Perinatal and early years work: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M9N, Belfast)

Course overview

Taught by experienced clinicians with specialist experience working with parents and their infants. This course offers a practice-based and theoretical approach to understanding infant and young children’s emotional, social and cognitive development from a psychodynamic perspective. It aims to develop your observational skills as well as help you gain an increased understanding of the factors which can promote healthy emotional development in babies, infants and pre-school aged children leading to early identification and assessment of difficulties. 

Rooted in learning from detailed observation within a psychoanalytic framework. You will study key psychoanalytic concepts and their application to specialist early years’ contexts and learn through infant observation and work discussion. This course will also support workers to develop their observational skills and enhance their practice. It will also address competencies within the Perinatal Mental Health Competency Framework developed by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust on behalf of Health Education England. In this context professionals will also be supported to explore the challenges and complexities working at the interface between infant and adult mental health to develop an understanding of organisational dynamics and its impact on practice.

Infant observation

You will be required to observe a baby in their family home. Your observations will be presented for discussion in a small weekly seminar group and your experience of observing will be the basis for learning about very early development and relationships.

Work discussion

During these multi-disciplinary seminars with students from a wide range of early years’ settings you will bring detailed studies of your work for discussion. This helps to improve your understanding of developing relationships with the parents, infants and young children you are working with. The group also explores the dynamics at play at institutional and interpersonal levels and the possible emotional meaning of verbal and non-verbal behaviours and communications. A personal tutor will also support your professional and personal development whilst on the course.

Please download the course outline here. 

This course will develop your skills in baby and young child observation and in applying observation to your perinatal, early years or social care setting to support reflective practice in working with babies, infants and their families. It will develop your understanding of infants’ and young children’s behaviour, play and communication and enhance your skills in work with parents, infants and young children and give you a wider frame of reference for thinking about your work context.

This course is for early year’s professionals including health visitors, midwives, paediatric and school nurses, nursery and reception heads and teachers, clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists and children centre staff. This course would also be suitable for staff working in perinatal services, mental health professionals and staff working in safeguarding and social care who are interested in deepening their understanding of the emotional experience of babies and infants and parent infant relationships. 

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

  • have an interest in, and aptitude for, learning about emotional development, observation and psychoanalytic thinking
  • have at least the equivalent of one year's full-time experience of direct work, paid or voluntary, with parents, infants or pre-school age children, or families with young children in a professional setting
  • are currently undertaking direct work with parents, infants or pre-school age children, or families with young children in a professional setting
  • have an undergraduate degree, or to be able to demonstrate that you will be able to meet the academic demands of the course. Please note that we do not insist on a degree, especially if you have extensive experience of work with children under 5 5 and/or have completed one year of the course entitled 'The emotional care of babies, children, young people and families' (EC1). 

Students are expected to be working in a professional context which enable them to bring appropriate case material for discussion. 

Students are required to submit a paper on each of the modules at the end of the year.

Attendance: Thursday, 10am to 4.15pm

Venue: NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast BT15 2GB 

Deirdre Meehan

Deirdre Meehan

Dr Deirdre Meehan is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist with many years’ experience working in CAMHS in Northern Ireland. She is also a Psychoanalyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society and works as a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist within Adult Mental Health. She has a broad interest in trauma-related developmental difficulties leading to mental health problems in children, adolescents and adults. This interest led to her doctoral study of developmental progress in severely deprived traumatised children through examining the detail and efficacy of analytic interventions with these children. She also has a keen interest in parent-infant psychotherapy.


£ £4,800 per year


£ 9,600 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. 

PGDip / PGCert / MA
Course length:
3 years
Admission status:
Course lead:
Deirdre Meehan

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