Course Features

  • Provides a comprehensive study of the theoretical principles underlying the practice of psychoanalysis in the context of the student’s own experience of psychoanalysis
  • Explores the relevance of psychoanalysis for our understanding of social dynamics and contemporary cultural concerns
  • Can provide a basis for application for the MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, a clinical practice training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy


This is a two-year part-time programme that covers the theoretical modules of the first two years of the Professional Masters in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. It is important to note that this programme does not include clinical training. As with all our psychoanalytic programs, students enrolling in this program must be in personal psychoanalysis.

Another option to consider, where an applicant is not looking for psychotherapy professional body recognition, is the two-year MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Studies. This programme consists of the modules - clinical and theoretical - of the first two years of the four-year Professional Masters. As with all of our programmes involving engagement with the psychoanalytic field it is required that students on this two-year programme are in their own personal psychoanalysis. More information is available here.

This programme is relevant for any mental health professional, including GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, social care workers, therapists, chaplains, counsellors, and nurses. The programme also accepts applications from candidates from other backgrounds who are suitable for the programme based on their own prior experience of their own psychoanalysis.
Any college graduate who has an appreciation that the study of psychoanalysis is required for any thorough investigation of mental phenomena and human subjectivity will benefit from this Graduate Diploma in Psychoanalytic Studies.  

Course Description

Psychoanalysis is a clinical practice inaugurated by Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939).  Freud produced an extensive body of theoretical writing articulating his practice and his questions. Practitioners in the field have built on this literature ever since. The Graduate Diploma in Psychoanalytic Studies provides a clinically informed direction for the reading of this body of literature. It  benefits from attending closely to the work of the French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1981) and his reading of Freud’s work. While the Graduate Diploma does not require its students to begin clinical practice it is delivered by experienced practitioners in classes which include trainee psychoanalytic psychotherapists. The Graduate Diploma also requires its students to be in their own psychoanalysis as this constitutes a fundamental component in any education in the field. This is primarily due to the basic premise of Freud’s work – the existence of unconscious processes of the mind – which only the experience of psychoanalysis can hope to bring home to a student.  In this way the Graduate Diploma provides an effective entry point into the psychoanalytic field without requiring a student to train as a practitioner.

In addition to its clinical practice  psychoanalysis has had enormous influence in the articulation of the forces at work in culture . Inspired by writings of Sigmund  Freud such as the landmark ‘Civilisation and Its Discontents’ [1930] many psychoanalytic concepts have been adopted – oftentimes in questionable applications – in diverse fields of academic and artistic enquiry such as psychology,  philosophy, law, psychiatry, literary criticism, film studies, fine art, women’s studies, queer studies,  sociology, and anthropology. Undoubtedly at this point in the early 21st Century psychoanalysis stands as an unavoidable reference for any serious consideration of the fields of the mental, the social and the cultural. 


Human Sexuality and the Logic of Sexuation

From the time of Sigmund Freud’s controversial ‘Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality’ [1905] it has been possible to investigate human sexuality in terms of the sexual drive and human subjectivity irrespective of moral or ideological positions on gender, sexual orientation or sexual identities. That is, in a way that is not entirely determined by one’s biologically gendered state and the cultural expectations attached to it, how we take up a position as a man or as a woman is unique and fundamental to the emergence of one’s subjective disposition. This module traces Freud’s development of a theory of human sexuality and follows it into the work of Jacques Lacan whose term sexuation differentiates the question of human sexuality from non-clinical ideologically motivated approaches to sexualities. The content of this module has a crucial bearing upon our response to the sexual issues of our time ranging from sexual abuse, suicide among young men, addictions, femininity – particularly with the question of transgender – to the task each faces in taking up a position as a sexed being, however this may be put into practice.

Transference and the Interpretation of Desire

Transference is one of the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis and has entered the language of psychotherapy and psychiatry. This module provides access to the emergence of the term as it is elaborated in  Sigmund Freud’s work. Central to this exploration is a close reading of the major case history which illuminates Freud’s discovery of the phenomena of transference – the ‘Dora’ case, ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’. Also guiding this study is Jacques Lacan’s Seminar on Transference where Plato’s Symposium provides major support. Desire is another fundamental term, introduced into psychoanalytic vocabulary in the work of Jacques Lacan. This module provides access to key parts of Lacan’s teaching on desire including study of  his reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. 

Psychoanalytic Conceptions of Psychosis

This module consists of close reading of two of Sigmund Freud’s major case studies – the study  of paranoia based on a reading of Judge Daniel Paul Schreber’s autobiography documenting his mental illness and Freud’s own lengthy treatment of the Russian émigré, Sergei Pankejeff,  referred to as the ‘Wolf Man’. These texts provide the foundation for any psychoanalytic theory of psychosis. The module relates this theory to contemporary psychiatric and psychological practices treating psychotic illness.

Ethics, Research and Clinical Applications

Jacques Lacan’s The Ethics of Psychoanalysis stands as a major contribution to our understanding of psychoanalysis as an ethical practice. In order to situate the ethics of psychoanalysis  Lacan differentiates the psychoanalytic position from the tradition of humanist ethics which grew up in response to the work of Aristotle. Central to Lacan’s teaching is his reading of Sophocles’ Antigone, the Greek tragedy that Western civilisation carries with it twenty-five centuries after its first production. This study of ethics informs the psychoanalytic approach to research and its challenge to the reduction of research to the collection of data in accordance with prescribed, evidence-based methodologies. Psychoanalysis encourages an open approach to what constitutes science arguing that the rigour of logical argument and mathematical hypothesis can underpin scientific endeavour as productively as empirical measurement and assessment.  The contemporary debate surrounding research and science is examined with a view to understanding the need for a scientific method that takes cognisance of the laws of the unconscious. Three clinical applications of psychoanalytic practice and theory are addressed by professionals working psychoanalytically therein: in addiction the administration of enjoyment by both addict and treatment service is explored; in criminality the implications of Freud's concept of criminality occurring to assuage a previously present sense of unconscious guilt will be addressed; in queer theory the importation of  psychoanalytic terms to articulate a critique of the subject in modern culture is assessed.

Psychoanalysis in Context

This module introduces students to the theories of madness and its treatment over the ages as presented in the work of Michel Foucault and Henri Ellenberger. Central to this study are the different positions taken on the relation between the normal and the pathological. This content allows greater appreciation of the context within which Freud first proposed his clinic of the unconscious.

In addition the module introduces students to work from the field of philosophy of crucial relevance to the psychoanalytic field. In particular there is a focus on Hegel’s theory of desire and of the Master – Slave dialectic. There is also consideration of contemporary discussion of the concept of subjectivity and  Jacques Lacan’s theory of the four discourses is also studied  in this context.

The module also includes a reading of Jacques Lacan’s text Family Complexes in the Formation of the Individual in order to appreciate the psychoanalytic theory of familial effects in mental life as well as study the contemporary concept of the conjugal family, recently the subject of a referendum.

The Symptom and the Dream

Sigmund Freud proposes that the dream and the psychological symptom are representations of the existence of unconscious mental functioning. They are the privileged formations for exploring this activity. This module offers an examination of these formations of the unconscious through a close reading of Freud’s theory of the grammar and syntax specific to primary process unconscious thinking. Two of Freud's seminal texts, The Interpretation of Dreams and the case history known as that of the ‘Rat Man’ provide the content of the module.

Child Psychoanalysis - Theory and Application

This module presents key instances of the relationship between psychoanalysis and the child beginning with a reading of Freud’s case history account of his treatment of phobia in a five-year-old boy ‘Little Hans’ which progresses through the elaboration by the boy of myth that can sustain him in the face of annihilating terror. The pioneering work of Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott will also be studied given their respective influence in approaches to treatment of children presenting with psychological disorder.

Psychoanalysis and Language

This module studies Jacques Lacan’s seminal statement that the unconscious is structured like a language. The consequence is that the material of our mental life is linguistic. This is why there can be a clinical practice whose material is speech and which addresses fundamentally the question of being in the world. The recognition of language as constitutive of human subjectivity occurs repeatedly in the work of Freud. Jacques Lacan supports his theory of subjectivity with the science of linguistics as articulated in the work of Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson as well as with the anthropology of Claude Levi-Strauss.


Students will prepare and submit a 8,000 - 10,000 word thesis at the end of the second semester of the second academic year of taking the Graduate Diploma programme. In preparation, they will be expected to submit a comprehensive dissertation proposal including a literature review by the end of semester one of second year. Direction and supervision in formulating their proposal and progressing their written work will be provided over year two of the programme. The dissertation should be evidently informed by the student’s experience of the psychoanalysis including their own psychoanalysis.

Programme Location

All teaching is carried out in The School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4.The weekly contact hours  combine formal teaching and classroom discussion. Attendance is on Wednesday afternoon/evening (2.00 – 7.45pm) over 4 semesters from early September to early May each year.  

Programme Structure

The course is delivered in 9  modules: 4 modules in year one and 5 in year two. Eight modules carry 5 ECTS and one – an 8,000 - 10,000 word dissertation in the second year of the programme- carries 20 ECTS

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: 60 ECTS


  • Applicants must be willing to engage with an open mind with psychoanalytic principles.
  • Applicants must be willing to be in their own psychoanalysis.
  • Applicants must ordinarily have a good honours Level 8 Bachelors degree in any field or have the basis for recognition of prior learning and experience.

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

A list of FAQs for international applicants is available here.

Application for this course must be made on-line at

Career Opportunities

Since its inception in 1984 the School of Psychotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital in conjunction with UCD has taught psychoanalysis to students with diverse career backgrounds. Medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers, chaplains, journalists, writers, lawyers, social workers, psychotherapists, counsellors and nurses have all benefitted from their introduction to the psychoanalytic field there. This in itself is testament to the way in which psychoanalysis appeals to individuals in all walks of life. Psychoanalytic knowledge has been able to inform their work and their lives radically.

A good number of graduates of the MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy set up their own private practice as psychoanalytic psychotherapists. A few become psychoanalysts through remaining  in personal analysis, practising in accordance with Freudian principles, teaching and contributing to psychoanalytic research in Ireland.

Over the past twenty years The School of Psychotherapy has published a journal - The Letter – Irish Journal of Lacanian Psychoanalysis - carrying this research along with articles by internationally recognised leading figures in psychoanalysis from France, Belgium and South America. Graduates have hosted several international congresses, notably  the 1st Congress of the European Foundation for Psychoanalysis (1992) and The Joyce-Lacan Symposium  - The Joy(ce) of Language, Dublin Castle (2005).  Since 2008, The School of Psychotherapy has initiated a series of interdisciplinary conferences between psychoanalysis and psychiatry. Four have taken place to date, the latest in December 2013, entitled 'Treatment Challenges in Psychosis, Voices of Differences - Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis in Dialogue'. Graduates have also set up postgraduate programmes in other third-level institutions in the capital.

In summary,  the field of psychoanalysis arguably does not lend itself to a standardisable career path but very evidently provides new fundamental co-ordinates to anyone who engages seriously with psychoanalytic work.

Academic Programme Coordinator: 

Dr. Gráinne Donohue

Module Co-ordinator

St Vincent’s University Hospital

Elm Park, Dublin 4


For more information on course fees please visit the Fees & Grants Office website.

Key Information:

  • Major Code X667
  • Duration 24 Months
  • Schedule Part-Time (Wednesday afternoons)
  • Next Intake September 2024

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