May 28, 2021, by indybamra1
How I Applied to IAPT Training
By, Kat Wheatley, BSc Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience graduate (2020)
IAPT… PWP… What does it all mean?!
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is an NHS initiative that helps people with common mental health difficulties access talking therapies. If you’re planning to start a career in IAPT, chances are you will be applying for a role as a trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP), like myself.
As a PWP I support adults with mild to moderate anxiety disorders and depression, by providing low-intensity interventions that are based on principles of cognitive-behavioural-therapy (CBT). I also conduct assessments, manage risk, and work alongside high intensity (HI) therapists and other clinicians, in addition to liaising with GPs and other agencies.
Is IAPT right for you?
PWP work is hard! So it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I regularly work with patients who are distressed, at a high risk of ending their life, and who have experienced crippling traumas and abuse. And while we strive to maintain a patient-centered approach, this is a constant battle in target-driven services, such as IAPT. I often finish the day exhausted and occasionally upset, and after a long working day, I still need to muster up the energy for my academic assignments.
With all that said, I love my role as a PWP, and I would not change it for the world. I get to help people improve their lives working alongside the most supportive and enthusiastic colleagues I have ever met, all the while being paid to get a qualification! There are also great opportunities to progress in areas like supervision, management, or further training as a HI therapist or clinical psychologist.
Experience is key
To be successful in your application you will need to demonstrate you have the insight, organisation skills, and emotional resilience to meet the demands of IAPT work. That is why experience in mental health is key! When I applied for this role, my CV included volunteering for Nightline, disability care, and a placement year with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. I also related to skills I developed as a rock-climbing coach to help me stand out from the crowd.
If you’re concerned about your current experience, remember it’s never too late to start. Quality is more important than quantity!
So how do I apply?
Paid vacancies can be found on the NHS Jobs website, Indeed, and sometimes directly through a university. Often these close quickly (some in as little as 8-hours), so I would recommend searching regularly.
Alternatively, a list of accredited self-funded courses can be found on The British Psychological Society website.
This is your opportunity to demonstrate exactly how you meet their criteria, regarding your education, experience, and personal skills. Employers have hundreds of applications to sift through so keep it clear and concise – I would recommend using the same sub-headings as the job advertisement. Finally, I would steer clear of mentioning your aspirations for further training as this will likely work against you.
Typically, there will be a panel of 2-3 interviewers including a PWP, team lead, and an academic staff member. Be sure to provide examples to support your answers and consider using the STAR / CARL models to help you structure your response. Remember, they want you to do your best, so take a deep breath and let your personality shine through! Below are some common questions I was asked and my Top Tips (TT) to help you prepare:
Q: “What do you know about PWP work / IAPT / stepped-care?”
TT: The best candidates come prepared. The IAPT Manual is an invaluable (albeit lengthy…) resource covering everything you need to know.
Q: “What is your biggest strength/weakness?”
TT: Honesty is key – demonstrate insight into how this may affect you in the role.
Q: “Why do you want to be a PWP / what are your future plans?”
TT: Demonstrate your interest in PWP work. It’s ok to have career aspirations beyond Step 2, but services don’t want to pay for your training only for you to leave for further training.
How the UoN Careers team can help you
Out of 50 applications, I was only offered two interviews and it is not uncommon to be unsuccessful in the first-time round. However, you can maximise your chances by speaking with the UoN careers advisers. Here are just some of the ways they can help:
- Finding suitable work experience/vacancies
- Adapting your personal statement to give you the best chance of selection
- Practicing interview skills.
I do not think I would have secured my role without their support, so I urge anyone considering a career in IAPT to do the same. If you need support it would be a good idea to book an appointment with a careers adviser.
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