Introduction to Practice-Based Psychodynamic Observation and Reflective Practice

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 27 June 2025
12 June 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA C847CO Psychodynamic Practice,
BA C848CO Psychodynamic Practice (Including Foundation Year),
BA C849CO Psychodynamic Practice (Including Year Abroad),
BA C850CO Psychodynamic Practice (Including Placement Year)

Module description

The module is made of three main interrelated components: psychodynamic observation, placement experience and reflective practice.

The module aims to provide students with a theoretical and practice-based understanding of psychodynamic observation and the skill and qualities involved. Students will be asked to undertake their own observations initially in the community and later in their placement, to write these up and present them in seminars. Students will be developing professional skills involved in assessment and case presentation.

They will learn to apply their growing grasp of psychodynamic theory to everyday events and encounters and to develop their appreciation of the role of unconscious and emotional communication in ordinary life. This will enable them to become perceptive in terms of detail and more subtle in their understanding of the meaning of what they observe, what they themselves bring and the way their own self-awareness affects their capacity to understand and provide support and care to others.

In addition, the module provides you with the opportunity to apply your learning to work-based practice at your work placement, which consists of a minimum 50 hours of placement experience. You will attend a placement for a 5 hour day once a week over 10 weeks. Students will receive guidance and support to find placements from induction day and throughout the Autumn term from our Placements Team and from the module tutor. You will be provided with a range of placement contacts but will be responsible for making contact, arranging to visit, and ensuring your Placement Agreement is signed. You will be undertaking your work placement during the Spring Term. There, as an auxiliary member of an agency, abiding by the policy framework within which they operate, you will have the opportunity to experience the role of a professional carer within your chosen sector. The agency will define your duties, and their expectation of your working day. Your supervisor within your placement will make arrangements for your work, and will review various aspects of your overall work experience.

Alongside the observation seminars and the work placement, students are also developing a psychodynamic approach to Reflective Practice. Reflective practice is represented by the following components: introductory readings on Reflective Practice, attending Reflective Groups, maintaining a Reflective Journal and, as a specific end of year assignment, writing a Reflective Report. These activities encourage and support the conscious use of self (self-awareness) in social and professional relationships, the experience of 'learning from action' and a recognition of oneself as a 'participant observer' in different contexts. The reflective components bring the theoretical learning into the personhood of the student and thus more effectively into actual practice.

Note: Your placement supervisor will have the opportunity to provide a short report on your progress and development during the placement. This is not an assessment element of the course but will provide you with important feedback which can help you develop your employability skills and can be considered and discussed in your reflective report.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

  • To develop a keener eye for the detail of human behaviour and interaction

  • To increase awareness of the role of emotional communication and the unconscious in everyday events and encounters

  • To understand the application of psychodynamic concepts and insights to all aspects of human experience

  • To lay the foundations for psychodynamic observation as a key skill in psychodynamic practice

  • To develop employability skills related to psychodynamic assessment, case presentation and reflective practice

  • To undertake a placement in the care’s sector

  • To establish a reflective space for acknowledging and processing the emotional and psychological implications of the material and experiences on this course

  • To develop the capacity for self-reflection and an awareness of the influence of one’s own processes and personal experiences

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Gain a greater ability to observe detail and to perceive subtle indications of emotional and unconscious dynamics

  2. Gain awareness of the use of psychodynamic observation in work settings

  3. Gain an experience of direct work in the care sector, the issues and dilemmas raised by this

  4. Gain knowledge and experience in a professional setting

  5. Form a working relationship with their placement supervisor and other staff

  6. Reflect upon the placement experience both in seminars and through their learning journal

  7. Develop a capacity to reflect on their own process in the observing and in the learning contexts

  8. Be increasingly reflexive and recognise the relationship between self-awareness and therapeutic care

Key Skills

  1.  Observation skills

  2. Research skills

  3. Emotional sensitivity

Employability Skills

  1. Reflective practice skills

  2. CV and letter writing skills

  3. Interviewing

  4.  Communicating with clients

  5. Communicating with colleagues

Module information


University Week 2
Seminar 1 – Introduction to Observation and Reflective Practice
In the introductory seminars the tutor will introduce the module, discuss the nature of observation, participant observation in the community, reflective practice, reflective groups and maintaining a Reflective Journal. They will engage students in some paired and individual activities around observation. They must also set up a schedule of observations for the coming term.

Your tutor will also present the assignments, go through the criteria for this and how the module prepares students to succeed.

Seminar 2 Reflective Group 1
There will be two reflective groups per term. The groups are facilitated by teaching staff but tutors will be in a distinct role within the groups as ‘facilitators’ and not as tutors. They will introduce the purpose of the group, their own role and they will keep time.

Each Reflective Group will last for 50 minutes. Afterwards there will be 10 minutes to consider the experience.

University Week 3
Seminar 1 - Setting up placements - Placement Team visit
Seminar 2 - Setting up placements - DBS process

University Week 4
Seminar 1 and 2 - Student Observations

University Week 5
Seminar 1 and 2 - Student Observations

University Week 6
Seminar 1 – Student Observation
Seminar 2 – Theory seminar 1 Infant Observation

In this seminar students explore the kind of knowledge that can emerge from the process of infant observation.

Key Reading: ‘Encountering Primitive Anxieties’ by Rustin, M. in Miller, L (ed) Closely Observed Infants, Duckworth

University Week 7
Seminar 1 – Student Observation
Seminar 2 – Theory seminar 2

Infant Observation and Professional Skills
In this seminar students can explore how the process of infant observation leads to a development of professional skills in psychoanalytic psychotherapists and other professions and consider how their own practice of observation in their workplace may aid their development.

Key Reading: ‘From instrument to Melody’ in Sternberg, J. (2009) Infant Observation at the Heart of Training. London: Karnac

‘The Contribution of Observation Training to Professional Development’ by Trowell, J. and Miles, G. in Trowell and Bower (1995) (eds) The Emotional Needs of Young Children and their Families London: Routledge

University Week 8
Seminar 1 – Student Observation
Seminar 2 – Theory seminar 3 - Reflective Practice and Professional Development
In this seminar students will we will move on to think about the nature of reflective practice, and particularly how this is relevant to their professional development.

Key Reading:

‘Reflective Practice: An Introduction’ in Bolton, G. (2014) Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development Sage

‘Professional Knowledge and Reflection-In-Action’ in Schön, D. (1984) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action

University Week 9
Seminar 1 and 2 - Review Placement set-ups

University Week 10
Seminar 1 and 2 - Student Observations

University Week 11
Seminar 1 - Assignment Support and Review of module so far.
Seminar 2 - Reflective Group 2

Spring term

University Week 16
Seminar 1 – Discussion of placement experience and set-up of placement-based observations.
Seminar 2 - Reflective Group 3

University Week 17
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 18
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 19
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 20
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 21
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 22
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 23
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 24
Seminar 1 and 2 - Placement-based Observations

University Week 25
Seminar 1 – Assignment support.
Seminar 2 - Reflective Group 4

Summer term

University Week 30
Seminar 1 – Placement reviews.
Seminar 2 - Reflective Group 4

University Week 31
Seminar 1 and 2 – Placement reviews.

University Week 32
Seminar 1 and 2 – Placement reviews.

University Week 33
Seminar 1 – Reflective Group 5
Review of module
End of year celebration

Learning and teaching methods

Students will be asked to undertake their own observations in the community and later in their placement, to write these up and present them in seminars. There are also three theory seminars, assignment support, reviews and reflective groups.

Reflective groups are groups in which students are asked to reflect on and discuss the experience of being in the group and on the course.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Observation Commentary    50% 
Coursework   Reflective Report    50% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Chris Nicholson, email:
Student Administration 5A.202; telephone 01206 87 4969; email



External examiner

Dr Anthony John Faramelli
Lecturer in Visual Cultures
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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