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Advanced therapeutic relationships

Whether you’re a counsellor, psychotherapist, or trainee looking to develop an advanced understanding of the therapeutic relationship, this 25-hour short course will teach you to work effectively with it across its lifecycle. Using a meta-theoretical approach and the latest research evidence, you'll explore the unconscious and explicit elements of the therapeutic relationship. You'll gain practical skills in effectively forming, maintaining, and ending it while addressing potential challenges. The course is designed to provide knowledge and skills to evidence new practice-relevant advanced competencies aligned with the Scope of Practice and Education (SCoPEd) framework. You’ll receive a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificate upon completing the course.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

The course is focused on advancing knowledge and practical skills of working with a variety of aspects related to the therapeutic relationship. The course is organised in five units:

Unit 1: Introduction sets up the course and invites you to consider your current confidence in meeting competencies for working with the therapeutic relationship. 

Unit 2: The Beginning will explore important aspects of the therapeutic relationship that need considering during the first session(s) of a therapy. In referencing current research, you will be guided through a brief introduction of the nature and role of the therapeutic relationship and then learn more about the specific facilitative and hindering factors of developing a good therapeutic alliance, and more specifically how explicit communication can be conducive to building the relationship. Finally you will be introduced to issues of diversity and power and how to detect and work with these as they arise in the therapeutic relationship.

Unit 3: The Middle will focus on selected aspects relevant to working with the therapeutic relationship during the core of the therapeutic process. You will explore important aspects related to maintaining and breaking boundaries, learn about the concept of ruptures and their repair of the alliance, explore the concepts of transference and countertransference and dive into the topic of relational depths. You will both learn more about the theoretical concepts, what research has contributed to enhance our knowledge and the relevance for clinical practice through engaging with clinical material and reflect on your own skills.

Unit 4: The End will consider the different kinds of endings in psychotherapy with respect to the therapeutic relationship. You will be invited to explore selected examples of planned and unplanned endings and their impact on both the client and psychotherapist in some depth, including what happens when the therapist dies unexpectedly, when a client does not turn up for their ending session(s), and overall how to make planned endings therapeutic.

Unit 5: Conclusion invites you to reflect on what you have learned on this course and identify further training needs for working with therapeutic relationships.

The course aligns with SCoPEd (The Scope of Practice and Education) framework level B competencies that are relevant for working with the therapeutic relationship. Course completion will boost knowledge and confidence and support counsellors and psychotherapists to offer counselling relational perspective.

You will learn

By studying this course you will gain:

  • an understanding of key concepts, dilemmas and debates related to working with the therapeutic relationship
  • knowledge of the importance to analysing and addressing difficulties in the immediacy of the therapeutic encounter and find ways to overcome such difficulties
  • an understanding of difficulties related to equality, diversity, power and authority between client and therapist
  • an understanding of how to work therapeutically with ruptures and unconscious processes as opportunities for expanding the understanding of the client’s subjective experience of their difficulties
  • awareness of complex issues arising around the ending of therapy.

Vocational relevance

This course will support counsellors and psychotherapists to develop an advanced understanding of how to work effectively with the therapeutic relationship. The course has been developed to align to the shared SCoPEd competencies framework column B for Theme 3: Therapeutic Relationships.

Learner support

This short course offers online learning and contains self-study materials to be studied at your own pace. There is no learner support from learning advisers available on this course.

Teaching and assessment


There is no formal assessment, although there will be pauses for reflection and ‘review and reflect’ points built into the course which you will use to reflect on your understanding. You will complete an end-of-course multiple-choice quiz to test your learning.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements. This course is designed for qualified counsellors and psychotherapists as well as counselling and psychotherapy trainees.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

In total, this course will require around 25 hours to complete.

The course is open for registration for 12 months. Once enrolled, learners are advised to complete within two months but the course will be accessible for 18 months.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jan 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £200.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


Ways to pay

Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2024/25 academic year. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials are delivered entirely online. You’ll have access to a course website, which includes:

  • a study planner
  • course-specific materials and activities
  • audio and video content.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS Ventura or higher.

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DGXS003 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.