Pre-Clinical Courses


We offer pre-clinical courses in Classical Freudian Theory, Infant Observation and Work Discussion. These three courses are aimed at furthering your understanding of psychoanalytic thinking and practice and can be taken as stand-alone courses or as part of a psychotherapy training. All courses start in September but, Infant Observation also has an intake in January.

Completion of pre-clinical courses (or their equivalent) is required for entry to our clinical trainings or they could meet the entry requirements of other BPC accredited training. In addition, these courses might be of interest, for CPD purposes, to psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers, teachers or medical staff or used to complement training in other therapeutic modalities.

Classical Freudian Theory

This is a one-year course of thirty 90-minue seminars, as well as directed reading, examining Freud’s work. You will be given the opportunity to become familiar with original texts as the course follows the evolution of Freud’s thinking. Freud’s ideas will be contextualised and, you will be introduced to their more contemporary forms in psychoanalysis today, as it is practised in the British clinical tradition of Klein, the Independents and the modern ‘London’ Freudians.

The emphasis of the course is to understand psychoanalytic theory as a means of organising and making sense of clinical observations and experiences and, conversely, to arrive at a fuller understanding of psychoanalytic theory through an examination of its clinical implications.

Infant Observation

Whilst this is a two-year course, we do accept applicants who require one year of infant observation for other training providers. Trainees visit an infant in their own home for one hour a week and observe the mother/baby couple, and other family members if they are present, going about their ordinary everyday lives. Trainees also attend thirty 90-minute seminars each year where observations are discussed, in confidence, with an experienced psychotherapist.

You will have the opportunity of thinking, in great detail, about a mother and baby in the first couple of years of the baby’s life and will learn how the ordinary challenges and pleasures of family relationships are negotiated. This experience aids an understanding of human development and psychology while becoming a skilled and thoughtful observer. If you work in a relevant occupation, or go on to train as a psychotherapist, it provides essential learning about how early infantile experiences and patterns of relating persist into adult life. Importantly, this course develops an observational stance which is the bedrock of the analytic position which is why it is deemed an essential component of our Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy training.

This course inevitably touches on your own early experiences and you are encouraged to be in at least weekly personal therapy with a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.

Work discussion

A one-year course of thirty 90-minute seminars, where participants take it in turns to bring detailed observations for discussion in a group led by an experienced psychotherapist. Participants are encouraged to ‘tell it as it is’ and respond to other presentations in a similar vein.

The aim of the course is to help you explore the application of psychoanalytic thinking to your work area and so it provides an opportunity to learn from reflective practice in a work or volunteering situation. Particular attention will be paid to the feelings evoked in the presenter by the experience with the client(s) or colleagues, and how those feelings can be used to understand what is happening. The aim is to sharpen perceptions and enhance the exercise of imagination so that a richer understanding of personality interactions described may ensue. Some participants have repeated the course to gain further understanding from new examples.

More information

Time commitmentAssessmentVenueEntry requirementsCourse FeesHow to applyWhat next?

Time commitment

All pre-clinical courses start in September, with an additional Infant Observation intake in January. (Click here for term dates)

Seminars: 1.5 hours per course (on a Monday afternoon and/or evening)

Observation of infant: 1 hour

Whilst seminars are scheduled so more than one can be taken in the same year, it is important to be realistic about the time commitment when deciding which courses to take in any one year.

You should factor for time spent reading and, for those seeking to apply for clinical training, weekly training therapy. For Infant Observation you should also factor in time spent travelling to and from the infant as well as time spent writing up your observation notes.


Participants in Infant Observation and Work Discussion are encouraged to complete a paper or, required to, if wishing to go on to our clinical training. Those who complete and pass the paper will be awarded a SIP certificate. Those who elect not to write a paper will receive a CPD certificate of attendance. There is no formal assessment for Classical Freudian Theory and so a CPD certificate of attendance will be issued.


Currently all our training is delivered in central Bristol. However, as a training institute for the South West our membership is drawn from across the region and both training therapy and supervision is available in Bristol and beyond.

Entry requirements

Classical Freudian Theory

Applicants with no previous experience of psychoanalytic theory should complete our short course ‘Introduction to psychoanalytic theories and concepts’

Infant Observation

Applicants are required to attend an interview and pass an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Check

Work Discussion

You should work or be volunteering in a situation that is primarily aimed at helping others. You should have regular one-to-one contact with, for example, clients, students or patients and, the contact should not be diluted by too great an administrative role.

This course might be of interest not only to counsellors and psychotherapists but also, to people working or volunteering in teaching, medical roles, social work, caring settings, support work, advice agencies, or befrienders and buddy roles. Completion of this course (or equivalent) is a requirement for our clinical training and is also an interesting stand-alone course.

Course fees

  • Classical Freudian Theory 2020-21: £1,220 (includes £200 deposit); 2021-22: £1,250 (includes £200 deposit)
  • Work discussion 2020-21: £1,220 (includes £200 deposit); 2021-22: £1,250 (includes £200 deposit)
  • Infant observation 2020-21: £1,220 (includes £200 deposit) + £60 DBS check fee (if required); 2021-22: £1,250 (includes £200 deposit) + £53 DBS check fee (if required)

In addition to training fees you should budget for such things as training therapy, supervision, books, stationery and travel.

Please note, we set fees each year and a slight annual increase should be expected.

Please ensure you read over our payment terms here.

How to apply

Applications open from 1st April each year to join the following September. We encourage you to make contact prior to application by, for example, attending our Open Day normally in March each year.

Application closing dates:

  • 31st May to start the following September
  • 31st October to join Infant Observation in January

Please contact the office if you are considering applying after the closing date.

Pre-clinical Application Form
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Please note:

  • If you have particular access needs please let us know as soon as possible so that we can discuss how best to meet these.
  • Courses will only run in any academic year subject to sufficient applications.
  • We follow an equal opportunities policy in our selection procedure.
  • We reserve the right to alter our existing constitution, criteria for membership, training procedures, timetables and assessments.

What next?

For those interested in joining our clinical training, completion of Classical Freudian Theory and Work Discussion is required for entry to our psychodynamic psychotherapy training; and, completion of all three courses is required for entry to our psychoanalytic psychotherapy training.