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

Develop the skills to promote healthy emotional development in children and identify difficulties early

This course, delivered in Belfast, offers a practice-based and theoretical approach to understanding infant and young children’s emotional, social and cognitive development from a psychodynamic perspective.

Taught by experienced clinicians with specialist experience working with parents and their infants, 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.

Please note: you may see the M9N course also referred to as PAMABF002 in communications from our application system.

About this course

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 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.

For more detailed information, download our flyer.

Who is this course for?

This course is for early years professionals including:

  • health visitors
  • midwives
  • paediatric and school nurses
  • nursery and reception heads and teachers
  • clinical psychologists
  • child psychiatrists
  • 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.

Course details

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 and/or have completed one year of our course, 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.


£ 4,800 per year


£ 9,600 per year

For more information about financing your studies and your fee status, please see our fees and funding area.

Please note that course fees are subject to a 3% or CPI uplift each year, whichever is greater.

We are happy to offer a range of ways to pay your fees, as well as some funding for specific courses.


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


Thursday, 10am to 4.15pm.


61 Duncairn Gardens
B%15 2GB

Graduates have used this course to deepen and develop their work with very young children and their families and apply their practical observation skills and a psychoanalytic lens to their practice in a range of professional contexts, including their current work and volunteering settings.

Why study with us?

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.


“An invaluable experience for anyone working with infants and young children, providing a unique insight into the emotional development of the infant, in a highly stimulating, intellectually challenging and incredibly rewarding environment.”
“This course took me on a journey into the most important years of life, seeing the world through the eyes of an infant… I have become a confident observer, and have achieved so much through this course.”

Course facilitators


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This course is validated by the University of Essex.

Apply now

Use our MyTAP booking system to start, edit and submit your application for the coming academic year.

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