Postgraduate study

Counselling Studies PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Counselling Studies

This PhD programme is an advanced research degree enabling students to conduct in-depth independent research on a topic of their choice, thereby making a significant and original contribution to knowledge in the field of counselling and psychotherapy.

Counselling and psychotherapy specialise in qualitative, reflexive and critical approaches to research, and have particular expertise in practice-based research that draws directly on practitioners' own therapeutic work, on the client's experience of therapy, and in narrative, reflexive and auto-ethnographic methods.

We are especially keen to encourage research concerned with the interface between counselling, psychotherapy and social, cultural and political life.

Our research portfolio is highly interdisciplinary, integrating concepts, practices and scholarship from counselling and psychotherapy, psychology, sociology, philosophy, education, cultural studies, health and social care, and other social sciences.

Our interests include disability, gender, trauma, abuse, counselling children and young people, and sexualities.

You can read more about our research interests and publications on our website:

Recent successful PhD topics have included:

  • how children express emotions in aesthetic arts curricula in primary schools
  • how suffering is transacted in therapeutic work with parents of children with disabilities; and
  • how people with anorexia recover through psychotherapy

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeProgramme structure 2021/22
PhD6 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2021/22

You will be assigned two supervisors with whom you will meet monthly. The second supervisor may be drawn from another discipline relevant to your research topic.

In the first year, you will attend epistemological and research methods courses.

You will also attend and contribute to counselling and psychotherapy research seminars and School research student seminars throughout your studies, including the annual Counselling and Psychotherapy Postgraduate Student Research Conference.

All students are encouraged to present their research at national and international conferences and to publish their research findings in relevant journals. You are also welcome to attend other selected courses in counselling and psychotherapy, as well as courses provided by other subject areas in the School, and in related disciplines across the University.

Studying at a world-class institution, you will benefit from outstanding resources to support your learning on this established and recognised programme.

The PhD by Distance is available to suitably qualified applicants in the same areas as our on-campus programmes: Clinical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, Health in Social Science and Nursing Studies.

The programme allows students who are unable to commit to basing themselves in Edinburgh full time to study for a PhD in a field of Health in Social Science from their home country or city - however this is not intended to be a fully online distance learning programme.

Students enrolled on this programme will be expected to come to Edinburgh at least once per year of study to meet with their supervisors. The length and timing of these visits are negotiable but students should expect to spend at least two weeks at the University of Edinburgh during each year of study.

For further information on the programme (including entry requirements and how to apply) please see the school website:

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject.

We will also consider your application if your degree is in another subject but you have a professional qualification in counselling or psychotherapy.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: 70 overall with at least 62 in each component.

(*Revised 1 October, 2021 to correct errors stated in the requirements. Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Research Admissions Secretary
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 5144
  • Contact: health@ed.ac.uk
  • School of Health in Social Science
  • Medical School
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG

The School of Health in Social Science operates a gathered field approach to PGR applications - this means that all complete applications which satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline and an admissions panel will meet to consider all applications received together after that date.

The application deadlines and dates for decision are listed in the table below. In order to ensure full consideration of your application we ask that you submit your complete application including all supporting documentation by these dates. More information about what will be considered a complete application and how to apply can be found on our School website:

Applicant's planning to apply for the University of Edinburgh's funding opportunities must apply by the first deadline.

Application deadlines Places awarded*
1 22 November | mid-January
2 21 March | mid-May
3 13 June | late July

You must submit two references with your application.

Before applying please ensure that you have read and followed the guidance for application to postgraduate research programmes with the School of Health in Social Science.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Research Admissions Secretary
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 5144
  • Contact: health@ed.ac.uk
  • School of Health in Social Science
  • Medical School
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG