Taught course

Working with Infants and the Early Years: A Psychoanalytic Approach (M9)

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

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected:

  • to have had at least one year’s experience of direct work, paid or voluntary, with parents, infants or pre-school age children, or families with young children;
  • to be currently undertaking direct work with the above (minimum one day a week);
  • to provide two references, one from an employer who can give an account of your work with the under five age group;
  • to have a first degree or the equivalent, or to be able to demonstrate that you will be able to meet the academic demands of the course.

We do not insist on a degree, especially if you have extensive experience of work with under fives.

Months of entry


Course content

This course consists of the following elements:

  • infant observation
  • work discussion
  • child development research
  • psychoanalytic theory and its applications to infant mental health and early years’ development
  • young child observation
  • MA dissertation.

A personal tutor will support your professional and personal development on the course.

Year one:

Infant observation

You will observe a baby in his/her family home every week for 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

During these multi-disciplinary seminars, with students from a wide range of early years’ professional settings, you bring detailed studies of your work for discussion. This helps you improve your understanding of developing relationships with the parents, infants and young children you are working with. In addition, the group explores the dynamics at play at institutional and interpersonal levels, and the possible emotional meaning of verbal and non-verbal behaviors and communications.

Psychoanalytic theory one: theoretical perspectives

Theory one introduces you to key psychoanalytic concepts, and their application to specialist early years’ contexts. The theory is presented as a way of organising and describing observation and experience, and takes the form of lectures and discussion reading groups. You will read key papers introducing psychoanalytic concepts, followed by papers illustrating the application of these concepts to parent-infant and young child interventions in a range of under fives settings.

Child development research

You will attend fortnightly lectures, with related reading, covering recent and seminar research in the field of infant and child development.

Year two:

Young child observation

You will observe a pre-school child (between two and four years old) in his/her family, or in a nursery or other early years’ child care setting for an hour a week for an academic year. This will facilitate your learning about the emotional meaning of the child’s behavior, as he/she starts to relate to others outside the family.

Psychoanalytic theory two

This will offer you an overview of the development of psychoanalytic theory, key ideas and key thinkers. Key texts are read in conjunction with specialist theoretical and clinical papers which illustrate the application of these ideas to an early years context. Common themes pertinent to work with under fives, such as sleep, feeding, toileting issues, post-natal depression, developmental delay, are addressed.

Year three:

MA dissertation

Individual supervisions and dissertation proposal seminars will help you to 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).

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

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
24 months


part time
12 months


part time
9 months

Course contact details

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