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

Course overview

This pioneering course uses psychoanalytic theory to explore the detailed observation of yourself in your workplace and of young children’s early emotional development.  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 an evening version and a Saturday blended version.

Over the three years, you will study:

Infant observation: you will observe a baby in its family home every week for up to two years. Your observations will be presented for discussion in a small seminar group and your experience of observing will be the basis for learning about very early development and relationships.

Work discussion: you will attend multidisciplinary seminars where you will bring detailed studies of your work for discussion. This will help you improve your understanding of the unconscious dynamics at play at both institutional and interpersonal levels.

Psychoanalytic theory: you will be introduced to core psychoanalytic concepts, via lectures, seminars and seminal texts drawn primarily from S. Freud, M. Klein and D. Winnicott.

Child development research: you will explore attachment theory, neurobiology, developmental psychology and anthropology.

Young child observation: you will 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: you will have an opportunity to experience, observe and reflect on group dynamics as they occur. This learning takes place with the support of a tutor who takes up the role of consultant to help the group take note of its functioning.

Dissertation-writing seminar: in the final year you will undertake seminars and supervision to support you in your MA dissertation.

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 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 or adult mental health professionals wanting to explore work with children.

  • one year full-time experience working with children, adolescents and/or families (or equivalent, gained within the last five years) AND a current role in such a setting, at least one to two days per week, continuing for the first two years of the course
  • an interest in and aptitude for learning about emotional development, observation and psychoanalytic thinking
  • 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 our The emotional care of babies, children, young people and families (EC1) course.


All day Wednesday from 10am to 5pm.


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. 

Phillip McGillPhillip McGill

Phillip McGill is the course lead for M7 and is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist with an honorary position in the Tavistock Fostering, Adoption and Kinship Care team.  Phillip trained as a social worker and worked with children and families in Scotland and London before retraining in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy at the Tavistock. 


£4700 per annum

£3750 for the MA year (third year)


£9400 per annum

£7500 for the MA year (third year)

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.  

Please contact us if you have any questions. 

MA / Master's
Course length:
3 years
All day Wednesdays
The Tavistock Centre, London, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Florence
Adults and children
Theoretical approach:
Admission status:
Course lead:
Phillip McGill

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