Couple and Family Therapy

Systemic Family Therapy (FTAI) incorporates individual, couple and family therapy.

What is special about Family Therapy?
Family Therapy is the most popularly recognised descriptive title for a body of practice and theory which continues to evolve and to grow at an extraordinary rate. Originally, the approach was distinguished by the practice of including entire families in the therapy process rather than an individual client. This practice continues, but is not a necessary aspect of the approach.
The principle which informed Family Therapy from the time of its inception in the 1950s has been to transcend simple cause and effect explanations which located deficits within the individual, and to include those aspects of the client’s context in the therapy process which will enable them to manage, resolve or better understand their difficulty.
It is this ecological view which attends to the interconnectedness of people, of beliefs and of all things, which characterises Family Therapy rather than the number of people sitting in the therapy room.

How do Family Therapists view problems and reality?
Many Family Therapists seek to engage the clients in a collaborative exploration of their presenting dilemma, focusing on the beliefs, and the interactions which maintain the difficulty or which prevent its resolution. By better understanding the interconnectedness of the biological, the social and the psychological dimensions of the problem, choices are introduced, conflicts are transcended and new patterns of understanding are generated.

A significant part of each one’s experience is the beliefs, the language, the stories and values which constitute our life experience. We are not only born into a material and physical reality, but also into a multilayered complex weave of beliefs and behaviours, which for most of us are, initially at least, of a family nature. This strongly influences our developing ‘reality’. We are born into the world totally dependent on one or more caring adults, and if the constitutional and contextual aspects of our lives are supportive enough, we learn to operate more independently and to exercise choice in our lives more effectively. This requires an appreciation of the interdependence of our lives, of the world in which we live, and the limits and possibilities which it contains.
We constantly explore the limits and possibilities of relying on previous learning and exploring new ways and new beliefs. We may be strongly influenced to find ways of being which contrast with some of our significant life experiences, or we may repeat our experiences, often with the assumption that this is how the world is, and how everyone should be.

When two or more people live in close proximity, we can expect that differences, and inevitably conflicts, will ensue. This is part of the rich weave of our lives which continue to challenge us and to teach us.

Sometimes, our adult lives may be thrown into inner turmoil, we may experience self-doubts, destructive feelings or immobilising depression or anxiety. These disturbing experiences may be triggered by what would be relatively small or manageable difficulties for others, and even for ourselves in somewhat different circumstances. Such problems are frequently related to early life and usually early family aspects of our lives. Our difficulty trusting others, exercising choice or living with an adequate level of autonomy may be related to not having had sufficiently secure, loving or affirming experiences in our early family relationships.
More recent traumas, abuse, oppression or unresolved conflict may also contribute to distressing inner feelings, which can be successfully resolved in Family Therapy.

What do Family Therapists do?
Family Therapists universally employ the most inclusive frame to help clients make sense of their doubts or confusions. Some Family Therapists put most emphasis on exploring the beliefs, some the language and stories and some the repeating behaviour patterns. They may also elect to examine the attempted solutions or to focus attention on experiences which work well for the client, their successful solutions.

How many attend Family Therapy together?
The extent to which Family Therapists will emphasise including others in the process also varies. With relationship problems, we usually prefer to include the main participants. It is not uncommon for parents to successfully attend a series of consultations regarding one of their children, without the child being present.
Extended family members may be invited or partners or others who are significantly involved in the client’s life and difficulty. It is also common for individuals to attend alone, when the focus will include the significant relationships of their lives as the context of their emotional and psychological realities. Agreeing who will attend is usually an integral part of the exploratory process.

Some Family Therapists may also apply their systemic perspective to organisations such as schools, voluntary agencies, businesses and especially to family businesses. Consultation can help organisations to resolve intra organisations relationship problems and to address and to improve procedures and practices which influence their relationship with their consumers.
The systemic consultant’s focus will, again, include the context of the problem and can result in appreciating and fine tuning the ways in which the organisation responds to internal change and the range of changing external needs. The organisation, as the individual, can benefit by developing capacities of self-direction and responsivity.

Contact address:
The Secretary, FTAI,
73 Quinn’s Road
Dublin 18
Tel: 01 272 2105 / 087 405 8492



Frequently Asked Questions

Psychotherapists are professionals who are specifically trained to relate to and treat people who are distressed. An integral part of the treatment is the relationship between the psychotherapist and the patient/client.

Psychotherapists utilise a variety of psychological methods and skills in an effort to alleviate personal suffering and to encourage change. They may practice in a public or private setting on a one-to-one basis, with couples or groups. They treat clients of all ages, including children.

See also, What is Psychotherapy?

The work of psychotherapy can involve:

  • feelings associated with loss
  • family crisis, including separation
  • life stage developmental problems
  • past trauma
  • abuse issues
  • relationship problems
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • phobias
  • obsessions
  • self-harm
  • addictions
  • any other emotional or psychological difficulty.

You can make direct contact with psychotherapists through the Find a Therapist section of this Web site. Another good place to start is to discuss the help you need with your GP, who can refer you.

We list all accredited psychotherapists who are members of ICP.

Your issue should also influence your choice so you can select someone perfect for your problem and nearby in our Find a Therapist section.

Of course personal recommendation, i.e. “word of mouth”, can also be a good way of choosing a therapist.

Many of our clients come to us through their G.P.s who can refer you, but this is not essential.

It means peace of mind that your therapist is at the top of their profession. Proof of this is that the ICP is the only Irish body that can accredit therapists to the European gold standard approved by the EAP, the European Association of Psychotherapy.

We have to rely on international standards of excellence as we work toward a State registration of the profession in Ireland.

In the current situation the ICP is a link to the most exacting standards in Europe.

A Code of Ethics and Practice and Complaints Procedure back up ICP therapists. Clients have no come back with therapists who do not belong to a recognised representative body

How does a psychotherapist differ from a counsellor?

Most obvious is the depth and length of education and training as seen in the chart below.

Counselling Psychotherapy
Prior Academic Study: N/A 3 yrs/1,800 hrs
Specific Training:
Theory/methodology 450 hrs 500 – 800 hrs
Clinical Practice 100 + 450 hrs  = 550 300 – 600 hrs
Personal Development/ Personal Therapeutic Experience 50 hrs 250 hrs
Supervision Minimum 65 hours of 1:1 plus group supervision in training: minimum 40 = 105 150 hrs
Minimum Time: 950 hrs + supervision hours / 3 years 3,200 hours / 7 years


  • The length of the requirement for personal therapy or equivalent reflective practice.
  • Psychotherapists are trained to work with deep-seated problems including mental illnesses and personality disorders.
  • Counselling can be a shorter therapy addressing adjustment difficulties, situational or personal problems.

On first contacting a psychotherapist it is quite acceptable to discuss the following issues either on the phone when making the appointment or (more usually) at the first session:

  • Therapist’s training, experience and accreditation
  • Therapist’s supervision
  • Fees and nature of payment
  • Duration and frequency of sessions

Each professional organisation with the Irish Council for Psychotherapy has a Code of Ethics and a complaints and disciplinary procedure. The Code of Ethics are the rules of practice that govern how each psychotherapist operates within the therapy process.

The Code of Ethics obliges the therapist to uphold a high standard of professional competence and personal conduct in their practice with their clients. It also includes other areas of their practice such as confidentiality, record keeping, fees and advertising.

Psychotherapy has a long tradition where some of the greatest minds (Freud, Jung) grappled with the complexities of the mind. As the discipline grew different branches emerged presenting different areas of specialty, for example Couple and Family Therapy.

Some of the disciplines take a slightly different approach to problems than others. So Cognitive Behavioural  Therapy takes an educational approach and focuses on teaching strategies and skills to resolve problems. 

Go to our Disciplines page to read all about the different approaches.

See above, What does membership of the ICP mean to me as a client?

You can obtain further information by contacting the Irish Council for Psychotherapy by phone, writing to us or reading more of the material on this website. We are also on Facebook and you can follow us on Twitter. Each association has a contact person who will be able to give more information.

You can also contact the Council by using our online Contact Form


The psychotherapeutic profession is a separate scientific profession. Accreditation as a psychotherapist generally requires at least seven years of training comprising a primary degree, and four years part-time training in one of the psychotherapeutic disciplines. Professional trainings are provided in both the training institutes and Universities in Ireland. The baseline academic qualification for entry to training in any of the Disciplines / Modalities / Sections is:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent in human sciences (medical, psychological, social, educational etc); Humanities or Philosophy.
  • Assessment of suitability interview.
  • Each modality adheres to the training standards set down by the Irish Council for Psychotherapy and the European Association of Psychotherapy (EAP).

The Irish Council for Psychotherapy  acts as an awarding body on behalf of the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP), conferring the European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP) in Ireland. The criteria for the awarding of this Certificate form the minimum training requirements and entry criteria for all modalities of psychotherapy.

We are currently in the process of accrediting our existing practitioners in relation to the European Certificate and ensuring that all training courses in Ireland are meeting the European standard. The criteria for accreditation of training courses in Ireland can be found in the Training Accreditation Committee (TAC) document.

Because the ICP doesn’t accredit trainings in general, it is better to enquire directly to the designated discipline relevant to the training. ICP is an umbrella organisation with five disciplines (Couple and Family Therapy – Systemic Psychotherapies; Humanistic and Integrative Therapy; Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Constructivist Therapy; Psychoanalytic Therapy) encompassing 10 member organisations. Four of the disciplines have one organisation affiliated with it and Psychoanalytic Therapy discipline has seven organisations. For further information, please download ICP Member Organisations Contact Details.

The FAQ What Does Membership of the ICP Mean to Me as a Client? also describes the depth and length of education and training.

European Certificate of Psychotherapy

The ICP has been involved in the development of the European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP) in conjunction with the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP). The European Certificate stipulates that the total duration of the training for psychotherapists is 3,200 hours spread over a minimum of seven years. This seven year period comprises an initial under-graduate component, or equivalent, followed by a specific psychotherapy training. Over 450 of the ICP members to date have been awarded the European Certificate. Many more applications are in process.

The EAP promotes the recognition of common standards of training for psychotherapists throughout Europe, and will ensure their mobility across member states. While the European Association for Psychotherapy does not have power to legally implement the certificate before it is adopted by member states, they have recommended it to the national coordinators of member states and welcome it as an initiative in establishing joint platforms which will facilitate the employment of migrants within the European Union.

Strasbourg Declaration on Psychotherapy

About ECP (European Certificate of Psychotherapy)

There are two possible ways to apply for an ECP, one way is the Direct Award (DA) through one of the European Accredited Psychotherapy Training Institutes (EAPTIs), and the other way is to apply is through grandparenting procedure that involves recommendation from EAP National Awarding Organization (NAO) and European Wide Awarding Organization (EWAO).

About ECP (European Certificate of Psychotherapy)

How to Apply for An ECP

The ECP – Important Information for ECP (European Certificate of Psychotherapy) Application

Documents | ECP Application Forms by Grandparenting

CV Structure for ECP Application by Grandparenting

Notification by the NAO of Recommendations for the Award of the ECP by Grandparenting

Practitioner Registration Form for ECP

Site Map


Psychotherapists are grouped into five sections based on their different therapeutic approaches. Each section has training standards, a code of ethics and complaints and disciplinary procedures. Each adheres to the study and training standards set down by the Irish Council for Psychotherapy in order to maintain high standards.

Constructivist Therapy

This aims to help clients make sense of their experiences. It is based on the premise that the stories we experience and live out are informed by the variety of ways we have of making meaning of our lives. The therapist aims to understand the anticipations, both conscious and unconscious, which clients are using in their lives and which may be problematic for them. The therapist then works with the client to develop alternative, less problematic anticipations and ways of acting. Read More >>

Couple and Family Therapy

In couple and family therapy, the client and therapist examine the emotional, psychological and interpersonal problems which arise in the way people understand and make sense of their experiences and their relationship to others. When two or more people live in close proximity, we can expect that differences, and inevitably conflicts, will ensue.

This is part of the rich weave of our lives which continue to challenge us and to teach us. Sometimes our adult lives may be thrown into turmoil by difficulties which would be relatively small or manageable difficulties for others and even for ourselves in somewhat different circumstances. Options are provided for different ways to respond and relate to problems.

Goals are usually achieved over a relatively small number of meetings with intervals of two to four weeks between appointments. Read More >>

Humanistic and Integrative Therapy

This approach invites people to develop awareness as to what may be preventing them from accessing their own true nature in the inner and outer expressions of their life. It is aimed at the person as a whole: body, feelings, mind and psyche. It invites people through the therapeutic relationship to develop awareness and insight leading to an integration of the internal and external self. It explores each person’s own resources and capacity for self-determination and ability to improve their lives. Read More >>

Psychoanalytic Therapy

This endeavours to reach the underlying, often unconscious sources of a person’s distress. Together with the therapist, the client can explore feelings, memories, fantasies, free association and dreams, relating to both past and present.

It is aimed at achieving a new and better understanding of long-standing difficulties.

This section is composed of seven organisations.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The philosophy underpinning this approach is that a person learns to act and think in certain ways as a result of their lifetime experiences and how they perceive those experiences. This learning is a life long process.

Sometimes a single life event or experience can trigger off the problem and have major repercussions in the long term, resulting in a number of anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia with or without panic attacks, panic disorder, clinical depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The therapist and client work together to empower the client to improve his or her quality of life. The therapy is time limited and is achieved by developing effective strategies and skills to resolve problems which are distressing them in the way the person thinks, acts and feels. The therapist uses an educational approach to teach new skills to the client. Read More >>

The Council

The Council is responsible for:

  • Promoting and maintaining the highest possible standards of training, practice and professional conduct of accredited psychotherapists.
  • Maintaining a register of psychotherapists.
  • Promoting the development of psychotherapy as an independent profession.
  • Representing the majority of psychotherapists in Ireland to the public, the media and the government.
  • Awarding and conferring the European Certificate of Psychotherapy (ECP) in Ireland on behalf of the European Association for Psychotherapy.
  • Promoting continuing education, professional development and research in psychotherapy.
  • Support  through training, advice and consultancy.
  • Communications and media relations on behalf of the profession.
  • Publishing relevant publications for, and on behalf, of our members.
  • Providing informed advice to members, the public and the government.

Contact Information

Find a Psychotherapist

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About ICP

The Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) is the national umbrella body for Psychotherapy in Ireland. The Council contributes to public health by encouraging the highest standards of training, practice and on-going education of psychotherapists. The Council also promotes psychotherapy as an effective intervention for good mental and emotional health. Currently it represents over 1,700 psychotherapists nationwide. It is also the national awarding body for the European Certificate of Psychotherapy.

We act as a link between those who are looking for psychotherapeutic services and those who provide psychotherapeutic services.

The objectives of ICP include:

  • To consolidate and promote psychotherapy as a free and independent profession.
  • To promote the wider provision of psychotherapy for the public.
  • To contribute to public health by encouraging high standards of training, practice and ongoing education of psychotherapists.
  • To establish and monitor a National Register and a European Register of accredited psychotherapists in Ireland.