Working with children, young people & families: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M7 Evening)

Course overview

This course aims to provide professional development to people working with children, young people and families.  The course focusses on learning how to notice and reflect on the different emotional dynamics that underpin development, and have a significant impact on our work.  There is a central place in all of the studies in the course for considering the impact of feelings of sameness and difference, and about cultural diversity, within ourselves, in our treatment of each other, and in our relationships at work.   Successful completion of this course is also a prerequisite for our clinical course in Psychoanalytic child and adolescent psychotherapy (M80).  

Please note this course is also delivered as a Wednesday daytime version and a Saturday blended version.

Want to hear more? Join this course information session at our virtual open day on Saturday 25 June. Book your place using our booking form here.

In this course, you will study: 

Infant observation: you will observe a baby in its family home every week for one hour for up to two years.  You will have one (PGCert) or two (PGDip and MA) years of mixed first and second year student small group seminars, learning about early emotional development.

Work discussion: one (PGCert) or two (PGDip/MA) years of mixed first and second year small group seminars where you present detailed observational accounts of your own work, building an understanding of the unconscious dynamics at play at both institutional and interpersonal levels.

Psychoanalytic theory: you will study core psychoanalytic concepts and texts, and their connections with your observation-based learning, with a specific focus on a critical understanding referring to cultural diversity.

Child development research: you will study selected key concepts and theories from a range of research fields - attachment theory, neurobiology, developmental psychology and anthropology.

Young child observation (PGDip/MA only): one year of small group seminars, supporting you to  observe a pre-school child, in their family or nursery setting, to learn about the emotional meaning of a child’s behaviour as they start to relate to others outside the family.

Experiential group (PGDip/MA only): an opportunity to experience, observe and reflect on group dynamics as they occur in a group that you are a member of.

Dissertation (MA only): creating a dissertation proposal and building this into a 12,000 word thesis, exploring aspects of your observational studies in the course.  

Course length and study modes: students may exit after one year with a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) or after two years with a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip). The first two years are a prerequisite for our clinical training as a Child and adolescent psychoanalytic psychotherapist. The first year may also act as a prerequisite for clinical training as a psychodynamic psychotherapist working with children, young people, and families.

You will develop your skills in detailed observation of infants and young children. You will improve your understanding human development informed by a psychoanalytic approach and child development research.

The application of observation skills to understanding your task and interactions in your work setting will also be central to your learning on the course.  This course will provide you with a wider frame of reference for thinking about current work and enhance your capacity to make decisions about your career development.

This course, or its equivalent, is a prerequisite for training as a child and adolescent psychotherapist on the Child and adolescent psychotherapy (M80)

What our students say:

"I did not expect to enjoy this course as much as I have. Working with children and families for the past few years, I wanted to gain further qualification and extend my knowledge. This course delivered beyond this, a space to explore the questions you ask yourself in work and life, which you do not have the time to apprehend. On a weekly basis I am invigorated to return to cases with renewed insight, ideas and enthusiasm. You then begin to link and connect all experiences of life to bring to your studies and work, creating a hugely organic and holistic experience. This course is a pleasure for anyone looking to gain further understanding of child development and psychoanalytic theory. Moreover, it develops a comprehensive and creative professional."

Anthony Ogoe

"Doing this course has given me new lenses through which to view everyday experiences.  It has shifted the axis of my personal and professional life. Nothing is seen or heard in quite the same way as before. Certainty is displaced.  Questions abound. It has helped me face things I'd rather ignore, develop greater resilience and contain difficult emotions. Observation of development from birth onwards has reconnected me to a sense of awe and wonder about this experience we call life and changed my outlook in ways I could never have imagined."

Sonia Aboage

"This course has paved the way to my developing capacity to understand complex, and often unconscious, emotional factors that are in operation in the work setting. These include relationships between workers and clients as well as group and institutional dynamics. This programme has enhanced my ability to contribute sensitively not only to my clients’ thinking but also to my colleagues’ and other professionals’ work material. The personal tutor relationship, along with other student support resources, has been instrumental in tackling difficulties and developing strengths on the course."

Nikos Serras

Anyone working with children, young people and their families with an interest in emotional development and in the complexities of the relationships that form within  such work. 

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

  • the equivalent of six months full-time experience of working with children, young people and their families (approximately 1000 hours). Approximately half of this work must have been completed within the last 5 years. Ordinarily we require 12 months prior work experience with children and families but this has been reduced for the coming academic year (2022-23) as a result of our awareness of the impact of the pandemic on gaining suitable work
  • an interest in learning about unconscious processes, emotional development, observation and psychoanalytic thinking 
  • a willingness to engage in thinking about the way that culture and individual/group identity shape emotional development
  • a willingness to engage in experiential learning
  • a first degree or the ability to demonstrate that you can meet the academic demands of the course and/or have completed one year of the Tavistock and Portman course The emotional care of babies, children, young people and families (EC1)
  • for the duration of the course you have to be working directly with children, young people, parents or families, usually for a minimum of one day a week for students with considerable prior experience or 2 days a week for students with the minimum of prior experience. In order for you to be able meet the academic requirements of this masters programme your work must be in an organisation with a safeguarding lead.
  • You must be in a working role which meets all the course requirements prior to enrolment.      


Year 1:

  • Monday evenings from 7 - 8.15pm 
  • Wednesday evenings from 7 - 8pm. and 8.15 - 9.15pm.

Year 2:

  • Monday evenings from 7 - 8.15 pm and 8.30 - 9.45pm 
  • Wednesday evenings from 7 - 8pm and 8.15 - 9.15pm.


In the first two years of the course there are written assessment tasks relating to each of the modules studied, to demonstrate your learning.  In both years, the written assessment tasks require the integration of detail from observational and work discussion material with theoretical concepts drawn from psychoanalysis and other fields of child development theory.  In the first year, you will also complete short essays on concepts studied in psychoanalytic theory and in child development research.  Progression in the course is dependent upon passing this assessed work.

To gain the Masters award, you need to pass the first two diploma years of study and then undertake a third year of study to complete a dissertation.  In this dissertation year, you attend a specific seminar for the first term to develop your dissertation proposal.  This is based on a question or theme drawn from your earlier studies in the course, using your own observational material, gathered through your infant observation, young child observation and work discussion studies.  Once the proposal has been accepted you complete the dissertation through personal study, supported by your supervisor. 

Matthew originally worked as a secondary school teacher and trained as an educational psychologist before going on to qualify as a child and adolescent psychotherapist. As a child psychotherapist he has worked in a number of NHS and educational settings with children, young people and their families. 

His current research interests are the work of Melanie Klein, the use and function of drawings in child psychotherapy and unconscious processes in groups and institutions. 

His most recent publication is ‘Primitive anxieties and the small group: multi-agency working and the risk of collaboration’ in the Journal of Child Psychotherapy (2021). He also teaches on other pre-clinical and clinical courses at the Tavistock and Portman.


£ 5,335 per year


£ 10,670 per year

For more information about how Brexit may affect your fee status, please see Brexit information for EU & EEA and Swiss Nationals

Please note that course fees are subject to a 3% or CPI uplift each year, whichever is greater.

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

MA / Master's
Course length:
3 years
Monday and Wednesday evenings
The Tavistock Centre, London, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol
Adults and children
Theoretical approach:
Admission status:
Course lead:
Matthew Chuard

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