Taught course

Psychoanalytic Studies

Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust · Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to: have a degree, or other qualification of equivalent level; we also welcome your application if you don’t have a standard educational background, or if you are currently engaged in, or wish to pursue, academic study rather than related professional work.

Months of entry


Course content

This course can be studied on a part or full time basis and the course consists of the following elements:

  • observation
  • psychoanalytic theory
  • psychoanalytic theory as a mode of enquiry into culture and society.

Observation module

The observation module of the course is taught in weekly seminars over two years and you will undertake weekly one-hour observations of a baby or young child at home or in a nursery setting. Weekly observations allow for the detailed study of the unconscious process that shape a baby or young child’s personality as he/she develops within the context of relationships within the family or the nursery.

Infant observation is seen as an important aspect of an initial psychoanalytic education, since it provides students with a context in which psychoanalytic ideas become connected to a significant human experience, engaging students’ emotions as well as minds. Infant observation is widely taught as a first stage in psychoanalytic and psychotherapy trainings.

You will write detailed notes after your observations and discuss these in weekly seminars with a senior child and adolescent psychotherapist. All our seminar leaders are experienced teachers of Psychoanalytic Observation, a method of study which originated at the Tavistock, which remains a pioneer in infant observation research.

The much acclaimed Journal of Infant Observation and much of the literature in this field has been produced by Tavistock-trained child psychotherapists. Lisa Miller, who jointly edited Closely Observed Infants, teaches on this module. Developments in Infant Observation edited by Sue Reid and Surviving Space: Papers on Infant Observation edited by Andrew Briggs explore developments in the Tavistock observational method. To learn more about the observational approach students may want to look at the International Journal of Infant Observation.

This module is taught in small seminar groups. The records written after each observation and what is learnt through the weekly seminars form the basis of assessment for year one and year two.

The observation module is delivered by Lisa Miller, Anggiellina Trellis- Fishman and Barbara Segal.

Please note that as a full time student, you will undertake two observations in your first year.

Psychoanalytic theory

This strand is taught in weekly seminars over two years (one year for full time students). The approach of the course is to study the development of Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique, mainly with reference to the British School of Psychoanalysis focusing on Freud, Klein, Winnicott and Bion. In the summer term of the second year there is an opportunity to revisit key concepts in psychoanalytic theory to help students to prepare for the dissertation.

The approach to learning is through the close study of the primary psychoanalytic texts. This provides students with a substantial first-hand foundation for further psychoanalytic study and its broader applications. This strand is taught by senior child and adult psychotherapists and analysts who are able to bring their clinical experience to the understanding of psychoanalytic ideas and its methods.

As a student on this course, you will also be able to enjoy our popular Development of psychoanalytic theory lecture series, free of charge.

Tutors on this module include Kate Robertson, Sue Stuart Smith, Marija Stojkovic, Meg Harris, Eva Crasnow and Inge Pretorius.

Application of Psychoanalysis

This strand of the course is taught in weekly seminars over two years (or one year for students on the full time programme) which explore the application of psychoanalytic ideas to many different areas of culture and society. This strand is taught in termly blocks. Some units are taught in half a term blocks. Subjects covered are:

  • Drama and Psychoanalysis
  • Art and Psychoanalysis
  • Film and Psychoanalysis
  • Music and Psychoanalysis
  • Poetry and Psychoanalysis
  • Social and Political applications of Psychoanalysis
  • Autobiography

This strand of the course will give you the opportunity to develop your own interests in fields of cultural, social and political life, and examine what a psychoanalytic perspective offers in deepening your understanding of them. Our emphasis is mainly cultural but the social and political unit will also enable you to explore social and political life through a psychoanalytic lens. Seminar leaders are major contributors to the field of psychoanalysis and culture.

Mirror to Nature: Drama Psychoanalysis and Society by Margaret and Michael Rustin was writtten from lectures and seminars first given on the course. The Inner World of Doctor Who by Iain Macrury and Michael Rustin also had its origin in a course seminar.

Tutors on this module include Michael Rustin, Meg Harris and Nicola Diamond.


After completion of the first two years of the course, you are encouraged to undertake a Dissertation on a topic of your own choice, which is usually completed during the first or second term of Year three. Having completed the course assessments, students can leave the programme at the end of year two with a Postgraduate Diploma.

The aim of the Dissertation (which can be between 12000 and 14000 words in length) is to develop an application of psychoanalytic ideas and approaches to a subject of interest, which will enable it to be understood in a new way. You may draw on any of the materials from each strand studied during the first two years of the course. Your particular dissertation topic may come from outside the Psychoanalytic Studies programme, but be linked to its approaches.

Topics chosen for Dissertations are extremely varied, ranging from consideration of specific works of culture, to political events, to aspects of professional work. The programme encourages you to make individual choices, and to develop your own kinds of psychoanalytic understanding through the subjects they choose. Some guidance is provided during the programme on various approaches to psychoanalytical study and research.

Often the dissertation brings together in students’ writing different elements of the course, in this substantial piece of writing. Some of them have later been revised to become published articles.

Here are some titles of successfully-completed dissertations.

  • The Maison Verte: a Transitional Space. An introduction to the work of Françoise Dolto.
  • The Psychodynamics of an Émigré Family Business: Intergenerational Creativity and Survival
  • A Psychoanalytical Investigation into the Sense of Home in the Poetry of John Clare
  • Beguiling the Hours: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Boredom
  • The Work of Christopher Bollas illustrated by the film Lost in Translation
  • (Dis)integration in a Foreign Land: Psychoanalytic Explorations of Migration
  • O My Days! A Psychoanalytic Approach to the Language of British Young Offenders in the 21st Century
  • Peace and Terror: Psychoanalytic concepts of psychosis and George Mitchell's management of the Northern Ireland peace process
  • The beginning of the end of an affair? An exploration of psychoanalytic and psychatric models of the mind in two cases of psychosis
  • The Death Instinct in the work of Ibsen (based on ‘Hedda Gabler’ and ‘The Master Builder’)
  • David Hockney: the Recovery of the Lost Loved Object
  • The Psychoanalysis of Occupation (reflecting on Occupational Therapy)
  • The Easter Tridium and Psychoanalysis
  • The Narcissistic world of Turandot
  • The Ordination of Women Priests
  • Flamenco “And without school learning (...) the gypsy dances. Because he feels it and that is enough” López, 1999

A significant number of completed dissertations have been subsequently written up as articles for publication and a number of former students have gone on to publish books.

Finding out about “psychoanalysis in practice”

If you pass an additional interview, you also attend clinical workshops and seminars. You can choose the workshops and seminars according to your interest and experience, but this additional programme may not be suitable for everyone. Please note that this is a bespoke part of the programme and fees are available on request.

Full-time study

If you study this course on a full-time basis, you will complete the taught units in years one and will study on Tuesday afternoons and all day Wednesdays. Year two will be spent writing your dissertation, with supervision.

Part-time study

If you study this course on a part time basis, you will complete the taught units in years one and two. You will study on Tuesday afternoons and attendance is required for one evening seminar a week in the Autumn term of year three to help you prepare for writing your dissertation.

Please note that this course is also offered on a credit accumulation basis.

Fees and funding

UK students
£7,980 (FT) £3,630 (PT)
International students
£15,960 (FT) £7,260 (PT)

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.

Qualification and course duration


part time
36 months
full time
24 months

Course contact details

Rosa Akerman
+44 (0)20 8938 2213 / 2214