Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Course Features
Provides a clinical training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy contributing to professional qualification to practice.

Contributes to a rigorous theoretical study of the principles underlying psychoanalytic practice.

Includes participation at weekly psychiatric case conferences at St Vincent's University Hospital - a unique teaching forum bringing together psychiatric and psychoanalytic responses to mental illness

Can form part of a four-year continuous Special Modality Training (SMT) in psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

Course Overview
This part-time 2 year programme provides a critical and theoretical understanding of the principles underlying psychoanalytic psychotherapy and contributes to the professional training necessary to undertake this therapeutic method with adults. Since its inception, the programme has produced over 200 graduates. It caters largely for mental health professionals, which include doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, counsellors and nurses. The programme also accepts applications from candidates from other backgrounds who are suitable for the programme on the basis of their own prior experience of psychoanalysis.

Who Should Take This Course?
The course caters largely for:
• Mental health professionals
• Doctors
• Psychiatrists
• Psychologists
• Social workers
• Therapists
• Counsellors
• Nurses

In recent years its remit has broadened to accommodate a range of individuals from other professional backgrounds, ranging from the arts and academia, through to teaching, including business and the law.

The course has produced over 200 graduates, the majority of whom continue to work in their primary professions using psychoanalytic principles to inform that work. Many set up their own private practice, while remaining in personal therapy and supervision. Some become psychoanalysts who remain in personal analysis and additionally make a scholarly contribution to teaching, training and research.

What Will I Learn?
Course Description
This part-time 2 year programme provides professional clinical training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy founded on a student's engagement in their own psychoanalysis. It launches the student in beginning to practice psychoanalytically under supervision. The programme's module content develops understanding of the principles underlying the clinical practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, a discipline launched by the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud. The programme content is strongly informed by the work of French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981) whose seminars and writings elaborated Freud's work.

Psychoanalysis is a practice founded on attending to the unconscious mental life, that is, processes of the mind no less sophisticated than the wittiest of jokes and which carry content comparable to that of the great literary and artistic work of our culture, content at the core of our concerns and perplexities in the face of the task of human existence. This focus on unconscious processes and the laws governing them is fundamental to the clinical practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. Closely connected to its clinical basis, psychoanalysis contributes importantly to our understanding of contemporary culture concerns – informing our response to supposed normality, to the psychopathology of everyday life and of mental disorder, to deviancy and violence. Many of its concepts inform diverse fields of academic and artistic enquiry and endeavour including law and criminology, sociology, anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and their critique.

All teaching is carried out in The School of Psychotherapy within the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Mental Health Research at St Vincent's University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4, with the weekly psychiatric case conference taking place in the Main Lecture Theatre in the Education and Research Centre also at St Vincent's University Hospital.

Entry requirements

Am I Eligible for this Course?
Eligibility criteria
Candidates are required to be able to demonstrate a commitment to study and practice in the psychoanalytic field as articulated in the work of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Being in one's own analysis is the primary way of demonstrating this commitment. Previous psychoanalytic study is welcome but not a pre-requisite where there has been experience of psychoanalysis. Previous clinical / relevant experience in other practices (psychiatry, psychology, social work, social care work, education, nursing, law) is welcome but not a pre-requisite.

Candidates should:
(a) be engaged in their own personal psychoanalysis with a reputable practitioner

(b) have a good honours degree / evidence of academic ability required for MSc level study

(c) be in a position to begin to work psychoanalytically in a psychotherapy context under supervision by January of first year of the programme.

It is required that students on the MSc are in their own psychoanalysis / psychoanalytic psychotherapy for the duration of the programme and put in place arrangements to work with patients psychoanalytically.

Please contact Dr. Barry O'Donnell, the Programme Director on if you would like to arrange to speak about these eligibility criteria and how to prepare to meet them.

International Applicants
International applicants should contact the academic programme director for a full list of entry requirements.

Assessment Info

Assessment is by continuous assessment for the taught modules and a mark for the thesis

Subjects taught

Supervision of Clinical Practice

The supervision of clinical practice takes place in small groups with an assigned clinical tutor in order to offer students an intimate environment and a highly focused training in the technique and practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Practical questions, such as how to commence work as a psychotherapist, how to maintain a correct position vis à vis the patient, the early sessions, the place of interpretation, the role of the transference, etc. are all looked at in detail. Central Freudian texts on psychoanalytic technique are used as a basis for the discussion of ongoing clinical formation, with students presenting their active case material in rotation for peer and tutor supervision.

Clinical Diagnostics and Research

Students attend the weekly psychiatric case conference where the presenting psychiatrist conducts an interview with a patient in the presence of the multi-disciplinary group of mental health professionals. The interview itself, the related differential diagnosis, including the psychodynamic/psychoanalytic opinion and the treatment plan will inform a seminar immediately following the case conference. In addition to the refined psychoanalytic opinion formulated in the course of this seminar, questions of diagnosis and technique will be further developed in conjunction with the study of some of Lacan's essays on psychoanalytic technique, such as The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power.

Psychoanalysis in Context

Seminal texts for the understanding of the place of the psychoanalytic discourse in contemporary culture will be covered. Students are introduced to key texts on the following topics:
1.Philosophy and psychoanalysis
2.Paradigms of science
3.History of theories of madness and the history of its treatment including legal positions on madness
4.A psychoanalytic account of the family
5.Psychoanalysis in Ireland

The Symptom and the Dream
Sigmund Freud proposes his fundamental concept of the unconscious on the evidence of working with dreams, parapraxes, jokes and symptoms. His articulation of the laws of unconscious mental functioning derives from his work with these formations of the unconscious. This module studies the dream and the symptom leaving the parapraxes and jokes to be covered in the module Psychoanalysis and language. Both modules cover the mechanisms of the unconscious as discovered by Freud and the recognition of these in terms drawn from linguistics by Jacques Lacan, leading him to propose that the unconscious is structured like a language. The primary text for the study of the Freudian account of the importance of dreams in working with mental phenomena is The Interpretation of Dreams, the text that launched the practice of psychoanalysis in 1900. The text used to follow a psychoanalytic response to the symptom is the case history 'Notes upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis' (aka the Rat Man case history). The reading of these texts relates them to clinical practice which works with dreams and symptoms.

Child Psychoanalysis - Theory and Application
Freud's contribution to the question of the application of psychoanalysis to children is represented in this module by his seminal account of the negotiation of anxiety and the castration complex in ' Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy' [aka the case of Little Hans]. Elucidating this case history will be reading from Jacques Lacan's 'Seminar, Book IV, 1956 - 1957. The object relation'. The following influential Kleinian concepts are also studied: the paranoid/schizoid and depressive positions; projective/introjective identification; unconscious phantasy and object relations, as well as the principles of her 'play technique' with children. Donald Winnicott's concept of transitional object will be the focus of the consideration of his contribution.

Psychoanalysis and Language
In psychoanalysis, how does cure through the mere act of talking come about? This module will demonstrate that the unconscious is structured like a language, thereby defining our relationship to reality. Specifically students will learn how the algorithm of the unconscious S/s (Signifier/signified) functions and its application in psychoanalytic practice. Links between this concept S/s and two of Lacan's models for how the subject is 'inserted' into language and culture i.e. the Graph of Desire and Schema R will be developed. The origin of the laws of language in the work of Freud, Ferdinand de Saussure and Claude Levi-Strauss will also be privileged.

Human Sexuality and the Logic of Sexuation
Sexuality has been a fundamental question for psychoanalysis since the publication of Sigmund Freud's radical 'Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality' in 1905. Not determined exclusively of our 'natural' gendered state, how men or women take up a 'sexed' position is at the core of our question of what it is to be human. This question has fundamental implications for our response to matters where sexuality is central: abuse, suicide among young men, the addictions, masculinity, femininity, transgenderism and gender fluidity. This module works with the key Freudian texts on sexuality including the debate within the psychoanalytic movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Jacques Lacan's concepts of object , of drive and of desire will be explored further following their introduction in the modules in the first year of the programme. The contemporary reading of Jacques Lacan's formulae of sexuation is introduced on this module.

Transference and the Interpretation of Desire in Literature and Art
This module consists of reading of fundamental texts on transference, on interpretation and on desire. 1) the concept of transference as discovered and illustrated by Freud in his account of his treatment of Dora, an 18 year old hysteric and elaborated on by Jacques Lacan in his commentary - Intervention on Transference 2) the discussion of transference in Lacan's seminar Book VIII 3) the dialectic of desire and its interpretation as developed by Lacan in his Seminar Book VI and in his graph of desire as developed in The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire. The module will include reference to Lacan's reading of Shakespeare's Hamlet as well as his reading of Plato's Symposium in particular as well as other places in Freudian and Lacanian texts where there is reference to art and literature to illustrate transference and desire.

Psychoanalytic Conceptions of Psychosis
This module concentrates on two of Freud's case studies – his analysis of 1) Judge Schreber's autobiography of his psychotic illness and 2) his treatment of the Russian émigré eponymously referred to as the Wolf Man - as reference points for a psychoanalytic understanding of psychosis. In addition, it studies Freud's and Lacan's theories of psychotic illness, especially, paranoia and schizophrenia (formerly dementia praecox), as they evolved and as they relate to the theories of their psychiatrist contemporaries. Attention will also be paid to questions of diagnosis and treatment of psychosis in psychoanalysis and psychiatry today.

Ethics, Research and Clinical Applications
Jacques Lacan's Seminar The Ethics of Psychoanalysis is the central text for this module. Students encounter how psychoanalytic ethics differ from humanist ethics and why they resist codification. The contribution of psychoanalytic theory and practice in two topical domains will also be addressed 1) addiction, where the role of the administration of enjoyment in diagnosis and treatment will be explored; 2) criminality, where the implications of Freud's concept of criminals being so from a sense of unconscious guilt will be assessed. Consideration is given to implications for our understanding of science, clinical practice and research. In light of this there will be sessions on research writing appropriate to the psychoanalytic field to support the work of the Dissertation.

Students will prepare and submit a 12,000 word thesis at the end of the second academic year of the programme. They will be expected to have a thesis proposal by the end of semester one of second year. Students will be supported in writing their thesis using the small group supervision meetings as well as with approximately 6 one-to-one thesis supervision meetings with a designated thesis supervisor. This support will help maintain an appropriate connection between the academic task of the thesis and the clinical ethos and direction of the programme. Further support will be provided in designated seminars in year two as well as content from the Ethics, Research Methods and Clinical Applications module.


Total of 100


2 years part-time.

The course is delivered in 13 modules:

Eight of these – 4 modules in year one and 4 in year two - provide 5 credits each.
Of the remaining 5 modules, 4 are specifically related to clinical training and assessment and run continuously throughout the two years. These are Supervision of Clinical Practice and Clinical Diagnostics and Research, each contributing 7.5 credits yearly. The final module is by dissertation and contributes 30 credits.
Attendance must be 80% or higher throughout the course

Enrolment dates

Next Intake September 2020

Post Course Info

Career Opportunities
Since its launch in 1984, the programme has produced over 200 graduates. These have come largely from the health and social care professions: medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, psychotherapy, counselling, pastoral work and nursing. From its inception the programme has accepted many from other professions such as the arts, academia, teaching, business, journalism, and law. Whatever one's background the MSc provides a point of entry into the psychoanalytic field. The diverse mix contributes significantly to the educational experience of the programme and reflects its philosophy and psychoanalytic orientation.

The majority of graduates, whether working in the mental health arena or other professions continue to work in their primary professions and apply psychoanalytic principles to inform their work. Some having gained sufficient clinical experience in different settings set up their own private practice as psychoanalytic psychotherapists and continue in their own psychoanalytic psychotherapy and supervision over many years. A small number engage in their own analysis over many years and from that take up a practice position as a psychoanalyst. Many graduates continue to make contributions to teaching and research in the psychoanalytic field. It is also possible, with appropriate clinical and academic experience to apply for doctoral research study. (Contact: Dr. Barry O'Donnell:

Graduates have hosted several international congresses, notably the 1st Congress of the European Foundation for Psychoanalysis (1992), The Joyce-Lacan Symposium - The Joy(ce) of Language, Dublin Castle (2005). Since 2008, The School of Psychotherapy has organized a series of interdisciplinary conferences between psychoanalysis and psychiatry. Five have taken place to date, the latest in December 2016, entitled 'What is Anxiety? Treatment Challenges – Approaches in Dialogue'. (see for details)

Graduates of the MSc may separately choose to participate in the work of The Irish School for Lacanian Psychoanalysis (ISLP; This psychoanalytic school was founded in 2007 by Dr Cormac Gallagher, founding Director of The School of Psychotherapy and is modelled on Jacques Lacan's Ecole Freudienne de Paris (founded in 1964). It is a structure which allows for psychoanalytic scholarship to thrive outside of the demands for qualification and professional recognition.

The School of Psychotherapy also publishes a peer-reviewed journal The Letter- Irish Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis which publishes international writers on psychoanalysis as well as the cartel work of members of ISLP.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Part time

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