Working with children, young people & families: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M7F) Florence

Course overview

This established course, delivered in Florence, 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.

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 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 Scuola Quadriennale di Psicoterapia Psicoanalitica per Bambini, Adolescenti e Famiglie  (access to the Training is subject to Italian regulation whch states in matters of fitness to practice psychotherapy ART. 35 LAW 56/1989) and 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 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).
  • A good level in Italian Language


15 weekends, one per month, running Saturday 10am to 7pm and Sunday 8.30am to 1pm


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. 

Fees for the academic year 2019/2020 are coming soon.

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

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