Advanced practice and research: systemic psychotherapy (M10)

Join the longest standing systemic psychotherapy doctorate in the UK

This course is the longest standing systemic doctorate in the UK and offers experienced practitioners, managers and educators the opportunity for advanced professional development, and an applied research training.

The course is uniquely arranged with other professional doctorates covering consultation and the organisation and social care and social work, making for a multidisciplinary student body and an enriching learning experience (this is referred to as the integrated professional doctorate part of the course).

The teaching staff are research active, diverse and collectively hold a wealth of experience of research and scholarship including fields such as cross-cultural qualitative research, cross-cultural clinical practice, social anthropology, systems of care, autism, clinical practice and research into groups and group dynamics.

The deadline for applications to this course is provisionally set for Wednesday 31 July 2024. However, we encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, as spaces are limited and can be competitive.

Please note: you may see the M10 course also referred to as SYDOTP001 in communications from our application system.

About this course

This programme engages with the realities of current working experiences, its emotional demands and complexities, to enable a more confident, reflective response that increases the capacity to fulfil your role.

We aim to help you find direction in your career, in a manner that connects with your professional passion and curiosity, but also enhances your abilities for reflexive leadership both practically and intellectually.

Doctoral students consistently feedback the relevance of participation in this programme for the development of their thinking and practice in their work setting.

Many students have the support of their employers to conduct research on clinical or organisational topics, which makes a valuable contribution to the work of their service and their own professional performance.

The course comprises two years of ‘taught’ work and a minimum of two years applied research leading to submission of a 40,000-word doctoral thesis. The course is renowned for the care and support students receive from their supervisory teams.

The course staff take pride in the breadth of our engagement and teaching. Whatever type of research you would like to carry out, we will encourage and help you do so in the most comprehensive innovative and ethical way possible. We consider the development of research methods as an opportunity for self-scrutiny and reflexivity and encourage frank and critical consideration of research assumptions and positions.

The course includes teaching in quantitative, qualitative, critical qualitative, mixed methods, diffractive, post-structuralist, anti-colonising, psychoanalytic, and systemic research methods. We encourage you to develop your own mix and style to suit you as a person and your particular research project. We place high value on creativity throughout the study.

Year one

You will attend seminars focusing on systemic psychotherapy enquiry and its relationship to contemporary ideas and research activity in sociology, social anthropology, ethnography, social psychology and art. We consider research to rely on experience and knowledge as well as skill.

You will undertake an observation from a constructivist perspective. You will be encouraged to place yourself inside the observation and through an appreciation of art and drawing you will be helped to develop embodied, observational, contextual and linguistic research skills drawing on contexts and experiences unique to you. These two first modules lay the foundation for the second year and for the subsequent thesis writing.

Year two

You will participate in seminars on data analysis and methodological reflexivity. You will also engage with theory and research around the contemporary systemic psychotherapy context and complexity in practice-based enquiry. Throughout, you will be encouraged to place difference and complexity rather than similarity and unity at the centre of your practice and thinking.

During the first two years the research methods lectures and some seminars are shared with students on other professional doctorate programmes in social work/social care and organisational consultancy, making for a unique and rich inter-disciplinary learning experience.

By the end of year two you will have developed a clear research proposal for your research, and in subsequent years you will be regularly supervised on your project by an experienced team of systemic psychotherapy academics and practitioners. Research data analysis seminars, systemic doctorate special events and symposia offer opportunities for networking, group data analysis and problem solving, as well as strong peer learning and support.

Each year you will be entitled to attend the annual Tavistock doctoral student conference where students present work in progress, display posters and learn from the experience of doctoral graduates.


We are in partnership with the Centre for Anthropology and Mental Health Research in Action (CAMRA) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and offer joint workshops with their doctoral students twice a year. These workshops provide an opportunity for anthropology and systemic researchers to explore and develop their skills in integrating clinical and social/ethnographic enquiry.

Who is this course for?

This course is for you if you:

  • want to enhance your ability to place diversity and difference at the heart of your practice
  • would like to complement your curiosity with research inquiry
  • would like to contribute to systemic research

The course uniquely combines therapeutic practice principles and an emphasis on social science, including social anthropology and issues of diversity and reflexivity.

Course details

In order to undertake this course, we ask that you:

  • have a master’s degree in systemic psychotherapy or equivalent (this must include specific knowledge of systemic psychotherapy theory and practice)
  • hold a professional systemic registration e.g. AFT or UKCP
  • have some prior knowledge of research

As part of our application process we ask that you submit a proposal as we are interested in the thoughts and ideas that you have about your research interests.

Please note that this does not need to be a fully worked out proposal, just an idea at application stage.

Home (2024/25)

£6,250 per year for years one to four. Fees for years five and six are £3,125 per year.

International (2024/25)

£12,500 per year for years one to four. Fees for years five and six are £6,250 per year.

You will be charged course fees for each year of your course. If your course is longer than one year, the fees that you will be charged after the first year will be subject to an annual inflationary increase. This will either be an increase of 3% or the Consumer Price Inflation as on 1 September of that year – whichever is the greater. At its discretion, the Trust may determine a figure between these two rates. Please refer to our Student Fees & Refund Policy for further information.

Financial support may be available to help you fund your studies at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.


All seminars lead to assessment by assignment. There are two 3000-word assignments and one 5,000-word assignment in each of the first two years.

You will only be able to go onto year three in which you begin your independent research if you have passed all assignments.


In years one and two, attendance is one and a half days per month on a Thursday (all day) and Friday (half day).

From year three onwards, attendance is more flexible with research seminars once a term and monthly individual research supervision.

Graduates from this course have continued to develop their careers as practice leaders either in strategic leadership or practice leadership positions, in advanced or specialised practice roles and in education or academia.

This programme is commended by graduates for the development of their thinking and practice in their work setting.

The codes for this course are M10 and SYDOTP001.

Why study with us?

You will be joining the longest standing systemic psychotherapy doctoral programme of this kind in the UK. Many of our alumni have gone on to publish and make significant contributions to the international field of systemic psychotherapy research and practice.

This course uniquely combines relationship-based with therapeutic practice principles and an emphasis on social science, including social anthropology, and issues of diversity and reflexivity. You will benefit from a staff team who are experienced current practitioners, as well as leading academics and researchers.

Course facilitators

Validations and accreditations

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This course is validated by the University of Essex.

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