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Psychodynamic Observation Seminars

Module titlePsychodynamic Observation Seminars
Module codePYCM059
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Nicholas Sarra (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Sociological, psychoanalytic and systemic approaches to interpersonal dynamics will be explored in the seminars throughout the year. You will complete a number of observations in a chosen setting and, drawing on psychoanalytically-informed ideas, you will reflect upon and try to understand the psychodynamics of the interactions you are observing. Emphasis will be placed on your own experiences of your particular observations. Support will be given both by the module convenor and the peer group in making sense of and articulating the experiences of those observations. A specific methodology employing the Tavistock observational method will be used during the year.

During the seminars you will first organise, and then undertake, observations. The way in which you do this will be agreed with the module convenor, but will normally entail 15 observations conducted at regular intervals. Each week you will write up your observation as a log and these will be discussed within learning set meetings and during subsequent blocks over the first year of the programme. You will also complete a paper describing the observations and the understandings that you have reached in your reflections upon them, making reference to the relevant literature.

This module takes place in stage 1.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to

  • develop skills of clinical observation and capacity to use counter-transference
  • promote awareness and understanding of staff and patients’ experiences in appropriate contexts
  • discuss a variety of acute and chronic problems and the challenges these present
  • enable you to critically evaluate your experiences and understanding of your observations so as to be able to formulate these into an analytical study.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe in detail the multiple conflicting points of view within a challenging clinical or other agreed setting
  • 2. Trace the process whereby the mental health problems of clients impact in turn upon professionals involved in their care and explore the overall influences of the client group and how psychodynamic elements may be co-created through staff participation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Critically evaluate and synthesise different contributions in the field

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Explain counter-transference, in yourself and others
  • 5. Describe the complexities involved in acute setting work or other contexts as appropriate
  • 6. Use skills in participative observation

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

You will normally be required to make 15 observations in the chosen setting. You will also complete a log of the practical observation, including as much detail as possible, for discussion in the seminar.

At least once a block week you will discuss your observation experience with the seminar group for discussion. This observation, and the discussion arising from it, should be written up as a short paper.

The log of observations and the short paper are expected to demonstrate your growing knowledge of multiple points of view in complex settings, the emotional impact of mental health problems on professionals, and an awareness of the your own counter-transference.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching40Seminars/discussions within the whole group
Guided Independent Study205Reading and preparation for assignments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Observation log presentations1 hourAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Observation log (this assessment must be passed; failure in this assessment will lead to failure in the module and the programme)808000 wordsAllWritten
Observation short paper (this assessment must be passed; failure in this assessment will lead to failure in the module and the programme)205000 wordsAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Observation logObservation logAllFour weeks from the date that feedback was provided
Observation short paperObservation short paperAllFour weeks from the date that feedback was provided

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. In all cases re-assessment will be the same as the original assessment. Where you have been referred/deferred for any form of assessment detailed above you will have the opportunity to retake within four weeks from the date that feedback was provided.

If you pass re-assessments taken as a result of deferral, your re-assessment will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment and the overall module mark will not be capped.

If you pass re-assessments taken as a result of referral (i.e. following initial failure in the assessment), the overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

If you fail re-assessments taken as a result of referral (i.e. following initial failure in the assessment), you will be failed in the module and as a consequence you will be failed in the programme and your registration as a student of the University will be terminated.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Burkitt, I. (2008) Social Selves. Theories of Self and Society. Sage Publications. London (second edition)
  • Alvesson, M. and Skoldberg, K. (2009) Reflexive Methodology. New Vistas for Qualitative Research. Sage Publications, London. (second edition)
  • Hoggett, P. (2010) Politics, Identity and Emotion. Paradigm.
  • Scott, J. (1990) Domination and the Arts of Resistance. Hidden Transcripts. Yale University Press.
  • Goffman, E. (1990) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Penguin Books: London.
  • Hinshelwood, R. D. and Skogstadt, W. (2000) Observing Organisations – Anxiety, Defence and Culture in Healthcare. London, Routledge.
  • Menzies Lyth, I. (1959) ‘The functioning of social systems as a defence against anxiety.’ in Containing Anxiety in Institutions – Selected Essays Vol 1 (1988). London, Free Association Books.
  • Stacey, R. (2001) Complex Responsive Processes in Organizations. Learning and Knowledge Creation. Routledge: London.
  • Brinkmann, S. (2012). Qualitative inquiry in everyday life: Working with everyday life materials. London: Sage.
  • Elias, N., & Scotson, J. L. (1965). The Established and the Outsider: a sociological enquiry into community problems. London: Cass.
  • Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures New York: Basic books.
  • Jackall, R (1989) Moral Mazes, The World of Corporate Managers  Oxford: OUP
  • Mowles, C. (2016). Rethinking management: Radical insights from the complexity sciences. London: Routledge.
  • Scott, J. C. (1990). Domination and the arts of resistance: Hidden transcripts. Yale university press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE – (all resources will be made available on ELE. This includes additional material covered in the tutorials, the required readings, information about assessment and additional material (e.g., videos))

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, psychotherapy, therapy, clinical analysis

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date