Psychoanalytic thinking at work

Psychoanalytic thinking at work (DAL004)

Discover the fundamentals of psychoanalytic theory

This course is currently closed for applications. You can register your interest in the course using the buttons at the top of this page and we will inform you when applications open in the future.

This year-long, online course will introduce you to some fundamental aspects of psychoanalytic theory in relation to human development and behaviour, including the unconscious mind, containment, object relations, transference and psychic defences.

Crucially, it will also give you the opportunity to observe and discuss the application of these theories in real-life contexts – deepening your understanding and allowing you to develop your capacity for reflective practice.

By the end of the course, you will have acquired a firm foundation of knowledge and skills – introducing ideas that help you think about yourself, your relationships and the world around you, and providing you with the space to consider your current role or start taking your career in a new direction.

About this course

Course aims

This interactive, online course will introduce you to the fundamentals of psychoanalytic thinking, while also giving you the opportunity to engage with the process of experiential learning.

By the end of the academic year, you will have gained an understanding of a range of key psychoanalytic ideas, tried observing and reflecting on these in a work environment, and thoroughly discussed your experiences and impressions with your peers and our clinician-tutors.

Course content and group seminars

Accessed through our bespoke online learning environment, all course materials are made available at the start of the year – allowing you to start working through the interactive lecture content, videos, online reading list and activities at your own pace.

Core concepts are discussed in fortnightly reading group seminars therefore providing you with the opportunity for regular, live interaction and reflection on what you’ve learnt with your cohort and tutor.

Work placements

You will be asked to find a relevant workplace observation opportunity – this is a key part of the experiential learning process, and will form the basis of discussion in fortnightly work discussion seminars.

This placement will deepen your understanding of the key psychoanalytic theories that you’re studying by allowing you to regularly observe interactions between members of staff and patients, clients, students or service users in a relevant setting.

You will be asked to reflect and present on your experiences throughout the year, and invited to submit an optional placement reflection paper.

Course topics

This course will present a range of key psychoanalytic theories and discoveries – exploring how the human mind works and what makes us who we are; how psychoanalytic theory views human development and relationships; and the unconscious processes that govern group and organisational dynamics.

A summary of topics covered in the course can be found in the table below:

Term 1Term 2Term 3
BeginningsAdulthood and later lifePsychic pain and psychic defences
Introducing the unconsciousKlein and the paranoid schizoid positionTrauma
Infancy and the idea of containmentKlein and the depressive positionDifference and diversity
Early childhood and the Oedipal situationProjective identificationPsychoanalysis and groups and organisations
Adolescence and early pubertyTransference and countertransference

Who is this course for?

This course is for you if you wish to explore your interest in psychoanalytic psychotherapy or you may be thinking about taking your first step towards a formal qualification in this field.

See where this course can take you with our career pathways guide.

Course details

This course is currently closed for applications.

In order to take this course, we ask that you have an interest in psychodynamic counselling, psychoanalytic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, and a wish to make a deeper study of the human mind – either for professional reasons or for the purposes of your own personal development. We’ll ask you to tell us why you are interested in studying with us in your online application form.

After you have submitted an application, we will ask you to provide us with the details of two referees, before inviting you to join us for a short interview with one of our course leads – this is an important part of the process, and a way of checking that this is the right course for you.

You’ll be able to ask any questions you have about the course, discuss what you hope to take from it, and share your plans for your workplace observation. Our course lead will ask you about your motivations for studying with us and explore any relevant experience and interests which might inform your application.

Workplace observation requirements

As part of the course, you will be asked to arrange a workplace observation in a relevant setting. This could be, for example, in a mental healthcare setting (e.g. a local mental health clinic or hospital), a charitable organisation (e.g. volunteering as a befriender) or an educational setting (e.g. a school or youth centre).

Alternatively, if you currently work in mental health or allied health, teaching, social work, or in another supportive role, then this could be used for the purposes of your observation.

If you’re unsure whether your current workplace role is suitable, or would like any further guidance on this aspect of the course, please download more information or contact us.

We strongly recommend researching and organising your work placement as early in the application process as possible.

Read our guide to workplace observation requirements.


Assessment is based upon the following:

  • a minimum group seminar attendance rate of 75% throughout the year
  • submission of eight write-ups (each of 1,500 words) taken from observations from your work placement
  • an optional submission of a placement reflection paper (3,000 words), which, if undertaken, leads to achievement of a full Trust certificate

Successful completion of the above assessment components, without undertaking the optional placement reflection paper, will enable you to receive a course participation certificate.

This course is delivered over one academic year, starting in the autumn term, but you’ll have access to the course and its materials for 18 months in total.

The course provides 200 hours of learning material, the majority of which you can undertake at a time and pace that suits you.

In addition, during term time, there will be weekly group webinars with a clinical expert and termly one-on-one tutorial sessions, which will give you an opportunity to ask questions, reflect on your learning and discuss your experiences.


Term dates for the 2022/2023 academic year are as follows:

  • Term one: Monday 19 September 2022 to Friday 9 December 2022 (half term 24 to 28 October)
  • Term two: Monday 9 January 2023 to Friday 24 March 2023 (half term 13 to 17 February)
  • Term three: Monday 17 April 2023 to Friday 23 June 2023 (half term 29 May to 2 June)

The timeslot for term-time weekly seminars is Mondays from 7pm to 8pm (one hour; UK time).

If you have any questions about the seminar timetable, or any scheduling needs that you’d like to discuss, please let us know by emailing us directly, or sharing these with a course lead during your interview. Please note that this schedule may be subject to change up until the start of term one, although we will do all we can to minimise any disruption this could cause.

We anticipate that your termly one-on-one tutorials will take place during weeks five, six or seven of each term, and available dates and times will be provided in the first week so that you can book a convenient slot through our online learning environment.

Upon completion, this introductory course could support your application for further professional training programmes, including formal qualifications in psychotherapy or psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in this area, termly one-on-one tutorials will provide opportunities to discuss your aspirations and options with a Tavistock and Portman Trust clinician-tutor.

Why study with us?

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust has been at the forefront of exploring mental health and wellbeing for over 100 years. We bring our extensive experience to this course as the only NHS Trust to be registered as a higher education provider by the Office for Students. This means your learning will be grounded in practice and real-life application. With our Digital Academy, we have made our training accessible and available to everyone to explore in your own time, at your own pace.

Watch this short video interview with a recent student.


“This course is offering me an intellectually rigorous and challenging opportunity to get to grips with complex theories. We are challenged to use our whole minds – reason and emotion – to deepen our understanding. This is just what I was looking for.”

Course facilitators


This course has been independently evaluated for Continuing Professional Development purposes by the CPD Certification Service. This means that the learning activity meets global CPD standards and benchmarks, and the learning value has been scrutinised to ensure integrity and quality.

Register your interest

Applications are now closed. Register your interest and be the first to hear when this course reopens.

Recommended courses

Explore courses to study next

For a better viewing experience we recommend you upgrade your browser.