Psychodynamic Practice in Mental Health

Course overview

This is a bespoke 10-week short course for mental health nurses, which develops the capacity to understand, process and thoughtfully respond to intense and complex situations in day to day work.

It promotes a greater capacity to think about relationships and interactions with colleagues and patients, thereby decreasing more reactive responses and increasing emotional resilience, which generates greater work satisfaction and a reduction in symptoms of  ‘burn out’.

Nurses experience and encounter stress, distress and aggression. This may arise in interactions with patients, family members, colleagues and through organisational pressures. Nurses need the opportunity to develop a framework for understanding their experiences and interactions. They also need protected time to share experiences and to develop their interest and reflective capacity. Without these things nursing staff can find themselves ill equipped to process work experiences without becoming disengaged from patients, disillusioned and worn out, which can also lead to higher levels of absenteeism.

The course provides protected time for learning and encourages nurses to develop their interest in their work and to develop a greater reflective capacity. It provides nurses with a psychodynamic framework for understanding the dynamics and experiences of working with disturbed patients, within the organisational context.

This theoretical framework provides an essential platform for thinking about and understanding:

  • A model of the development of the mind and relationships
  • Patients’ distress and disturbed states of mind such as psychosis, depression, suicidality and eating disorders
  • Communication at all levels (conscious and unconscious) with patients, their families and other professionals

And generates the capacity to:

  • Notice and understand the impact of work experiences on individuals and teams
  • Develop greater capacity to reflect on one’s own experiences and use this insight within therapeutic relationships
  • Develop emotional resilience to better tolerate and process intense emotional experiences in clinical work, enabling better containment for patients’ own intense emotional experiences.

In summary, the applied theoretical model supports nurses in remaining engaged in therapeutic relationships with patients, providing quality care and maintaining professional boundaries whilst resisting the pressure to react or withdraw.

The course has been developed to meet the needs of front line mental health nursing staff. It is relevant to those working within inpatient and community settings, it is also adaptable to specialist areas of care (such as forensic, personality disorder).

The course is aimed at all bands of nurses, from team leaders to nursing assistants. We have found that providing the course to colleagues from the same service who attend together enables continuity of ideas and discussion after the course has ended. The course is also relevant and available to colleagues from other disciplines such as occupational therapists, social workers and medics.

This short course has been developed from a one-year advanced diploma that has run at the Tavistock Clinic for many years, as a response to the need for training in this area that is cost effective, less time-consuming for staff and can be delivered locally to teams and services.

Previous feedback (from evaluation and audit) from commissioners of the diploma course found that the course:

  • was well attended; participants’ satisfaction was high - impacted positively on participants’ ability to deal with their own as well as well as their colleagues’ stress and anxiety
  • helped participants to become less frustrated by patients’ difficult behaviour
  • developed skills in meaningful risk assessments.

Previous students described the course as 'exhilarating', prompting a wish to share experience with colleagues, reducing passivity in work, and developing their insight and awareness which changed the nature of their practice.

Recent feedback of the work discussion groups (one aspect of the course) showed that 100% of students agreed that it

  • developed their professional skills in working with individuals with mental health concerns
  • enhanced their ability to manage challenging relationships in the clinical setting
  • allowed them to understand the influence of the client group on the emotional well-being of the staff group.

It is a 10 week course, comprising of four hours of training per week, plus additional time required for weekly reading and preparation for one case presentation.

Course facilitators are themselves mental health nurses with extensive clinical, training and supervisory experience. They are also psychotherapists and will bring their experience and working knowledge of applied psychoanalytic concepts

The course will be formed of 3 separate but linked sessions each week:

  • Theory and application - A taught seminar focusing on topics such as the development of the mind, stages of life and development, mental ill health including depression, psychosis and selfharm
  • Papers and presentation -Students read an identified paper (often relating to applied work with patients) in preparation for the study afternoon each week. One member of the group will present a summary of the paper and a reflection on its relevance to their work and experience.
  • Work discussion group - Each member of the group will have the opportunity to present a case, interaction or incident from their work for a group discussion. The work discussion groups support nurses in completing the NMC revalidation requirements for reflective practice.

Attendance at all sessions is required. A certificate of attendance will be given to those who have attended 70% or more of the sessions.

The course will be evaluated considering both the student’s experience and the impact of the course on their work. This will be shared with the commissioning organisation.

The standard model of the 10-week course is outlined here, but flexibility and customisation are key features of our course delivery. We want to work with you to establish the specific requirements and needs of your team/service and to tailor this model so that it works for you. 

The course can be delivered onsite, locally to you or online, and at times mutually convenient for you and the course facilitators.

Included in your course fee, you will receive online membership of the Tavistock’s internationally-renowned library for the duration of your course.Our friendly and knowledgeable library team will help to support you through your specialist CPD course, whatever your level of professional or academic experience. You will have access to an extensive range of eBooks, online journals, all the relevant key databases and our specialist audio-visual collection, plus reference access to all our print books. Our Information Skills Trainer has made lots of material available on Moodle to help you navigate our comprehensive electronic collections. PCs and photocopiers are also available for your use (charges apply for printing and copying).Library staff curate various online resources, such as Audio/Video Playlists, and regularly share helpful news and research on Twitter and Facebook. Find out more on the Library website:

Standard 10-week model:

£6600 per course, for a maximum of 10 participants.

For further information and to discuss your requirements, please contact us at or on 020 8938 2548

Certificate of attendance
Course length:
10 weeks
Admission status:

Enquire about this course

Make an enquiry

Share this page

Join our nursing mailing list

Join our nursing mailing list

Other courses you may be interested in:

Facilitating Reflective Practice Groups Training

This short course is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills required to establish and facilitate reflective practice groups in order...

Find out more
Reflective Practice Group for Facilitators

Reflective practice in groups is an invaluable opportunity for people to explore tricky issues in a supportive environment. It enables participants...

Find out more
Well-being Initiative for Nurses (Parts One and Two)

In relation to the increased awareness of the need for staff well-being to be at the centre of healthcare services, we are offering two short...

Find out more