Project Outline

This is a project to define and establish the professional competencies of a European psychotherapist, with the intention of allowing this project to act as a set of principles or guidelines for ministries of health; national associations of psychotherapists in various countries; other professional psychotherapy associations (often representing a modality or method of psychotherapy); psychotherapy training organisations; and all other individuals and associated bodies in relation to the professional practice of psychotherapy, in all its various forms, across Europe.


  1. One of the requirements of the European Union, as a free labour market, was to establish a set of functional competencies or European occupational & professional standards for each trade and for each profession. These are the core competencies that are common to all members of that trade or profession, from whatever country, or whatever method they are trained in. This allows persons who have demonstrated that they can perform the functional competencies for that trade or profession to move from one country to another. These functional competencies also form a fairly exclusive definition of each trade or profession. As this is a European-wide project for all trades and professions, many other professions have already started on this process. These competencies are being required more and more by various governments and ministries.
  2. Therefore, as we progress in the process of establishing an independent profession of psychotherapy in Europe (according to the Strasbourg Declaration: Appendix 1), we will need to identify the functional or professional competencies for the profession of psychotherapy. The determination of the professional competencies must be done in a scientifically valid way. There is no one standardised way; however there are a number of models (from the different professions) and a variety of acceptable formats: we are consulting these and a format for establishing the professional competencies for psychotherapy is being worked out here.
  3. A patient / client (or a doctor referring a client, or anyone else) needs a clear definition as to what psychotherapy is, what a European psychotherapist can do (and what they cannot do), and thus what might be expected from any psychotherapy treatment. The wider world (politicians, authorities, and insurance companies, etc.) also needs a clear definition of psychotherapy and what can be expected of a European psychotherapist. We, as European psychotherapists from within the EAP, also need a clear definition of what can be expected of us for our professional identity.
  4. A European psychotherapist therefore needs to be able to demonstrate (or have demonstrated) that they can perform certain expected ‘things’: these are the functional or professional competencies of what this professional person should be able do. The competencies for the profession of psychotherapy have yet to be clearly identified, although some attempts have been already made, especially in Britain, to define the professional competencies for psychology, psychotherapy and counselling. This European project builds on and extends this work.
  5. Establishing the competencies of psychotherapy as a practice, focuses on the function that the particular professional is actually performing, rather than on their professional title, or how they were trained, or in what country they work. Some European countries have passed regulations that require a person to be either a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist before they can practice psychotherapy: i.e. the practice of psychotherapy is restricted only to those professions. Some countries have regulations where the practice of psychotherapy is open to a wide range of professions; other countries have no regulations about psychotherapy yet (see Political Background).
  6. Engagement in the process of establishing the Professional Competencies of a European Psychotherapist, and/or the competencies expected from anyone practicing psychotherapy, was recommended as a suitable project for the EAP, which the EAP’s Governing Board has accepted (in Feb, 2010). Over the next few years, the Working Group is planning a series of meetings; fixing an annual budget; establishing & developing this website; encouraging co-operation with relevant individuals and organisations as Participants (see here); responding to these; and making regular process reports to the ETSC & Governing Board. For more details about the Working Group, see here.
  7. The EAP’s European Training Standards Committee (ETSC) is collaborating with a University Research Institute, familiar with this work, and other academic professionals who will guide us and/or partner us in this process.
  8. To understand more about the Background of the Project, please click here.

Working Group on Professional Competencies: