Working with infants and the early years: a psychoanalytic observational approach (M9F)

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

This course, delivered in Florence, and taught by experienced clinicians with specialist experience working with parents and their infants. You will learn through a practice-based and theoretical approach to understanding infant and young children’s emotional, social and cognitive development within a psychodynamic framework.

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 M9F course also referred to as PAMAIF002 in communications from our application system.

About this course

Course outline

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 you to develop your observational skills and enhance your practice. In the institutional context you 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.

Who is this course for?

This course is for early year’s professionals including health visitors, midwives, paediatric and school nurses, nursery and reception heads and teachers, clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists and 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, 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 five and/or have completed one year of the course entitled 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.

For more information about fees and funding, please contact us.


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

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 the behaviour, play and communication of infants and young children. It will also 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.”


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This course is validated by the University of Essex.

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Applications for this course are now closed. Follow the link and complete the form to be the first to hear when this course opens for applications.

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