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The role of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner and career progression

With Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services expanding and developing their workforce in line with objectives set out in the Mental Health Five Year Forward View it is an exciting time to be a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP).

The role is an integral part of IAPT services and has evolved since the programme began in 2008. Career opportunities are developing, the PWP role is becoming established and recognised, and is now a popular career path for many. Heather Stonebank explains more.

My IAPT journey began in 2008 when I started training as a PWP; ever since I have been extremely passionate and committed to the PWP role and motivated by its impact and ability to improve the lives of people experiencing anxiety and depression.

The PWP role sits within step two of the mental health stepped care model – providing low intensity cognitive behavioural-based interventions for people experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. The aim of stepped care is to provide the least intrusive and most appropriate level of care to meet the needs of the person.

The PWP workforce provides short-term, evidence-based treatments in line with NICE guidance to help people manage their symptoms. As PWPs, we work with people to equip them with the tools and techniques they need to manage anxiety and depression effectively and work towards their goals. Our aim is to help people make positive changes to improve their wellbeing and quality of life.

The PWP role is fast-paced, varied and constantly evolving with the evidence base and guidance. IAPT services around the country strive to meet the needs of people who need to access services. Therefore, PWPs offer a wide range of treatments, including telephone and online treatment, computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes, psycho-educational groups, courses, workshops and one-to-one work. Adapting what we offer to make our treatments accessible is a critical characteristic of IAPT services.

The PWP role is integral to IAPT services. As a PWP, treating a large majority of people who access the service is incredibly rewarding. I have seen first-hand the positive impact the treatments can have on someone’s life. From supporting a patient to overcome panic attacks and being able to visit their local supermarket to helping a patient understand and manage depression to achieve their goal of socialising with friends again – it really can make such a difference. It is a privilege to work alongside a person, be part of their journey to help them manage anxiety and depression. For me, this is why I am an advocate for the role.

There is a wide range of career opportunities open to PWPs, which start from developing special interests within areas such as older adults, perinatal mental health, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and supporting people who are managing long-term health conditions. Other career development opportunities range from senior PWPs, lead PWPs, clinical educators and IAPT managers. Some PWPs may also go on to become CBT therapists or embark on a career in clinical psychology. With the role becoming more established and recognised, there are many more exciting doors to open and future career development opportunities.

I feel extremely privileged to be a Lead PWP in Sheffield IAPT and Clinical Advisor in Yorkshire and the Humber Clinical Network. I have an insight into national, regional and local topics for IAPT services and the opportunity to contribute at a strategic level and influence change. My contribution from a clinical perspective has been welcomed and valued by colleagues, and I believe this is a fantastic development for the role and its future influence at a strategic level.

I am passionate about bringing the workforce together to share best practice, learn from each other and generate innovative ideas, also working in partnership with other services to provide the best quality of care. Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Senior PWP Network is a great example of this; we are currently working together on how we can support the wellbeing of the workforce and improve access for different patient populations.

My vision is to continue to develop the role, support the workforce, share best practice and provide clinical leadership to contribute to developing IAPT services and patient care. I am very much looking forward to continuing on this career path and working alongside other healthcare professionals to provide high quality patient care.

Heather Stonebank

Heather Stonebank is Lead Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner for Sheffield Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Service (IAPT), a role in which she provides clinical leadership for the PWP workforce.

Heather has 11 years’ experience of working in mental health services within Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, working as part of Sheffield’s drug and alcohol team and on an acute mental health ward.
In October 2016 she was recruited into the Yorkshire and the Humber Clinical Network, NHS England, on secondment as a Lead PWP Clinical Advisor.

She is also co-chair of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies Low Intensity Special Interest Group.

Heather has a keen interest in research to inform guidelines and clinical practice, is a member of the Northern Practice Research Network and has been involved in several research studies which have reached publication.

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46 comments

  1. Amanda Clements says:

    I am interested in training to become a PWP .I am an RGN with 35 years experience and currently work on a dementia unit .I have volunteered with both Samaritans and CAB .I also have lived experience of a mental health condition.Is it possible to undertake this training and what does it involve ? What qualifications do you need to do this course

  2. Milan says:

    Hi Heather,

    Thank you for sharing information about your role as a PWP.

    My brother suffered from depression and took his own life in 2010. Since then I’ve wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I stumbled upon the PWP career path today and it has sparked my interest in the role.

    But I don’t have a degree. I have A-Levels in the sciences and I’m 38. Would I need to complete a degree before applying for a role as a PWP or is there another way to train for the role? Also, is there an age limit?

    I’d appreciate any advice you can give.

    Kind regards,
    Milan

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello Milan

      Thank you for your message and reading the blog.

      I am sorry to hear about your brother.

      Sounds like you have you have a passion for helping others.

      There is no age limit to becoming a PWP.

      There are different ways to access the PWP training course, a lot of courses do require a degree but there are alternative routes too, I have attached a link with more information about training. I would also contact your local IAPT service and ask who their training provider is and you can contact them directly to ask questions about requirements to access the course.

      https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/psychological-therapies/roles/psychological-wellbeing-practitioner

      I hope this information is helpful and if you require any further information, please let me know. More than happy to advise.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  3. Sara says:

    Hi.

    I am studying a Foundation Degree in Mental health Practise. I am keen to train as a PWP.

    I have personal experience of Depression and Anxiety, so can empathise with people who experience it.

    Would I need a full honours degree to get onto a training program? Or is there a way of getting onto one with a Foundation degree?

    Many thanks,

    Sarah

  4. Alison says:

    Hello. I have a 2:1 degree in Psychology and went into teaching prior to hopefully becoming Ed Psych but life got in the way and 25 years later am interested PWP specialising in CAMHS. Having recently experienced children suffering terribly I want to support them.
    I have worked with children aged 5-15.i am finding that much more of my work is counselling and supporting various mental health issues and would like to continue this support as a profession. What is the best way forward please?

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello Alison

      Thanks for getting in contact, sounds like you have lots of useful and relevant experience and a passion for supporting children with their mental health.
      There are PWP positions available in CAMHS. My advice would be to keep looking out for these and maybe enquire in your local CAMHS service when they are next advertising for these posts and apply for a trainee PWP position within CAMHS.If you would like anymore help or advice just let me know.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  5. Nicola Merritt says:

    Hi. I have worked within the NHS for the past 20 years and within Cancer Services as an MDT Coordinator for the past 10 years.
    I have an English Literature/Sociology degree.
    I am keen to train to become a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, please can you give me some guidance on how best to achieve this/who to apply to/when to apply/whether it will be funded etc.
    with thanks
    Nicola Merritt
    07920052054

    • Anna says:

      Most PWP training courses are advertised on the NHS jobs website. My advice is to think seriously about this area of mental health work. A lot of burnout amongst PWPs and more frequently you will be asked to work with patients you are not trained for due to lack of other services.

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Nicola

      Lovely to hear from you, its great you are considering the PWP role. More than happy to provide some guidance. First of all I would add an alert to NHS jobs to make you aware of PWP trainee positions available in your local area. They should be coming out shortly. Happy to have a conversation if you would like to drop me an email and we can arrange a time to speak.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  6. Danny G says:

    Hi Heather,

    I am 26 and currently work with dementia patients in a care home and I am studying my level 3 RQF in Health and Social Care currently. I was at university but only have a Foundation Degree in Crime Psychology as I had to drop out of the Bsc course. I wondered what would be my best route to becoming a PEP without a full degree as I wouldn’t be able to get financed for a full bachelor’s degree.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks

  7. Fatima says:

    Hi Heather,

    I will be graduating this summer with a Psychology degree at Goldsmiths (UOL), and am really intrigued by the PWP role. I was wondering what the best way to apply for a trainee post would be, online or through a uni. Any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks
    Fatima

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Fatima

      Congratulations on graduating, that’s great to hear you are interested in becoming a PWP. One way to apply is through NHS jobs, you can set an alert to let you know when PWP trainee jobs come up in your local area. Happy to have a chat if you want to drop me an email.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  8. Rach says:

    Hi Heather,

    I am a graduate in psychology and have 2 years experience working within mental health inpatient services.

    I would definitely like to pursue a career within the PWP role.

    Do you have any tips/advice for a successful interview?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Rach

      Thanks for your message, that’s great to hear. Sounds like you have relevant experience for the role, with both academic and experience of working in mental health too.

      Happy to have a discussion regarding any helpful advice, just drop me an email.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  9. Kathryn Crumpholt says:

    Hi,

    I am looking into becoming a PWP, but im stuch as to the best route. Should i get an undergrad degree first, or try and get into one of the PWP trainee positions? Any help would be greatly received.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Kathryn

      Thanks for your message. Great to hear you are looking into becoming a PWP. It’s helpful to have a undergraduate degree or equivalent as the main PWP training courses are at post graduate level. There are some that offer alternative route but the main route is to apply for a PWP trainee position in an IAPT service and complete the postgraduate course in the training year. Hope this is helpful info, please do get in touch if you have any other questions. Wishing you all the best for the future.

      Many thanks

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  10. Emily says:

    Dear Heather

    I came across your blog when doing some research on the clinical advisor role, and it is really nice to see how dedicated and passionate you are about being a PWP!

    I am currently a senior PWP role in a small but well established service and am really keen to start up some clinical audit/research and find some innovative ways of monitoring and improving our clinical work. I would be really grateful if you could point me in the direction on any information on the clinical advisor role/clinical leadership as a pwp, research/clinical audit, cpd/training opportunities and anything else that you think may be helpful.

    Thanks so much in advance.

    Best wishes
    Emily

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Emily

      Thank you for your message, lovely to hear from you and about the fantastic work you are planning.

      Yes more than happy to point you in the right direction, advise and discuss ideas – lets arrange a chat over the phone and we can have a discussion. If you drop me an email we can arrange a call.

      Many thanks

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  11. Ameera Kapadia says:

    hi my name is Ameera and i am currently in my final year at univeristy. i wish to do a trainee course as a pwp but some where locally as i live in nuneaton and London is too far out as i cannot afford to move out. is there any where that do this programme locally and if not is there a way i can some how do this course. thank you

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello Ameera

      Thank you for your message. I hope you are enjoying your final year at University. My advice would be ask IAPT services in your local area where their training provider is located. Usually the training is accessed by being successful in gaining a PWP trainee post within an IAPT service. I do hope this information is helpful.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  12. Deborah says:

    Hi I am thinking of applying for a pg course for psychological wellbeing practitioner in London, I hold a masters in social work, is there an upper age limit as I’m 58

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello Deborah

      Lovely to hear from you – that’s great you are thinking of applying for the role. Sounds like you have a lot of relevant experience. There is no upper age limit. We encourage people of all ages to apply for the role. I would definitely encourage you to apply, your application would be very welcome.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  13. AS says:

    Hi Heather,
    Its nice to read about your clear account of PWP role. I am a PWP myself and would like to find out how can I move into developing special interest areas as you mentioned. Is there specific training available that I can access ?

    many thanks

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello

      Thank you for reading the blog and the lovely feedback. Yes, there are opportunities to receive training within specialist areas depending where you are and what specialist areas you are interested in. I would be more than happy to discuss over the phone and advise. If you drop me an email and we can arrange a time to have a discussion. Look forward to hearing from you.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  14. Vicky Carroll says:

    Hi Heather, what a fantastic blog explaining your role/career path and great for a parent of a soon to be trainee PWP.
    After completing a Bsc & MSc in Clinical Psychology, as parents we thought she would automatically apply for assistant psych roles, however can now see where her skills and passions lie. Many thanks

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Vicky

      Thank you so much for your lovely feedback, it is very much appreciated. I am really pleased the blog has been helpful in explaining the PWP role/career path. That’s great news, I do hope your daughter enjoys her new role as PWP trainee. If I can be of anymore help at all, please do drop me an email.

      Many thanks

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  15. Vediz Yilkan says:

    Hi,

    I am hoping to become a CBT therapist and a CBT therapist I work with said that I could possibly go through IAPT. If this is the case please could I have a little more information.

    Kind Regards

    Vediz Yilkan

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Vediz

      Thank you for your message, yes that is correct. There are trainee CBT opportunities within IAPT. These posts will be advertised through your local IAPT service when they become available. Keep a look out and you can also set an alert on NHS jobs to notify you when these positions are advertised.

      Hope this is helpful. Any questions please let me know.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  16. Hannah Conroy says:

    Hi there

    I am very interested in this job role, I am currently doing a psychology degree and I am volunteering with people with mental health problems. I was wondering what the career progression was like in this area (not just progressing to become a clinical psychologist) and what training is needed after a degree?

    Thanks

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Hannah

      Thank you for your message – that’s great to hear you are interested in the PWP role.

      There is a lot of career progression within the PWP role – from specialist PWP roles, Senior PWPs to Lead PWPs, researchers to clinical educators. There is definitely a career path developing, which is a great development for the role. Also there are roles within IAPT such as team managers or high intensity CBT positions which PWPs go on to. Lots of great opportunities! PWPs can train as supervisors once qualified and have gained some experience, so it is a great role to gain lots of additional skills, transferable skills and CPD.
      It sounds like you on the right lines with your degree and experience, my advice would be to complete your degree and continue to gain experience in mental health and then you can look into applying for the role. Happy to discuss if you would like any further advice.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  17. Jordon Murdoch says:

    Hi,

    How can I start training to become PWP?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,

    Jordon

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hi Jordan

      Thank you for your message.

      To start training to become a PWP, you can apply for a trainee PWP post in an IAPT service. Keep checking for ‘PWP trainee’ jobs in your area. You could have a look at a job description and personal specification in the meantime to look at the criteria. Hope this is helpful.

      Many thanks

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  18. Jennie Harper says:

    Wow what an inspiration you are and from my neck of the woods too. I recently qualified with an upper 2:1 in psychology, studying while working full time and am now working on a male psychiatric intensive care unit. I have applied 3 times for a trainee PWP position before I started on the unit but didn’t even get an interview. Is there anything more you can advise or is it just a case of persevering. Thanks Jennie.

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello Jennie, thanks so much for your lovely feedback about the PWP blog. Sounds like you have relevant qualifications and some experience too, I would definitely keep trying. Making sure you are clearly matching all the essential criteria when completing your application. More than happy to have a chat over the phone and we can speak in more detail, if you would like to speak drop me an email and we can arrange a time to speak. Look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks, Best Wishes, Heather

  19. Abbey says:

    Hi Heather, you sound like you really enjoy your job which must mean you’re very good at it! How do you encourage people to actively participate in-spite of their mental health symptoms and help them recover?

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Thank you Abbey – I do really enjoy my job and find it very rewarding.
      I think it’s important first all to acknowledge the difficulties people experience, help them to understand, normalise, empathise as well as instilling hope that engaging in treatment can be beneficial. We help people make changes gradually to build their confidence and discuss any barriers to help people overcome any challenges they may encounter along the way. We also help the person to identify and set individual goals, which really helps and motivates a person to make changes and participate in treatment when they have something specific in mind they are working towards. Hope this information helps, if you have any other questions please let me know, more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the role. Many thanks, Best Wishes Heather

  20. Tee says:

    Hi, thanks for writing that inspiring blog post. I hold a first class degree in economics and have recently gone back to work after having 3 children, for a mental health charity as a community development officer. It was only for 8 months or so but I never felt so enthused going to work. I have an A level I psychology. Please advise if it’s possible for me to train as a PWP and the route I could take?

    • Heather Stonebank says:

      Hello Tee

      Thank you for your message and kind feedback. Sounds like you have relevant skills and experience and it’s lovely to hear you enjoy your role in the mental health charity. To become a PWP, the usual route would be to apply for a PWP trainee post in an IAPT service, where you will work whilst studying one day a week for a Post-Graduate Certificate in Low Intervention Psychological Interventions, which takes one year to complete. If you would like anymore information, happy to discuss further.

      Best Wishes

      Heather

  21. Claire macfarlane says:

    Hello. I have been a school health nurse for the last 10 years and have in this time developed my 1:1 emotional support therapeutic work using a strength based approach incorporating solution focus therapy and motivational interviewing. My background is Paediatric nursing , mainly Adolescent based . I also recently completed a Public Health post grad diploma, which encorporated a Systemic module, i am keen to focus on wellbeing. Would you be able to advise me of a route I could take to become a PWP?
    Best wishes

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Claire, thank you for your message. It sounds like you have some excellent experience. Great to hear you are exploring the PWP career path. To become a PWP the usual route would be to apply for a PWP trainee post within an IAPT service. You would then complete a Post graduate Certificate in Low Intensity Psychological Interventions alongside working in an IAPT service. Hope this is helpful, if you need anymore information please do let me know happy to have a discussion.
      Best Wishes
      Heather

  22. Charles Green says:

    I came across your blog by accident and enjoyed reading it. I am working on temporary contracts at the moment in Wakefield and enjoying the fast pace.How are you? I hope you and all the IAPT teams in Sheffield are well.
    Best wishes
    Charlie

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Charlie, great to hear from you. I am very good thanks. Glad all is good and you are enjoying the role.
      Best Wishes
      Heather

  23. Lesley says:

    Hi Heather

    I was good to read you passionate account of your role as a PWP and it evolution. I wonder if it would be possible for me to talk to you about the career structure for PWP in your service and if you are aware of any good practice examples of career structure nationally for the PWP workforce.

    Thank you

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Lesley

      Thank you for your lovely feedback. I would be more than happy to discuss PWP career structures and good practice examples. It would be great to speak. If you could me directly on my email: heather.stonebank@shsc.nhs.uk
      we can arrange a time to speak.

      Many thanks

      Heather