Working with children, young people & families: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M7B, Birmingham)

Course overview

Using psychoanalytic theory to explore detailed observation of yourself in your workplace and of young children’s early emotional development, this course is designed to provide a strong and insightful support for all kinds of work with children, young people and families. Successful completion of this course is a prerequisite for application to the clinical training in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.

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 with the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy training in BTPP and in the other 4 Training Schools in the UK (including the child Psychotherapy training in The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust 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 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 be 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).


The course is run on Fridays between 12.45pm and 3.30pm (in the First year) and from 12.45pm to 5pm in the second year). Theory is taught n 9 Saturdays between October and March (exact dates to be confirmed).


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.

MA / Master's
Course length:
3 years
Admission status:

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