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Our History

Theoretical beginnings

During the 1920s, the psychoanalysts Melanie Klein and Anna Freud began to explore how Freud’s discoveries with adult patients could be extended to help troubled children and promote their development. They found that through play, the internal world of the child could be understood and difficulties addressed. Around the same time, the Child Guidance Movement was gaining ground in the UK, although there was no specific child-focused training for the professionals doing this work.

New organisation, new profession

In 1949, an organisation named the Provisional Association of Child Psychotherapists (Non-Medical) was created. In 1951 it became the Association of Child Psychotherapists, with non-medical being dropped in 1972. A new profession, with its own professional body, training council and rules, had been established, providing an organisational umbrella for the different training schools.

Over time, important steps were taken towards becoming the established professional body we are today. Our scientific publication, the Journal of Child Psychotherapy, was founded in 1963. Initially produced in-house, it was taken over by Routledge, now part of the Taylor & Francis group, in 1994. The Bulletin, our monthly publication for members, first appeared in published form in May 1991. An annual Directory of Members was published from 1993 and became The Register of members in 1995. By 1995, the ACP had moved to its present location in West Heath Road, London, and employed a full-time administrator. In 2007, we established a post for a communications manager.

Development of training

The first training to be accepted by the Association was that founded, in 1949, at the Tavistock Clinic by Dr John Bowlby with Esther Bick as organising tutor. It was to become the largest training school within the Association. In 1947, Anna Freud, with Dr Kate Friedlander, founded the Hampstead Child Therapy Training and later, in 1949, the Training Clinic. It was accepted as a training by the Association in 1950 and was renamed the Anna Freud Centre after Anna Freud’s death. The Institute of Child Psychotherapy, founded in 1929 by Dr Margaret Lowenfeld, was the third founding member organisation of the ACP and remained so until its closure in 1978.

The Society of Analytical Psychology, formed in 1949, established a training in child psychotherapy in 1978, which ended a few years ago. The British Association of Psychotherapists, founded in 1951 to provide training in psychotherapy for adults, organised a new training in child psychotherapy under the auspices of Anne Hurry, which started in 1982. It was accredited as a training school in 1986. In 1993, the training at the Scottish Institute of Human Relations was formally recognised, followed in 1995 by that of the newly-formed Birmingham Trust for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. In 2003, the Northern School of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy was established by the NHS to address the shortage of child and adolescent psychotherapists in the north of England, and was recognised by the ACP.

To the great regret of the profession, the Anna Freud Centre has decided to end its training in child psychotherapy. The Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, the British Association of Psychotherapists, the Scottish Institute of Human Relations, the Birmingham Trust for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and the Northern School of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy are now the five accredited training schools for the training of child and adolescent psychotherapists in the UK.

The ACP and the NHS

In 1974, professions allied to medicine were offered the choice of joining the NHS or the education services. The ACP chose to join the NHS. In the mid-1990s, child and adolescent psychotherapists were recognised as core members of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The Department of Health recognised the ACP as the regulatory body for the profession. The ACP is the designated authority for the recognition of qualifications for child and adolescent psychotherapists from European Union countries who wish to work in the UK.