Psychoanalytic studies (M16) (full-time)

Course overview

This is the UK's first Psychoanalytic Studies course. It has long-established roots in the British School of Psychoanalysis and the Tavistock model of infant and young child observation. This course will offer you direct experiential learning through observation alongside psychoanalytic theory and the application of psychoanalytic ideas to culture and society. You can study this course to Post Graduate Certificate,  Post Graduate Diploma or Masters level.

Alongside the in-depth study of the origin and development of psychoanalytic concepts you will learn through observation and explore the application of psychoanalysis to aspects of culture and society. You will also be encouraged to use your own emotional responses to help you make sense of the ideas that you will be studying. After completing the first year of the course, you can leave the programme at the end of year two with a Postgraduate Diploma. 

The course consists of three strands:

  • observation
  • psychoanalytic theory
  • psychoanalytic theory as a mode of enquiry into culture and society. 


The observation strand of this course is taught in weekly seminars over one year. You will observe an infant or a young child at home or in a nursery setting and attend a small weekly seminar led by an experienced child psychotherapist. Weekly observations allow for the detailed study of the unconscious process that shape a baby or young child’s personality as he/she develops within the context of  relationships within the family or the nursery.

Infant observation is seen as an important aspect of an initial psychoanalytic education, since it provides students with a context in which psychoanalytic ideas become connected to a significant human experience, engaging students’ emotions as well as minds. It is widely taught as a first stage in psychoanalytic and psychotherapy trainings.

Your observation will be written up in detail and discussed in weekly seminars with a senior child and adolescent psychotherapist. All our seminar leaders are experienced teachers of Psychoanalytic Observation, a method of study which originated at the Tavistock, which remains a pioneer in infant observation research.

The much acclaimed Journal of Infant Observation and much of the literature in this field has been produced by Tavistock-trained child psychotherapists. Lisa Miller, who jointly edited Closely Observed Infants, teaches on this module. Developments in Infant Observation edited by Sue Reid and Surviving Space: Papers on Infant Observation edited by Andrew Briggs explore developments in the Tavistock observational method. To learn more about the observational approach students may want to look at the International Journal of Infant Observation.

Please note that as a full-time student, you will undertake two observations in your first year.  

Psychoanalytic theory

This strand is taught in weekly. You will study the origin and development of fundamental concepts in psychoanalysis by studying Freud and Klein in depth. You will also study Bion, Winnicott, theoretical papers about sexuality and post Kleinians. The approach of the course is to study the development of Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique, mainly with reference to the British School of Psychoanalysis.

The approach to learning is through the close study of the primary psychoanalytic texts. This provides students with a substantial first-hand foundation for further psychoanalytic study and its broader applications.  This strand is taught by senior child and adult psychotherapists and analysts who are able to bring their clinical experience to the understanding of psychoanalytic ideas and its methods.   

As a student on this course, you will also be able to enjoy our popular Development of psychoanalytic theory lecture series, free of charge.


You will cover a range of topics in weekly lectures including psychoanalysis and art, psychoanalysis and film, narratives of self, music and psychoanalysis and the social and political applications of psychoanalysis. This module will give you the opportunity to understand the place of psychoanalysis as a mode of enquiry into culture and society.

Finding out about “psychoanalysis in practice”

If you pass an additional interview you may also attend clinical workshops and seminars. You can choose the workshops and seminars according to your interest and experience. This additional programme may not be suitable for everyone.

This strand is taught in termly blocks and some units are taught in half a term blocks. You will cover a range of topics in weekly lectures which explore the application of psychoanalytic ideas to many different areas of culture and society. These areas include:

  • psychoanalysis and art,
  • psychoanalysis and film
  • narratives of self,
  • music and psychoanalysis
  • the social and political applications of psychoanalysis.

This strand of the course will give you the opportunity to develop your own interests in fields of cultural, social and political life, and examine what a psychoanalytic perspective offers in deepening your understanding of them.   Our emphasis is mainly cultural but the social and political unit will also enable you to explore social and political life through a psychoanalytic lens. Seminar leaders are major contributors to the field of psychoanalysis and culture.

Mirror to Nature:  Drama Psychoanalysis and Society by Margaret and Michael Rustin was writtten from lectures and seminars first given on the course. The Inner World of Doctor Who by Iain Macrury and Michael Rustin also had its origin in a course seminar.  

Tutors on this module include Michael Rustin,  Meg Harris and Nicola Diamond.


The aim of the Dissertation (which can be between 12000 and 14000 words in length) is to develop an application of psychoanalytic ideas and approaches to a subject of interest, which will enable it to be understood in a new way. You may draw on any of the materials from each strand studied during the first two years of the course. Your particular dissertation topic may come from outside the Psychoanalytic Studies programme, but be linked to its approaches.

Topics chosen for Dissertations are extremely varied, ranging from consideration of specific works of culture, to political events, to aspects of professional work. The programme encourages you to make individual choices, and to develop your own kinds of psychoanalytic understanding through the subjects they choose. Some guidance is provided during the programme on various approaches to psychoanalytical study and research. 

Some student’s dissertations have been revised to become published articles and a number of former students have gone on to publish books. 

Here are some titles of successfully-completed dissertations.

  • The Maison Verte: a Transitional Space. An introduction to the work of Françoise Dolto.
  • The Psychodynamics of an Émigré Family Business: Intergenerational Creativity and Survival
  • A Psychoanalytical Investigation into the Sense of Home in the Poetry of John Clare
  • Beguiling the Hours: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Boredom
  • The Work of Christopher Bollas illustrated by the film Lost in Translation
  • (Dis)integration in a Foreign Land: Psychoanalytic Explorations of Migration
  •  O My Days!  A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Language of British Young Offenders in the 21st Century
  •  Peace and Terror: Psychoanalytic concepts of psychosis and George Mitchell's management of the Northern Ireland peace process
  •  The beginning of the end of an affair? An exploration of psychoanalytic and psychatric models of the mind in two cases of psychosis
  •  The Death Instinct in the work of Ibsen  (based on ‘Hedda Gabler’ and ‘The Master Builder’) 
  • David Hockney: the Recovery of the Lost Loved Object 
  • The Psychoanalysis of Occupation (reflecting on Occupational Therapy) 
  •  The Easter Tridium and Psychoanalysis
  •  The Narcissistic world of Turandot
  •  The Ordination of Women Priests
  • Flamenco “And without school learning (...) the gypsy dances. Because he feels it and that is enough” López, 1999 

Finding out about “psychoanalysis in practice”

If you pass an additional interview, you also attend clinical workshops and seminars. You can choose the workshops and seminars according to your interest and experience, but this additional programme may not be suitable for everyone. Please note that this is a bespoke part of the programme and fees are available on request.

Full-time study

When you study this course on a full-time basis, you will complete the taught units in year one and will attend on Tuesday afternoons and all day Wednesdays.  Year two will be spent writing your dissertation, with supervision.

Please note that this course is also offered on a credit accumulation basis.

This well established course has been running for over 20 years and will equip you with an in-depth understanding of psychoanalytic theory and its potential applications to other fields.  It will enable you to make links between theory and your own experience of watching unconscious processes unfold by undertaking an observation of a baby or young child.  Crucially, it will offer you the opportunity to think about how an understanding of emotional states can contribute to our understanding of culture and society.  

You will also benefit from being taught by senior clinicians as well as academics who have developed particular interest in the applications of psychoanalysis to culture and society over a minimum of three seminars a week during term time (six seminars a week for full-time students). You will have the use of an extensive library which is used by all students and staff and you can also join clinical seminars or workshops in a programme called Psychoanalysis in Practice.

The emphasis of this creative course is on learning from experience and you will be encouraged to use your own emotional responses, as well as theory, to help you make sense of the ideas that you will be studying.  You will have a generous amount of time with your tutors, many of whom are practicing clinicians.

In addition, this course is extremely flexible in it's delivery - you can study with us on a part time or full-time basis.

What our students say:

"This course has been the most intellectually nourishing course I've attended since I sat my finals."

"This course was a real journey. I think it changed all our lives, not just mine, in the group."

"I have not felt so mentally alive for years."

"It gave me a greater sense of the world around me." 

This course is for you if you are interested in learning about psychoanalytic ideas and their application to the arts, politics and literature. Student on this course have come from a variety of backgrounds including law, medicine, the arts and journalism. You may do this course out of interest or already be a practicing clinician who wants to inform your professional practice or considering clinical training in the future.

We are exploring the possibility of setting up work optional placements in different teams in the Tavistock for students on this course.

In order to undertake this course, we ask that you:

  • have a degree, or other qualification of equivalent level.  

We also welcome your application if you don’t have a standard educational background, or if you are currently engaged in, or wish to pursue, academic study rather than related professional work.


The full course fee for home/EU full-time students is £8,380.

The full course fee for international students is £16,760.


The fee for home/EU part-time students is £3,820 per annum.

The fee for international students is £7,640 per annum.

We are happy offer a range of ways to pay your fees, as well as some funding for specific courses.  

Please contact us if you have any questions. 

Please note that course fees are subject to a 2% or CPI uplift each year, whichever is greater. 

The previous code for this course was M16.

MA / Masters
Course length:
Up to 2 years
Adults and children
Theoretical approach:
Admission status:
Course lead:
Kate Robertson

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