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Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Course Features
- Provides a critical and theoretical understanding of the principles underlying psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

- Contributes to the professional formation necessary to undertake this therapeutic method with adults.

- Explores the link between clinical relevance and contemporary cultural concerns.

- Includes participation at the weekly psychiatric case conferences at St Vincent's University Hospital. This privileged teaching forum remains a unique clinical feature of the programme since its inception in 1984.

- 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.

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?
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. As a clinical practice, psychoanalytic psychotherapy derives from psychoanalysis, a discipline which is based on the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud. In addition to Freud, since its inception in 1984, the course content has been strongly marked by the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1980) and his re-reading of Freud’s work, making it the only course of its kind in Ireland with this distinctive theoretical underpinning.

By way of background, psychoanalysis is a field of study informed by a therapeutic method which privileges the unconscious processes of the mind. This focus on unconscious processes and the laws governing them remains central to the clinical practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. In addition to its clinical focus, psychoanalysis has an undisputed place in contemporary culture with many of its concepts informing diverse fields of academic and artistic enquiry ranging from law, sociology, anthropology, psychology and psychiatry to philosophy, literary criticism, the arts, women’s studies and queer studies. The link between clinical relevance and contemporary cultural concerns is given emphasis in this programme.

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

Total credits awarded: 100 ECTS

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

Eligibility criteria
Candidates must have some prior knowledge of psychoanalytic principles. Generally, this is acquired academically or through one’s own personal analysis, professional clinical experience and / or other learning.

Specifically, to be accepted onto the course, candidates must ordinarily have
(a) a good honours degree in a discipline related to psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or its equivalent.

They must also
(b) be engaged in their own personal analysis and

(c) be in a position to work psychotherapeutically with at least one patient under supervision either in private practice or an institution by January of first year. Both (b) and (c) are core requirements and must be maintained for the duration of the course. The Course Director can advise on how to realise these requirements prior to application.

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


2 years part-time.

This is a two year part-time course which is offered in years of even number. Attendance is on Wednesday afternoon / evening (2.00 – 7.45pm) and Thursday morning (9.15 - 13.00) over 4 semesters ie 2+2 semesters with a summer break.

The weekly contact hours are divided between formal teaching, including seminars (7.5 hours), ‘small group’ supervision (1.5 hours) and attendance at the weekly psychiatric case conference at St Vincent’s University Hospital (1 hour).

Participants are expected to have - at a minimum - one further day available for work related to the programme which comprises personal therapy, seeing one’s own patients psychotherapeutically, attending individual supervision and preparing and researching all course work.

Careers or further progression

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.

Further enquiries

Programme Administrator
Ms. Maria Fay
UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science
St Camillus, Lower Ground Floor
St Vincent’s University Hospital
Elm Park
Dublin 4
T: + 353 1 2214929

Academic Programme Co-ordinator
Dr Barry O’Donnell
Acting Director
UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science
St Camillus, Lower Ground Floor
St Vincent’s University Hospital
Elm Park
Dublin 4

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 technique and metapsychology 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
Psychoanalysis as a phenomenon of modern times i.e. the past 100 years or so, will be placed within the context of the history of thought as informed by three indicators 1) The evolution of philosophical thought from Descartes and the birth of modern science to the present day 2) the history of madness and its attendant sociological context 3) the development of the family and the emergence of the conjugal family as its most recent form. This broad-ranging module will address how psychoanalysis emerged relative to the above indicators and attempt to extract from them the causative factors for the neuroses of our time.

The Symptom and the Dream
In psychoanalytic theory, the dream and the symptom are the indicators of the existence and activity of what Freud named the unconscious. They are the privileged modalities for exploring this activity. This module offers an examination of these modalities by which the unconscious expresses itself, through a sustained exposure to and examination of the grammar and syntax specific to primary process thinking. Two of Feud's seminal texts, The Interpretation of Dreams and The Rat Man case history are used as essential references and are linked to clinical practice via the work of Jacques Lacan and others.

Child Psychoanalysis - Theory and Application
Three theoretical approaches will be studied in relation to the psychoanalysis of children. Freud’s contribution - as outlined in the seminal account of his treatment of phobia in a young boy Little Hans - will be examined in the contemporary light of the process of mythification at the heart of psychoanalytic cure. The pioneering work of two major theoreticians of the British School, Klein and Winnicott, will also be evaluated. Kleinian concepts to be studied include: the paranoid/schizoid and depressive positions; projective/introjective identification; unconscious phantasy and object relations, as will the principles of her play technique with children. Winnicott’s theoretical contribution will also be examined.

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
Irrespective of our ‘natural’ gendered state, how, as men and women, we take up a ‘sexed’ position is at the core of our question of what it is to be human. This question has implications for the disorders of our time, ranging from sexual abuse, suicide among young men, the addictions, women as hommes manqués, etc. The contemporary reading of Jacques Lacan’s formulae of sexuation versus traditional dualistic definitions of men and women will be examined. Freud’s related teaching on infantile sexuality, sexual difference and the psychoanalytic controversies engendered by it (Ernest Jones’ contribution etc) will be assessed. The topic of perversion, particularly its epistemology will also be examined.

Transference and the Interpretation of Desire in Literature and Art
In this module, two conceptual strands converge to illuminate the formal structure of the phantasy, 1) the concept of transference as discovered and illustrated by Freud in the account of his treatment of Dora, an 18 year old hysteric and elaborated on by Jacques Lacan in his commentary - Intervention on Transference and 2) the dialectic of desire as developed by Lacan in his seminars on key literary and artistic works: Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Velasquez’ Las Meninas in particular. This intersection between psychoanalysis, literature and art further echoes Freud’s frequent direction to analysts to study the arts and literature to better train their minds about the nature of the unconscious.

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
There is a tension between `evidence-based' scientific method and psychoanalysis, wherein the `refusal' to measure the discourse effect produced in analytic work in an ‘evidence-based’ way, is ethically informed. The contemporary debate surrounding this tension will be examined with a view to formulating the nature of a scientific method that takes cognisance of the laws of the unconscious. The contribution of psychoanalytic theory and practice in three `cinderella' domains will also be addressed by professionals working psychoanalytically therein: addiction, where the role of the administration of `jouissance' in diagnosis and treatment will be explored; criminality, where the implications of an understanding of Freud's concept of criminals being criminals from a sense of unconscious guilt will be assessed and queer theory, where Lacan's concepts of desire and language offer a critique of the subject in modern culture.

Students will prepare and submit a 10,000 – 13,000 word thesis during the thirs semester of the second academic year. By the end of first year, they will be expected to have submitted a thesis proposal and a literature search. Direction in formulating their proposal and progressing their written work will be monitored and supported by their clinical tutor. This work will take place in designated seminars interspersed over the two years of the clinical practice tutorial. More intensive individual supervision is provided from May to July of the second year.


This 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.

Assessment method

The MSc will be awarded following attendance at teaching sessions, the case conferences, group and individual supervision of clinical work and successful completion of all related course work.

There will be no end-of-year examinations.

Course work includes essays, assignments, group assessments, weekly case conference reports and a research thesis of 10,000 – 13,000 words.

An attendance rate of 80% is expected throughout the course.
To attain the MSc, participants must-pass the Supervision of Clinical Practice and Clinical Diagnostics and Research modules. The rationale for the clinical assessment components being designated as ‘must-pass’ is due to the fact that these clinical components are absolutely essential for a student to qualify in this area.

Enrolment and start dates

Courses will remain open until such time as all places have been filled, therefore early application is advised.

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