Working with children, young people & families: a psychoanalytic observational approach

Course overview

This established course, taught by experienced clinicians, is a prerequisite for clinical training as a child and adolescent psychotherapist.  It will enhance your professional work with children, young people and their carers. It is rooted in learning from detailed observation within a psychoanalytic framework.

Over the three years, you will study: 

  • infant observation
  • work discussion
  • child development research
  • psychoanalytic theory
  • young child observation
  • experiential group
  • MA dissertation

Year one

Infant observation

In the first year, 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 a multidisciplinary seminar to which you will bring detailed studies of your work for discussion. This helps you improve your understanding of the unconscious dynamics at play at institutional and interpersonal levels and the possible emotional meaning of communications. 

Psychoanalytic theory:one

You will study the application of psychoanalytic ideas to individual, inter-personal, group and institutional unconscious processes and dynamics on a fortnightly basis. 

Child development research

You will attend fortnightly lectures, with related reading, covering recent and seminal 

Year two

Young child observation

In the second year, you will observe a pre-school child in its family or in a nursery setting for an hour a week learning about the emotional meaning of the child’s behaviour as she or he starts to relate to others outside the family.

Psychoanalytic theory: two

This seminar offers a grounding in the development of psychoanalytic ideas. You will read and critically appraise key papers by Freud, Klein and others.

Experiential group

You will attend a weekly experiential seminar for 14 weeks. This offers an opportunity for students to gain an understanding of the dynamics at work in groups by studying the processes alive in the experiential seminar.

Year three

MA dissertation

In year three, you will undertake your dissertation with individual supervision and seminars to help you develop and research your ideas and write your dissertation.

Course length and timings

This is a three year Masters level course.  Students may exit after one year with a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) or after two years with a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip).

This course can be studied via a day time or evening study mode.  Daytime classes run on Wednesday between 10am and 3.15pm.  Evening classes run on Mondays between 7pm-8.15pm and Wednesday between  7pm -9.45pm - please note you will have to attend on both Monday and Wednesday evenings.

Term dates and reading weeks 2016-2017

Autumn: 10 teaching weeks

Start date: Monday 26 September 2016
Reading week: Monday 24 - Friday 28 October 2016
End date: Wednesday 7 December 2016

Spring: 10 teaching weeks (Monday evenings 11 teaching weeks) 

Start date: Monday 9 January 2017
Reading week: Monday 13 - Friday 17 February 2017
End date: Wednesday 22 March & Monday 27 March 2017 

Summer: 8 teaching weeks (Monday evenings 7 teaching weeks)

Start date: Wednesday 19 April 2017
Reading week: Monday 29 May - Friday 2 June 2017
End date: Wednesday 14 June & Monday 19 June 2017


Christmas break: 4 weeks

Easter break: 3 weeks

Bank holidays:

  • Christmas day holiday: Tuesday 27 December 2016
  • Boxing day: Monday 26 December 2016
  • New Year's day: Monday 2 January 2017
  • Good Friday: Friday 14 April 2017
  • Easter Monday: Monday 17 April 2017
  • May day bank holiday: Monday 1 May 2017
  • Spring bank holiday: Monday 29 May 2017

This course will develop your skills in detailed observation of infants and young children as they grow over a period of time.  You will develop your insight and skills in 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

This course is for you if you work in an area that involves working with children, young people and their families.  You may be a teacher, teaching assistant, social worker, nurse, doctor, healthcare assistant, psychologist, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) worker, family support worker, adult mental health professional wanting to explore work with children, social worker or youth justice and community youth worker.

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

  • have at least the equivalent of one year full-time prior experience (paid or voluntary) directly working with children and/or adolescents and/or families in a professional setting
  • have an interest in, and aptitude for, learning about emotional development, observation and psychoanalytic thinking
  • are currently undertaking direct work with children, young people, parents or families, for a minimum of one to two days per week, and can continue to for at least the first two years of the course
  • have a first degree, or the equivalent, or be able to demonstrate that you can meet the academic demands of the course and/or have completed one year of the course entitled 'The emotional care of babies, children, young people and families'

The annual fee for this course is £3990 for Home/EU students and £7980 for International students. 

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 will increase by 2% each year.

The previous code for this course was M7.

MA / Masters
Course length:
3 years
All day Wednesday or Monday and Wednesday evening
London, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Corby, Devon, Florence, Liverpool, Oxford
Adults and children
Theoretical approach:
Admission status:
Course lead:
Geraldine Crehan

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