervision within the NHS.

Further information

Introduction from the Course Directors

The MSc in Psychological Therapy in Primary Care, established in 2005 with significant support from NHS Education for Scotland, and the first of its kind in the UK, continues to respond to the high demand for effective psychological interventions for adults with common mental health issues. The development of collaborative relationships, which is vital for successful psychological treatment, is a key component in developing and delivering this programme. This spirit of collaboration cuts across two Universities – Dundee and Stirling – many NHS-based Psychology departments, and NHS Education for Scotland, to mention just the main parties involved. This MSc offers an exciting clinical training opportunity for Psychology graduates in close partnership with the NHS.

Common mental health problems such as anxiety and depressive disorders are disabling, consume a great deal of healthcare resources, mainly in primary care, and tend to recur. To deliver effective clinical services for these problems we must train many more psychological therapists than currently exist and, most importantly, we must train practitioners in how to deliver a flexible repertoire of evidence-based treatments that are integrated within the multi-disciplinary context of modern primary care.

The course team has extensive clinical experience of working in primary care, considerable expertise in both clinical training and research and, above all, a commitment to work with students to deliver the best possible quality of care. We are committed to providing not only very high-quality training in applied clinical and research methods, using the most advanced teaching resources and methods of delivery, but also a thoroughly rewarding introduction to clinical work.

Course Directors

  • Dr Stephanie Chan, University of Stirling

  • Dr Leeanne Nicklas, University of Dundee

Introduction from NHS Education for Scotland (NES)

NES is a national health board, responsible for supporting NHS services delivered to the people of Scotland by developing and delivering education and training for all those who work in NHS Scotland.

Following consultation with NHS stakeholders NES supported the development of a new role for psychology graduates in NHS Scotland. The MSc in Psychological Therapy in Primary Care (PTPC) was the first such programme, introduced in 2005. The Masters level training for these roles is designed to equip psychology graduates with the competence required to deliver the evidence-based psychological interventions required in circumscribed areas of practice defined by service need - in this case to deliver cognitive behavioural interventions to adults presenting with anxiety and depression in primary care.

The delivery of training involves a partnership, brokered by NES, between the Universities providing the academic components of the training programmes and the NHS which supports trainees in supervised clinical practice in the workplace. NES’s commitment to this training route continues this year with up to 50 funded trainee places being supported in health boards across Scotland. Scottish Government has provided additional funding to support this expansion to 50 places in recognition of the contribution trainees and graduates make to meeting nationally agreed access standards for psychological therapies.

Award of the MSc confers eligibility for the post of Clinical Associates in Applied Psychology in the NHS. There is no guarantee of employment following training, however previous candidates are undertaking several roles within and out-with NHS settings. These include Clinical Associate posts, Primary Mental Health Workers, and equivalent roles.

NES commissions training places from the University on behalf of NHS Scotland and supports the educational costs i.e., fees and travel costs associated with access to training. Trainees are employed by local NHS Boards and managed directly by Psychology Services within those Board areas. NES puts agreements in place with employing Boards to underpin funding arrangements for trainees’ salaries and the responsibilities of the employer in relation to training. This commitment from NES in partnership with NHS Boards and the Universities of Stirling and Dundee is a signal of the value that these trainees are seen as bringing to the NHS services.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education in Scotland produced a benchmark statement that articulates the standards and competences expected at Doctoral and Masters levels for Chartered Clinical Psychologists and Clinical Associates respectively. This programme aims to train students to the level of Clinical Associate.

The programme is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and graduates are eligible for registration with the BPS. The programme also has Level 1 accreditation from the British Association for Behavioural  and Cognitive Psychotherapy (BABCP).

Scottish Government policy is driving redesign in mental health services to deliver its standards and commitments for mental health, including improved access to evidence based psychological therapies. This is a multilevel, multidisciplinary, and multiagency task. This MSc programme is designed to equip graduate psychologists with the knowledge and skills to get started as safe and effective practitioners in that changing service context. There are opportunities and challenges in managing change – real opportunities for psychologists to fulfil new roles of service delivery and challenges in embedding new roles in a changing workforce. Further developments to the programme include the addition of competences in adjusting clinical skills for older adults and physical health conditions.

NES has a key role in working with all the key stakeholders to ensure education remains aligned to service and workforce planning – i.e., to ensure that this programme delivers the learning outcomes that it says it does and that we (employers, training providers and NES) work together to support transition from course to practice and subsequent role development.

Director of Training for Psychology Services

  • Judy Thomson, NES

Health boards

The delivery of training involves a partnership, brokered by NES, between the Universities providing the academic components of the training programmes and the NHS which supports trainees in supervised clinical practice in the workplace across local health boards:

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