Organisational Dynamics

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
07 March 2023


Requisites for this module


PA215, PA216, PA217, PA218, PA221

Key module for

BA LX5C Therapeutic Communication and Therapeutic Organisations,
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

This module aims to help students understand more fully the conscious and unconscious dynamics in organisations. Beginning with Freud's original and critical work on group psychology we explore the contribution the psychoanalysis and social organisational psychology have made to our understanding of working and organisational life. Using a primarily psychoanalytic/psychosocial lens, we will consider the ways in which organisational and working life can be pulled too far toward unhelpful technical and procedural practices by powerful unconscious defences operating within and between people and organisational structures they create.

We will be asking three principal questions. First, how have psychoanalytic and systemic ideas helped to make sense of seemingly irrational organisational phenomena and striven to keep alive the 'human touch' in organisational and group life? Second, what can be put in place to assist in supporting a capacity to face the realities of work more effectively? Third, what can the individual do to improve organisations, help keep them 'on task' and strengthen their potential to develop therapeutic or enabling qualities?

In particular, students will have the opportunity to deepen their observation skills by undertaking a psychoanalytic observation in a working organisation and learn how to make sense of both the objective and subjective material emerging from this research process.

In order to link theory to practice, students will also take part in an experiential workshop in which organisational and group processed can be directly experienced, observed and understood.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To understand the contribution psychoanalysis can make to the study of organisational dynamics and working life

  • To provide students with greater capacity to make psychodynamic observations in different settings

  • To enable students to develop psychodynamic and systemic understanding of organisational life and structures

  • To develop students' capacity to generate hypotheses and gather relevant observational evidence to support or challenge them

  • To develop students' capacity to observe themselves and others in group and organisational experiences

Module learning outcomes

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

  1. Understand the history, development and application of psychoanalytic ideas to organisational dynamics

  2. Be able to apply psychodynamic insight to a wide range of organisational settings

  3. Have developed a greater capacity for psychodynamic observation

  4. Have developed a more advanced capacity to generate and test hypotheses about organisational dynamics

  5. Have developed a more advanced capacity to make sense of their own and others' organisational behaviour and experiences

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Learning and Teaching Methods

Seminar part 1 - Students will discuss readings on topics relating to organisational dynamics. There will be a reflective group at the beginning and end of this module.

Workshop - Students will take part in a seven-week Group Dynamics workshop.

Seminar part 2 - Students will bring descriptions of their observations within their chosen organisation which will be discussed applying psychodynamic insights to the interactions, dynamics and experience.


  • Emmanuel, Louise. (2002) 'Deprivation x 3: The contribution of organisational 'triple deprivation' of looked-after children', in Journal of child psychotherapy. vol. 28 (2) , pp.163-179
  • W.R. Bion. (1985, c1977) 'Group Dynamics: A Review', in New directions in psycho-analysis: the significance of infant conflict in the pattern of adult behaviour, London: Maresfield Library. vol. Maresfield reprints, pp.440-477
  • Vansina, L; Schrujer, GL. (2013) 'Facilitating transitional change', in Humanness in organisations: a psychodynamic contribution, London: Karnac.
  • De Board, Robert. (2014) 'Early Studies in group behaviour', in The psychoanalysis of organizations: a psychoanalytic approach to behaviour in groups and organizations, New York: Routledge., pp.1-14
  • David Armstrong; Anton Obholzer. (2005) 'The “organization-in-the-mind”: reflections on the relation of psychoanalysis to work with institutions', in Organization in the mind: psychoanalysis, group relations, and organizational consultancy : occasional papers 1989-2003, London: Karnac. vol. Tavistock Clinic series, pp.29-43
  • Gordon Lawrence, W.; Bain, Alastair; Gould, Laurence J. (1996) 'The fifth basic assumption', in Free Associations. vol. 6 (1) , pp.28-55
  • Margaret J. Rioch. (c1975) 'The Work of Wilfred Bion on Groups', in Group relations reader, Sausalito, Calif: GREX. vol. An A.K. Rice series, pp.21-33
  • Vega Zagier Roberts. (1999) 'Isolation, Autonomy, and Interdependence in Organizational Life', in Group relations, management, and organization, Oxford: Oxford University Press., pp.224-238
  • De Board, Robert. (2014) 'Human Behaviour and General Systems Theory', in The psychoanalysis of organizations: a psychoanalytic approach to behaviour in groups and organizations, New York: Routledge. vol. Routledge mental health classic editions, pp.86-111
  • Vega Zagier Roberts. (1994) 'The organisation of work: contributions from open systems theory', in The Unconscious at work: individual and organizational stress in the human services, London: Routledge., pp.28-38
  • Robert D. Hinshelwood. (1994) 'Attacks on the Reflective Space', in Ring of fire: primitive affects and object relations in group psychotherapy, London: Routledge. vol. International library of group psychotherapy and group process, pp.86-106
  • Eric J. Miller; A.K. Rice. (1990-1997) 'Task and Sentient Systems and Their Boundary Controls', in The social engagement of social science: a Tavistock anthology, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • International Consulting Conference. (1994) 'What is unconscious in organisations?', in What makes consultancy work: understanding the dynamics, London: South Bank University Press., pp.312-319
  • Hinshelwood, R. D.; Skogstad, Wilhelm. (2000) Observing organisations: anxiety, defence, and culture in health care, London: Routledge.
  • Hoyle, L. (2004) 'From sycophant to saboteur-responses to organisational change', in Working below the surface: the emotional life of contemporary organizations, London: Karnac. vol. Tavistock Clinic series
  • Hirschhorn, Larry. (c1990) 'Work and Reparation', in The workplace within: psychodynamics of organizational life, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. vol. MIT Press series on organization studies, pp.201-216
  • Colette Richardson. (2003) 'The Contribution of Systemic Thinking and Practice', in Therapeutic communities for children and young people, London: Jessica Kingsley. vol. Therapeutic communities, pp.99-114
  • Van Buskirk, W. (1999-06-01) 'Organizational Cultures as Holding Environments: A Psychodynamic Look at Organizational Symbolism', in Human Relations. vol. 52 (6) , pp.805-832
  • Freud, Sigmund; Strachey, James; Freud, Anna; Rothgeb, Carrie Lee. (1953-1974) The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.
  • Grint, K. (2005-11-01) 'Problems, problems, problems: The social construction of 'leadership'', in Human Relations. vol. 58 (11) , pp.1467-1494
  • Lyth, Isabel Menzies. (1988) 'The functioning of social systems as a defence against anxiety: a report on a study of the nursing service of a general hospital', in Containing anxiety in institutions: selected essays, volume 1, London: Free Association., pp.43-85
  • Simpson, Peter; French, Robert. (2005) 'Thoughtful Leadership: Lessons from Bion', in Organizational and Social Dynamics. vol. 5 (1) , pp.280-297

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 - Colchester    20% 
Coursework   Essay - Colchester    80% 

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
Mr Chris Tanner, email:
From Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Student Administrator, 5A.202, telephone 01206 87 4969, email



External examiner

Dr Anthony John Faramelli
Lecturer in Visual Cultures
Available via Moodle
Of 64 hours, 64 (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).


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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