MSc in 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.
  • Can contribute the required Masters qualification to the minimum four-year Specific Modality Training (SMT) in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy awarded by The School of Psychotherapy at St.Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH). The SMT programme is recognised by the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland (APPI) a constituent member of Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP).

UCD Psychotherapy, The School of Psychotherapy and the SMT programme also keep abreast of developments towards the Statutory Registration of the title psychotherapist in Ireland under the authority of CORU.



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.

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 in the field.

Who Should Take This Course?

The fundamental criterion for the application for the MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is a commitment to study and training in the field of psychoanalysis. This is most clearly evidence by having an arrangement for one’s own psychoanalysis in place.

An applicant must be able to be deemed suitable to commence supervised clinical practice. This may be on the basis of having a clinical training in another form of work within the health and social care professions but the programme has admitted applicants from other professional backgrounds such as academia, the arts, teaching, business and the law.


Programme Description

The MSc introduces students to the theory and practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It  provides a theoretical understanding of psychoanalytic principles as well as supervision and direction in the practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It provides the basis of the professional training necessary to undertake this therapeutic practice with adults.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is an application of psychoanalysis, a clinical practice launched by the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) which takes as its material the unconscious processes of the mind. The MSc is also guided by the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901 – 1980) who, through his reading of Freud’s work, provides illuminating insight into the theory and practice of psychoanalysis.

This focus on unconscious processes and the laws governing them remains central to the clinical practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

In addition psychoanalysis has an undisputed place in contemporary culture with many of its concepts informing diverse fields of scholarly research and artistic enquiry – wherever investigation is founded on the premise of unconscious mental life as fundamental to an understanding of human experience. Psychoanalysis is a reference in fields as diverse and significant as law, sociology, anthropology, psychology and psychiatry to philosophy, literary criticism, the arts, women’s studies and queer studies.

Structure and Modules


The programme  is delivered in 11 modules:

  • Eight of these – 4 modules in year one and 4 in year two – provide 5 credits each.
  • Of the remaining 3 modules, 2 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 15 credits. 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


  1. Supervision of Clinical Practice (2 modules, one over each year): The supervision of clinical practice takes place in two forms:

    • weekly small group supervision  with an experienced  clinical tutor
    • weekly individual one-to-one supervision with a recognised psychoanalytic practitioner supervisor

    With these two arrangements for supervision in place students receive clinical direction for their psychoanalytic practice. Practical questions on beginning a treatment, maintaining a psychoanalytic  position, interpretation and handling the  transference are addressed. In the small group supervision sessions Freudian texts on technique are used as a reference for the students in their articulation of their practice.

  2. Psychiatric Case Conference and Seminar (2 modules, one over each year): Students attend the weekly psychiatric case conference held by the Department of Psychiatry in St. Vincent’s University Hospital. This provides students of the MSc with a direct encounter with current psychiatric and mental health practices. Having both psychiatric and psychoanalytic input to a discussion of treatment of mental illness / disorder makes this is a unique event in mental health education in Ireland. The content of the case conference presentation and its discussion  informs a seminar immediately following where a psychoanalytic response is further elaborated guided by the clinical teaching of Jacques Lacan.

  3. Psychoanalysis in context: Psychoanalysis as a practice launched by Sigmund Freud at the beginning of the twentieth century informs and is informed by philosophical thought and theories of science. Also relevant to an understanding of what psychoanalysis offers is a review of the history of conceptions of madness and its treatment in different epochs. 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.
  4. The symptom and the dream: In psychoanalytic theory, the dream and the symptom are the indicators of the existence and activity unconscious mental functioning as described in the work of  Sigmund Freud and what Jacques Lacan described under the term the subject. This module consists of a reading of core texts which describe the grammar and syntax which give rise to these formations of the unconscious: Sigmund Freud’s  inaugural The Interpretation of Dreams and his case history of obsessional neurosis – the Rat Man case.
  5. Psychoanalysis and children: Three theoretical approaches are studied studied: Freud’s seminal account the articulation of an a singular myth as a solution to the paralysing phobia in a young boy – the case of Little Hans; the pioneering work of Melanie Klein based on her theory of the paranoid/schizoid and depressive positions; projective/ introjective identification and object relations; the influential work of Donald Winnicott on the transitional object.
  6. Psychoanalysis and language: How can a practice that has effects in the field of the mental be based purely on speech and language? How can there be any cure through mere speaking to an other? This module presents the Lacanian thesis that the unconscious is structured like a language and language provides our sense of reality. It explains the basis for speech and language being the very material of psychoanalytic practice because human subjectivity is fundamentally a linguistic phenomenon.
  7. Human sexuality: Each of us take up a position as a sexed subject in relation to the signifiers ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in a way that is not determined by  biological characteristics. In an age when technologies and pharmacological developments are readily available as interventions in a subject’s questioning of their position as a man or as a woman psychoanalysis, for which these questions are central, provides a crucial perspective for clinicians encountering phenomena of sexuality and transgender. This module reads Freud’s still controversial Three Essays on a Theory of Sexuality, the papers constituting the debate within psychoanalysis on sexuality as well as  introducing students to the Jacques Lacan’s elaboration of the logic of sexuality in his articulation of the formulae of sexuation
  8. Transference and interpretation: Transference is a fundamental concept in psychoanalysis and this module studies the texts which constitute its discovery and development – primarily in Freud’s case history of hysteria – the ‘Dora’ case – and related discussion in the work of Jacques Lacan. Interpretation is a fundamental intervention in psychoanalytic practice and the module considers this act in terms of Jacques Lacan’s teaching on the interpretation of desire which references literature and art in its articulation.
  9. Psychoanalysis and psychosis: This module reads two case studies essential for an appreciation of a psychoanalytic approach to psychosis: Sigmund Freud’s analysis of the autobiography of the paranoiac Judge Schreber Memoirs of My Nervous Illness; and Freud’s case history ‘An Infantile Neurosis’ describing his treatment of the Russian émigré referred to as the ‘Wolfman’. These readings are made relevant to questions of the diagnosis and treatment of psychosis in psychoanalysis and psychiatry today.
  10. Ethics, research methods and clinical applications: In 1959 – 1960 Jacques Lacan delivered his Seminar The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. This module sets out to understand this radical subversion of humanistic ethics by reading central texts from the history of ethical thought and following Lacan’s articulation of a specifically psychoanalytic ethics. In addition the module addresses the tension between `evidence-based’ scientific method and a scientific method grounded in recognition of the laws of unconscious mental functioning. The contribution of psychoanalytic theory and practice in three 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.
  11. Dissertation: Students submit a 10,000 – 12,500 word thesis at the end of the third semester of second year. Direction in formulating their proposal and progressing their written work will be monitored and supported by their clinical tutor – who will also act as thesis supervisor.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates must have 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 placed to begin working with patients under supervision either in private practice or an institution – before the end of the first semester of year one. 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.

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)

The MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy can contribute the required Masters qualification to the minimum four-year Specific Modality Training (SMT) in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy awarded by The School of Psychotherapy at St. Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH). The
SMT programme is recognised by the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland (APPI) a constituent member of Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP).

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.



Application Details

  • The application process for this course has not yet opened – please contact the course administrator for details of the next round of applications.
  • Application for this course must be made on-line at

Click here for applying to this course