Through our PhD studentships we aim to encourage high level, substantial research that has the potential for significant impact in areas related to our strategic aims and key themes. These awards will also help to build a community of counselling researchers by developing research expertise.

For 2018, we are funding two doctoral bursaries: 

  • Project 1: Furthering the evidence base for humanistic therapies
  • Project 2: Counselling in care homes

The bursaries cover part-time PhD fees at a university of the student's choice, and some expenses up to £7,500 an academic year, for a maximum of five years. 


The bursaries are for students enrolled on traditional research-only PhD programmes. Professional doctorate programmes in counselling, psychotherapy or clinical psychology are not eligible. These combine research engagement with extensive classroom teaching in learning competencies as psychological therapists, so the research component is not commensurate with traditional PhDs.  

To apply, you should have:


  • a Master’s degree in a relevant discipline or equivalent research experience
  • achieved high grades in relevant undergraduate degrees or research dissertations
  • received quantitative and qualitative research training at an appropriate level
  • an aptitude for research demonstrated through previous experience


  • completed counselling practitioner training or equivalent (psychotherapy or applied psychologist)
  • a potential doctoral supervisor suitable and able to supervise your proposed research

You will also need to meet any doctoral student entry requirements for the university where you study. You don't have to be a BACP member.



Complete the application form and provide an outline of your proposed doctoral research. This should include:

  • a statement about which project brief you are addressing
  • your proposed research title
  • an abstract, suitable for a lay audience, describing your proposed research (200 words). This will be published on our website and in Therapy Today.
  • a rationale which outlines the gap in the literature that your proposed research seeks to address and clearly identifies the research question(s) of the project (1,500 words max)
  • your proposed methodology for conducting the research, outlining why this approach to project design and method is the most appropriate for the project (1,500 words max)
  • an outline of the potential impact of the proposed project and its value for BACP and the research field (500 words max)
  • details of your proposed doctoral supervisors, stating why they are well qualified to supervise your project. Include details of any contact with potential supervisors and any evidence that they would be willing and able to take you on as a doctoral student.

Download the application form

Email your completed form to The deadline for applications is noon on 30 April 2018.


Applications will be reviewed by a panel of three to five counselling and psychotherapy researchers, including at least one representative from the BACP research department. They will check that applications meet the eligibility requirements and review them for:  

  • fit of proposal to the project brief
  • potential impact in the chosen research area
  • evidence of potential of candidate as a doctoral student
  • quality of the doctoral proposal

The highest ranked applicants will be invited to interview.


The interviews will take place on 22 and 23 May 2018.

There will be at least two interviewers who will ask you about your proposed research project and your suitability for doctoral study. You will be asked how your research would contribute to creating relevant impact for the counselling profession, and to your ongoing engagement with counselling research.

We'll feedback to all candidates on the interviews as soon as we can. The winners will be announced on this website and in our journals. 

Research project briefs

Project 1: The evidence base for humanistic therapies

Project aim

To extend the evidence base for the family of humanistic therapies by providing support for research which examines their efficacy and effectiveness as an intervention for psychological difficulties.

Project rationale

The project is inspired by our recent experiences which showed that the relative paucity of outcomes research for humanistic therapies (compared with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in particular but also more recently psychodynamic therapies) makes it harder to argue for the inclusion of this type of therapy type in funded contexts in the UK. We believe it is in clients' interest to have the choice of a range of therapy modalities and we're committed to campaigning for client access to all three ‘families’ of therapy (humanistic, CBT, psychodynamic). 

Project design

Applicants can focus on any therapy approach or intervention that falls under the broad umbrella of humanistic therapies. You can also select the study:

  • population – for example adults, children, older adults or a sub-set of these
  • outcomes – for example depression, psychological functioning, perceived benefits of counselling

You may propose any quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods study design that meet the project brief, however quantitative data is often most compelling in a policy or funding context.

For quantitative designs, the project is potentially well-suited to a pragmatic trial - that is an evaluation of the effectiveness of humanistic interventions in real-life routine practice conditions (such as in one counselling service or organisation). In this context, you should explain:

  • the planned source of (existing) data and how you will get access to this data
  • the proposed N and why this is an appropriate sample size
  • the potential hypotheses, with some information on potential statistical approaches

For qualitative designs, the project should focus on how humanistic therapy clients experience or perceive the outcomes of their therapy. You should explain how your selected project design, method of gathering data and proposed analytic method are suited to this focus on outcomes.

Project 2: Counselling in care homes

Project aim

To expand the current evidence base for the effectiveness and feasibility of counselling with older adults who live in a care home.

Project rationale

We've pledged to explore the role of counselling in improving the lives of older people and to promote the value of talking therapies. 

In the UK, over 400,000 people live in care homes1. Care home residents are much more likely to suffer from a mental health disorder, with around 40% suffering from depression. By comparison, estimates for adults over 65 in the general population where the estimates are 22% for men and 28% for women2.

Research has shown that psychological interventions are effective with older adults. IAPT data indicates that older adults have better outcomes than younger adults after receiving psychological therapybut far fewer older adults present for treatment. Physical barriers, such as lack of transport or poor mobility, may inhibit older adults from accessing care2. A national survey of over 15,000 care home residents revealed that 76% of respondents were either immobile or required assistance with mobility4, showing the need for improved access to psychological therapies.

We know little about the current provision of counselling and psychotherapy in care home settings, although some research indicates that therapies such as psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy and counselling are not widely available to care home residents5. This project will explore the current state of counselling provision and seek to identify ways we can improve access to counselling for older people.

Project design

The first part of this project will address the question: what is the current state of counselling and psychotherapy services for older adults in care homes? You can propose quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods designs to provide an insight into service provision.

The second aspect will be a pragmatic trial, evaluating the effectiveness and feasibility of counselling in a care home setting. It will also look at issues associated with working in a care home and evaluating counselling in a care home, and explore client and practitioner experience of counselling in this setting. You must identify a suitable service for this evaluation - which could be a care home with a counselling service on site or an outreach service attending to a care home.

We'd particularly encourage applicants with experience of working with or conducting research with older adults to apply.

Tips for applying

Based on our experience of evaluating previous applications, here are our top tips for completing your application:

  • seek advice about the appropriate scope and level of a PhD proposal
    There is no single definition but a PhD is three years of full-time work so it's potentially equivalent in scope to three MSc projects (doctoral projects may involve three or more separate studies). Consult the Higher Education doctoral descriptor, potential supervisors and other PhD students.

  • consider whether the research question is congruent with the proposed methodology, for example in terms of epistemology

  • provide sufficient detail about your methodology
    It is your specific project plan which we are deciding whether to fund. In particular be clear about the planned sample, who you plan to include and the proposed N.

  • clearly state the potential value of your project for BACP and for the broader research area
    This is not only about arguing that your project addresses a gap in the literature but also about demonstrating that it will have significant impact.


1. Laing and Buisson Survey, 2017
2. Age UK, 2017
3. NHS England and NHS Improvement, 2017
4. Bowman, Whistler and Ellerby, 2004
5. Minardi and Hayes, 2003