Psychoanalytic Theory

Theory courses on Freud, Klein, Bion and Winnicott form part of the IPCP Certificate in Observational Studies and Therapeutic Skills with Children. Each course is a total of 12 hours, usually divided into weekly seminars. The courses may also be taken as stand-alone courses by those wishing to expand their knowledge of these seminal theorists

Johannesburg – Irene Chait –
Cape Town – Tanya Wilson –


This course covers Freud’s early work, using primary sources.  We approach the work historically and locate the papers in the context of Freud’s life at the time they were written.  The course begins with Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) in which his theories on Infantile Sexuality are developed, along with the Transformations of Puberty.  Also covered are Genital Organization and the Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex.  There is time for discussion on the implications for clinical practice.  Freud’s case study (1909) Analysis of a Phobia in a Five year old Boy – Little Hans – is read with an appreciation of Freud’s narrative style, as well as his clinical acumen.  We end the series by studying On Narcissism:  An Introduction (1914) and finish with Mourning and Melancholia (1915).  The final session offers time for an overview of the meaning of Freud’s original ideas, his various revisions and subsequent developments in post-Freudian Psychoanalytic thinking.

There is a lot of reading and participants volunteer to present their summary of the paper of their choice with key issues for discussion.  Most participants feel it is a revelation to read Freud in the original and to discover him as a man in his historical context, rather than just learning key concepts.

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This course gives an introduction to Klein and her work, and five of her seminal papers are discussed in detail. Her work is situated historically and the specific topics covered include the infant’s emotional development in all its ramifications including the aetiology of pathology, envy, the nature of anxiety and the defences used, and the development of child psychotherapy.  The course includes discussion on Kleinian practice and the issues of nature and nurture.  At all times the theory is linked to clinical practice.

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The work of D.W. Winnicott continues to have a profound influence on the way in which clinicians assess and treat troubled infants and their parents, children and adults. In the seminar series, seminal papers pertaining to Winnicott’s distinctive contribution in four major areas are discussed, including: the relational environment and the place of infantile sexuality; aggression and destructiveness; illusion and transitional phenomena; and the effects of environmental failures. Throughout the seminars, the applicability of theoretical concepts to clinical material and practice are considered.

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Johannesburg:   A series of seminars and reflective group conversations on Bion’s model of the mind and its application to individuals, groups and organisations and clinical practice. Readings focus on his theory of thinking, including concepts such as the container/contained, alpha functioning and reverie.

Cape Town:  The seminars introduce and explore those aspects of Bion’s vast theory that are concerned with the mental development of the infant. Readings focus on his theory of thinking, including concepts such as the container/contained, alpha functioning and reverie. His more elusive concepts of K (knowledge) and O are also introduced, helping to bridge his theories of early development with some of the most profound aspects of adult experience such as passion, creativity and mysticism.

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Topics for Theory Papers

For a Certificate of Completion for the Post Graduate Psychoanalytic Studies in Observational and Therapeutic Skills with Children, the submission of one Theory Paper is required (maximum 2,500 words). The paper can be submitted after attending 3 theory modules out of Freud, Klein, Bion and Winnicott with a minimum attendance record for each course of 75%.

The latest topics for the theory papers can be found here