Course Features

  • Provides a rigorously supervised clinical training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy contributing to a professional qualification to practice
  • Requires engagement in one’s own psychoanalysis, the cornerstone of psychoanalytic practice
  • Provides weekly small group and individual clinical supervision
  • Provides a rigorous theoretical study of the principles underlying psychoanalytic practice
  • Includes participation at a weekly psychiatric case conference at St. Vincent's University Hospital which is a unique teaching forum bringing together psychiatric and psychoanalytic responses to mental illness
  • Includes dissertation for experience of research appropriate to the field
  • Can form part of a four-year continuous Special Modality Training (SMT) in psychoanalytic psychotherapy

Course Overview

This part-time two-year programme provides a rigorous supervised clinical training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy contributing to a professional qualification to practice this therapeutic method with adults.

Since its inception in 1984 the programme has significantly contributed to the formation in clinical practice for many psychoanalytic practitioners and other clinicians who benefit from a psychoanalytic influence on their work. It is relevant for any mental health professional, including GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, 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 psychoanalysis.

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, 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 graduates have 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.

Course Description

This part-time two-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 unconscious mental life. It takes seriously Sigmund Freud’s proposal to us that “the most complicated achievements of thought are possible without the assistance of consciousness.” From these processes erupt not only our mental pathologies and psychological symptoms but also the joke that surprises into spontaneous laughter – that is, a mental product that has real physiological effects. These sophisticated, unconscious processes of the mind represent the concerns and wishes each of us carry when faced with the task of human existence. Psychoanalysis is a treatment for debilitating perplexity experienced by some in their relation to the world. Students engage with the question of what it is to practice psychoanalytically – requiring a clinical position that listens differently to other mental health practices. It can very productively contribute alongside other practices such as psychiatry and psychology to our society’s response to mental disorder and illness.

Psychoanalysis contributes importantly to our understanding of contemporary cultural concerns such as our presuppositions and prejudices concerning the normal and the pathological, 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.


The course is delivered in 13 modules:

  • Eight of these – four modules in Year One and 4 in Year Two - provide five credits each
  • Of the remaining five modules, four 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


Supervision of Clinical Practice

The supervision of clinical practice has two modes: weekly small group supervision in a group of maximum 4 students with an experienced psychoanalytic supervisor; and weekly, over 25 weeks, one-to-one supervision with an experienced psychoanalytic supervisor. Students get their clinical experience in appropriate psychotherapy, mental health and social care settings. Central to this work in these different settings is the task of listening and responding psychoanalytically to the material articulated by the patient/client. In this way students receive 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 in the small group, with students presenting their active case material in rotation for peer and tutor supervision. One-to-one supervision provides a weekly opportunity to speak through sessions with individual patients/clients.

Clinical Diagnostics and Research

Students attend the weekly psychiatric case conference in St. Vincent’s University Hospital where the presenting psychiatrist presents for education and discussion a case of a patient attending the Hospital services. On occasion it is appropriate for the psychiatrist to conduct an interview with a patient in the presence of the multi-disciplinary group of mental health professionals. The presentation/interview and the related differential diagnosis educates those attending, including the MSc students about psychiatric practice. A psychoanalytic perspective is also contributed to the meeting. A seminar immediately following the case conference for the MSc students develops the psychoanalytic perspective and promotes in the students respect for ways in which psychoanalysis and psychiatry can work alongside each other for the benefit of both and, crucially, for the patients attending with mental distress.  



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.  Furthesupport will be provided  in designated seminars in year two as well as content from the Ethics, Research Methods and Clinical Applications module.


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 (9.00 - 13.00) over 4 semesters from early September to early May each year. The weekly contact hours are divided between formal teaching, including seminars (5½ hours), ‘small group’ supervision (1½ hours) and attendance at the weekly psychiatric case conference at St Vincent’s University Hospital (1 hour). Students are expected to have - at a minimum – the equivalent of at least one further day available for work related to the programme which comprises personal psychoanalysis (minimum two sessions a week), clinical practice with a minimum of two clients a week, attending individual supervision weekly and preparing and researching all course work. Students need time for their thesis May to July in the second year of the programme.

All teaching is carried out in The School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4, with the weekly psychiatric case conference taking place in the Education and Research Centre also at St Vincent’s University Hospital.


  • The MSc will be awarded upon successful completion of all assessment work as well as the following programme requirements: attendance at teaching sessions, at the case conferences, at both group and individual supervision, conducting of a sufficient amount of clinical practice, confirmation of being in psychoanalysis for the duration of the programme.
  • There will be no end-of-year examinations.
  • Course work includes essays, assignments, group  assessments, weekly case conference reports and a research thesis of 12,000 words.
  • An attendance rate of 80% is required  throughout the course.
  • To attain the MSc, participants must-pass the Supervision of Clinical Practice and Clinical Diagnostics and Research and Dissertation modules.
  • An expected learning outcome is the realisation of the necessity for a practitioner to continue in their own psychoanalysis for as long as they practice psychoanalytically.

The MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is a two-year clinical programme that contributes essentially to the education and training of psychoanalytic psychotherapists. Graduates have, over the years, successfully applied for membership of professional bodies representing this modality of psychotherapy.

In 2019 the former Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD initiated the process to establish a State Registration Board for the titles psychotherapist and counsellor under the terms of the health and Social care Professionals Act [2005] administered by CORU ( The MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy programme is keeping abreast of developments and will work to ensure that the qualification meets requirements for State Registration.

Currently professional bodies within the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) require a four-year period of training. These include the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland ( and the Irish Forum for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (

The School of Psychotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, D4 where the MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is delivered offers a Specific Modality Training in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (SMT).

The SMT programme is a (minimum) four-year training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and  comprises both the Masters component of training and the post-Masters period. The Masters component is awarded by UCD in accordance with their academic processes. Post-Masters the School of Psychotherapy is in position to provide a further two-year period of training because of its role as site for the delivery of the UCD MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. The Programme Director of the Masters programme is also a Director of the SMT programme ensuring a knowledge of each student’s progression that is continuous through the (minimum) four year period of training. Application onto the post Masters period of training is not automatic. Graduates of the Masters programmes make a separate application for this period of study.

Primarily the purpose of the post-Masters component of the SMT  is to provide a suitable and sound structure for trainees to continue their clinical practice, their psychoanalysis and their supervision and have all this work verified by the School of Psychotherapy. The SMT is awarded by The School of Psychotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital ( and is accredited by and is accredited by Association for Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy (APPI), a constiuent member of Psychoanalytic Section of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) which is a member of the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP) 

Further information on the SMT programme is available at:


Further information on criteria for application for membership of APPI are available at:

Further information on criteria for application for membership of IFPP are available at:


For informal enquiries on the MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and on the four-year SMT in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, contact Dr. Barry O’Donnell, Director, Psychotherapy Programmes

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, Director, Psychotherapy Programmes if you would like to arrange to speak about these eligibility criteria and how to prepare to meet them.

  • 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.

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.

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

Academic Programme Coordinator: 

Dr. Gráinne Donohue

Module Co-ordinator

St Vincent’s University Hospital

Elm Park, Dublin 4


Key Information:

  • Major Code X167
  • Duration 24 Months
  • Schedule Part-Time
  • Next Intake September 2023

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