MSc Systemic Psychotherapy

Welcome to Education and Training at Clanwilliam Institute

Learn more about our MSc Systemic Psychotherapy program

Clanwilliam Institute has been delivering training in Family Therapy for over 30 years now. Clanwilliam Institute is a teaching and learning Institute in which Clinical practice is embedded. There are currently 53 therapists who provide services for Clanwilliam, most of whom are our own course graduates. Clanwilliam is the biggest employer of Family Therapists in Ireland and the only agency-based practice providing the levels of Clinical Systemic Therapy, as we see over 100 clients a week in a wide variety of Clinical settings. Students of Clanwilliam Institute programmes benefit from the fact that Clanwilliam is both an Education setting and an active Clinical practice.

Clanwilliam Institute delivers several courses and offers Supervision/ Reflective Practice to Mental Health professionals, practicing Family Therapists and to Social workers.

The MSc Systemic Psychotherapy is very well regarded by employers, it’s students, graduates and stakeholders as is evidenced by feedback received.

Clanwilliam Institute is now accepting applications for October 2023 MSc Systemic Therapy intake. See below for more info.

How to Apply

Application Procedure

Applications to be submitted by email to and by post.

To apply for Direct Entry to the MSc. In Systemic Psychotherapy we require a completed application form together with Curriculum Vitae including qualifications (awards), personal statement and the names of two referees who are familiar with your work and/or academic abilities, should be submitted to the Training Department.

An application processing fee of €75 is required.

The application will not be processed until the application fee is received. If incomplete applications are received they will not be processed until all documents, forms, etc. are received.

Download Programme Brochure
Download Application ProcedureDownload Application Form

1. Application Submitted
  • Application Form
  • Personal Statement
  • CV
  • Transcripts
  • Qualifications
  • Transcripts
  • Application Fee
2. Review Application
  • Check all documents are provided
  • Determine if applicant satisifies
  • Make a decision for interview
3. Interview
  • Student invited for interview
4. Checking References
  • CWI will check the references that were provided
  • 1 academic reference
  • 1 professional reference
5. Offer of Placement
  • Student sent acceptance letter
  • To register a registration fee of €500 to be paid to secure place

Entry Requirements

Direct Entry

1. To be considered for admission, applicants should hold an honours primary degree (National Framework of Qualifications Level 8) in a field of study in the human sciences or its equivalent.


2. Hold an Ordinary degree (National Framework of Qualifications Level 7) in a field of study in the human sciences or its equivalent and have obtained a minimum of three years relevant post-qualification experience.

Checklist for Direct Application

  • Application Form
  • Application Fee, €75
  • Personal Statement
  • Please attach a typed, two pages maximum, personal statement addressing the following questions:
  1. What has influenced you to apply for this programme at this time?
  2. Who will support you in your learning and in what ways?
  3. Who will be affected and in what way by your involvement in this course?
  4. What are your career plans?
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Educational Transcripts Copies
  • Certificates/Qualifications Copies
  • Two Referees (one clinical and one academic), with the following details:
    • Name
    • Contact number
    • E-mail Address
  • Upon review of the application the applicant will be informed if they are successful for the next stage, an interview, and this will be arranged between the Clanwilliam Institute and the applicant. The applicant will be sent a letter informing them of the result of their application and interview. If successful, the applicant will receive a registration letter and process for the next steps.

RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) – Indirect Entry

Applicants who are not entitled to direct entry may be considered for entry based on their prior learning, that is their knowledge and skills acquired through life, work experience and study, not attested through formal certification. Applicants will be considered provided they can demonstrate equivalence to Direct Entry Requirements which can be verified through the Clanwilliam Institute RPL process. Applicants will be required to demonstrate an ability to contribute to and benefit from the programme.

Applicants who are considering application through this route are encouraged to make informal enquiries to the Head of Training. Applicants will be required to satisfy the Head of Training and the Programme Committee as to their capacity to contribute to and benefit from the programme.

Note: Under Institute RPL procedures, a Support Person is available to assist RPL applicants

RPL applications take a minimum of 9 weeks to prepare and one week for a decision. Therefore, RPL applications should commence at least 10 weeks prior to the closing date for direct entry applications. Late applications may result in less time for preparation of portfolio.

Fees for RPL applications are available on request.

For non-native English speakers tested evidence of competency in English is required.


All successful candidates will be interviewed to assess their suitability for the programme. At interview candidates are expected to demonstrate:

  • An interest and engagement with the field of psychotherapy and with the Institute’s approach and ethos;
  • A reflexive awareness of their own learning experience;
  • A willingness to engage with supervisory and support structures;
  • A sensitivity to group and team processes.

All applicants are required to or be willing to seek a clinical setting in a work setting or hold a role which will provide opportunities for the student to implement the learning from the programme, such as counselling, psychotherapy, support services, or project/community work in either a paid or voluntary position. Clanwilliam can advise applicants about suitable placements, therefore please contact us for further information.

Following registration, students are required to undergo standard Garda vetting procedures.


The Clanwilliam Institute accepts any of the following payment options identified below:

Debit Card
Bank Transfer
Postal Order

* Note: Credit Cards and Cheques are not accepted

The bank details for bank transfers which are identified below:

IBAN: IE62 AIBK 9336 0015 5330 66

Course Information

Programme Description

This comprehensive programme in Systemic Psychotherapy/Family Therapy has particular relevance for professionals in the health, social services, education, and related disciplines. This programme, which is recognised as one of the foremost psychotherapy training courses in Ireland has been running, subject to review and revision, for twenty-five years. This programme has recently been modified to fit with academic and professional training requirements emerging from both Irish and European Academic and Professional bodies.

Year One Year Two Year Three Year Four
Postgraduate Diploma in Systemic Psychotherapy Part 1 Foundation Level Professional Training Programme in Systemic Psychotherapy Postgraduate Diploma in Systemic Psychotherapy Part 2 / Intermediate Level Professional Training Programme in Systemic Psychotherapy (exit award at end of Year 2) Masters in Science in Systemic Psychotherapy Professional Level Training Programme in Systemic Psychotherapy

The programme is comprised of 5 interweaving strands:

  1. Theory
  2. Clinical Practice
  3. Ethics & Inclusivity
  4. Research
  5. Personal Professional Development (PPD)

The curriculum comprises 4 modules/subjects which are:  Theory, Clinical Practice, Ethics and Inclusivity, and Research. Reflexivity is a core component of all of these modules.

The learning environments for these five strands include academic seminars, supervised (live) clinical practice in teams; retrospective supervision (in fourth year) and personal group experience. A high degree of student participation and self-directed learning is expected.

The Clanwilliam Institute is accredited by EAPTI (European Accredited Psychotherapy Training Institutes), which is an accredited Training Institute with EAP (European Association for Psychotherapy). The Clanwilliam Institute is also accredited through FTAI (Family Therapy Association of Ireland). The first three years are accredited by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). The Four Year Programme is accredited by EAP and FTAI as leading to an award of European Certificate in Psychotherapy.

Progression through the programme is dependent on successful completion of all of the programme requirements

Objectives of the Programme

The main objective of the programme is to provide the fundamentals of good practice as a systemic family therapist.  The core learning outcomes associated with this objective are the demonstration of the following:

  • The skills, knowledge and competence to practice as a systemic family therapist;
  • an ethical positioning that allows them to scrutinise and reflect on their practice;
  • A familiarity with theory and research that allows them to review and update their clinical work;
  • A reflexivity that allows them to review and manage the place of their own self in their clinical and research and professional practice
  • An awareness of the importance of the therapeutic relationship in psychotherapy.

Philosophy of the Programme

The Clanwilliam Institute approach to therapeutic practice and training has been constructed from three principal theoretical and philosophical influences – systems theory, social constructionism and professional ethics.

  1. Systems Theory
    The systemic view emphasises the contextual and relational aspects of human experience.  It sees the person as embedded in a social and emotional world which s/he is constantly being influenced by and influencing.  This approach enables the practitioner to take account of the multi-layered complexity of the many systems within which we live. This focus on context and relationship distinguishes Systemic (Family) Psychotherapy from other forms of psychotherapy. This relational contextual approach emphasises the centrality of the therapeutic relationship.
  2. Social Construction
    The Clanwilliam approach identifies with a social constructionist perspective which regards all meaning (and thus identity and problem descriptions) as generated in language between people.  Thus it is through the medium of language that new meanings and resources may be accessed and new relationship configurations achieved.
  3. Professional Ethnics
    Within the philosophical positioning of the Clanwilliam Institute professional ethics are an integral part of professional thinking and practice and a part of personal and professional growth The Clanwilliam Institute ethos is grounded in ethical principles drawn from professional codes of practice, a duty of care towards all involved – clients, students, colleagues and the public– and a commitment to the development of non-discriminatory practice and service delivery.

The Clanwilliam approach seeks to hold and work with the continuing tension between these philosophical influences, achieving an appropriate professional stance and maintain an ethical position in particular when dealing with issues of inequality, disadvantage and abuse. This approach emphasises that there are no neutral stances and all participants are challenged to reflect on their biases and cultural conditioning. Therapy and training are viewed as co-operative, explorative, mutually respectful processes.

Structure of the Programme

The academic programme is structured around over-arching themes which provide continuity and integration.  These include:

  • Viewing meaning, interactional patterns, structure and communication as inter-related dimensions of human experience and behaviour;
  • Attending to both the person and the context so that neither is invalidated;
  • Giving particular attention to an anti-discriminatory position in relation to gender, race, religion, ability, age, culture, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Guided by these considerations, a curriculum has been developed which attends to the person of the client and also to that of the student therapist. The curriculum comprises 4 modules that are developed and integrated throughout the four years of the programme. Reflexivity is a core component of all of these modules.

The learning environments for these five strands include academic seminars, supervised (live) clinical practice in teams; retrospective supervision (in fourth year) and personal group experience.

A high degree of student participation and self-directed learning is expected.

Year Subjects ACCS Credits* Total Credits
One Clinical Practice 1 10 30
Theory 1 10
Ethics and Inclusivity 1 5
Research 1 5
Two Clinical Practice 2 10 30
Theory 2 10
Ethics and Inclusivity 2 5
Research 2 5
Three Clinical Practice 20 60
Theory 10
Ethics and Inclusivity 10
Research Production: Dissertation 20
Four Clinical Practice 25
Theory and Practice Integration
Clinical Consultation

Subject: Clinical Practice

These modules are composed of two parts, live supervision in clinical teams and work based clinical practice.

Live Clinical Supervision

Students work as members of a team with a Registered Supervisor.  Family Therapy training has evolved a distinctive method known as “live supervision”.  By this is meant that the student is guided, as he or she is conducting therapy, by a supervisor who is observing using a one-way mirror and/or video system.  This provides an intensive learning experience with the opportunity for detailed feedback and commentary afterwards. Students are gradually introduced to this format during the first year and begin clinical practice under direct supervision during the second year. In the third year the students move towards more autonomous practice although all sessions continue to be ‘live’ supervised, and in the fourth year there is a shift to retrospectively supervised team work. Live supervision clinical practice in year 2 and 3 takes place both in Clanwilliam Institute and in off-site venues. Students remain with their assigned groups throughout the programme.  While one student works with the client(s) face-to-face, the other members of the group observe with the supervisor.  Students are also involved in case discussion, planning, reviewing the session and feedback to the student therapist.  In some cases the whole group may work as a team with more active participation in the therapy process.

Cases are selected and assigned in so far as is practicable to give the students a range of clinical experience.  Where clients give permission, sessions are recorded. The recordings are subsequently reviewed by the student and discussed with the supervisor and group.  Attention is given to theoretical issues, the development of therapeutic techniques and the individual skills and style of the student.  Students are encouraged to address their personal and emotional resonances to the stories of the clients both in the supervision group and the Personal and Professional Development group.

In the first year the students consider the influences of relationships and personal history on their development as a therapist. Students present and explore their own family genogram and its impact in the therapeutic domain.  Students develop a better understanding of and compassion for issues and problems in families together with reflexivity in relation to their own positioning, if they have undertaken an exploration of their own family of origin. In the fourth year, student’s move from live supervision (in the presence of the supervisor) to individual practice with retrospective supervision and group seminars/group consultations.


Work Based Clinical Practice

In years 1, 2, and 3 students are expected to have clinical practice outside of the course. Some students work full time in clinical settings and do not require additional practice. For students who do not work fulltime in clinical settings they will be required to work a minimum of 3 hours a week in a clinical practice (ideally 6 hours).

In Year One, clinical placements may be on telephone helplines and other counselling support settings. In Year 2 and 3 students are encouraged to work more face to face with clients and should have done so before beginning Year 3. In Year 3 and Four all students must be working in clinical settings outside course clinical hours for a minimum of 3 hours per week.

Year Four students are required to complete a minimum of 200 hours of external systemic practice. This will usually be in a student’s workplace but, occasionally, it may be necessary for students to complete additional work on a placement basis. Students bring to the facilitated supervision sessions audio & videotapes of therapy consultations in which they are engaged so as to allow them the opportunity to reflect on their practice and to benefit from the reflections and input of others in the supervision group.

In Year Four Clinical supervision for 200 hours clinical work is provided by one of the faculty clinical supervisors and is covered by fees paid. Clinical supervision is not clinical line management but offers the students an opportunity to reflect on their clinical work and link theory to practice.


Subject: Theory

These modules attend to the interconnections between theory and practice.

The theoretical modules provide students with a detailed and critical overview of the principal philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of systemic practice as well as the postmodern influences on systemic therapy:

  • Systemic thinking
  • Constructivism
  • Social constructionism
  • Postmodernism and psychotherapy


These modules link theoretical perspectives with the practice of therapy. Models of Family Therapy are explored in relation to (a) theoretical descriptions of the model (b) descriptions of practice (c) explorations of the links between theory and practice (d) critiques of the model and (e) an experiential component where participants experiment with utilising the model.


Subject: Ethics and Inclusivity

This module highlights ethics as a central aspect of therapeutic practice, and explores links between ethics, justice and professional practice. Emphasis is placed on incorporating ethical principles within everyday practice and on understanding and utilizing ethical codes and principles.  Different frameworks of understanding ethics – in particular legal, spiritual and social justice frameworks – are presented and explored.


Subject: Research

Particular emphasis is placed  on understanding the place of research in therapy.  Introductory components provide the opportunity for students to explore the relationship between research and practice, to read research papers critically, and explore different epistemological foundations of research methods. The practice component focuses on carrying out research projects, with particular emphasis on research methods, research design, data collection, data analysis and presentation of results. The research subject is integrated into the program and encourages the student to reflect on themselves as a research and is influenced by reflexive research approaches.


Reflexivity is a continuing process through the four year training programme.  Reflexive engagement with the practice of psychotherapy is both an ethical requirement and a guiding principle of competent, effective psychotherapeutic practice. Students are given the opportunity to reflect on their theoretical, clinical, organisational and personal positionings in ways that enhance and promote critical self-reflexivity.

Reflexivity in CWI training programmes is composed of two parts, a theoretical/practice component in each module and Personal and Professional Development groups.


Theoretical/Practice Component

The theoretical/practice component aims to

  • equip students with the necessary skills to assess personal value, knowledge, skills and competencies;
  • identify strategies for professional and personal development;
  • balance personal and professional commitments;
  • develop personally appropriate coping strategies;
  • develop reflexive engagement in multiple relationships at a therapeutic, research, professional and organisational level.

Reflexivity supports theoretical and clinical learning through its emphasis on self-awareness of personal, professional, institutional and organisational limits, strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, and its focus on fostering the ability to respond to such awareness in ways that address these strengths and limitations. This includes awareness of the limits of personal and professional knowledge and a respectful positioning towards other models and frameworks of knowledge, as well as an awareness of the place of the self in therapeutic processes.


Personal and Professional Development (PPD)

The PPD groups occur in each of the four years of the programme. These groups promote participation in a group process and, through the use of exercises and tasks, greater self- reflexivity. Participation in these groups facilitates the development of increased perception of the complexity of the process of change in oneself and in others, and thereby makes a difference to competence in practice.

A strong emphasis on the personal story and emerging professional identity of the student therapist is a major focus of these groups.  This follows from the theoretical perspectives of the programme where the therapist is seen as a co-creator of the therapeutic story or ‘reality’ and as in a relationship with the client(s).  In this regard it is considered as essential that the student therapist develop an ability to reflect on their own history and current experience and a willingness to examine how these may be influencing their practice.



The objectives of the programme and the learning outcomes are assessed through a combination of continuous assessment, project work and examinations. The specific forms of assessments are as follows:

Continuous Assessment: Practice Evaluation

This formal evaluation is provided at the end of each year. Practice Evaluations for Year s2, 3 and 4 assess the specific learning outcomes achieved in the specified subjects for that year. This evaluation process is supported by a mid-year process where the Clinical Supervisor co-engages in an evaluation discussion with each student. This assists students to identify strengths as well as any potential weakness that might impact on their progress throughout the course. The midyear evaluation is not graded and acts only as a guide to the Supervisor and student.

Written Assignments

Written assignments are used to assess the achievement of learning outcomes on specified subjects. The topic of the various Written Assignments are closely linked to the teaching inputs and learning outcomes for that subject. Written assignments may include a requirement for presentation of written work. This assessment method also examines and enhances student competence in writing in a manner consistent with professional publication.


This takes the form of a written and oral case presentation. In all four years these examinations are designed to assess the knowledge, skills and competencies of the student through presentation and discussion of a piece of recorded clinical work. The examination modules are assessed in terms of the specific learning outcomes for that module.


As part of this programme all students are required to complete a research dissertation. Students are expected to submit a detailed research proposal on their chosen topic. Formal instructions are provided to students on the requirements for their dissertation.

The Institute reserves the right to alter course components and modify assessment procedures as deemed necessary.

It is expected that students will attend for all sessions of each of the three following activities i.e. clinical team practice, academic seminars, and PPD group.  If a student must or does miss more than 15% of any one of these activities, the Head of Training and the student will determine, in consultation with other teaching team members, whether work is needed to be done to fulfill the requirements of the course.


Please refer to the Fees and Payments Policy

Year Registration Fee Semester 1 Semester 2 Total Tuition Fees
1 €500 €2,500 €2,500 €5,500
2 €500 €4,000 €3,500 €8,000
3 €500 €4,000 €3,500 €8,000
4 €500 €4,000 €3,250 €7,500

Progression through the programme will not occur if fees are not paid.

Meet our Faculty

Training Department

Dr. Aileen Tierney

Director of Academic and Professional Programmes

Eileen Vard

Programme Administrator

Core Faculty

Ruth Eustace

Dr Grania Clarke

Lana Galkovskaja

Dervil O’Reilly

Adele Moorhouse

Samantha McGarry

PPD Faculty

Carmel O’Hara

Deirdre Hayes

Yvonne O’Meara

Muriel O’Shea

Niall Reynolds

Fidelma Healy

Scott Ahearn