The Infant Observation Course at the Jungian Training

The Infant Observation Course at the Jungian Training

Infant observation has been part of the West Midlands Jungian Training in Analytical Psychotherapy since its beginning in 1990 and it is a requirement for all psychotherapy trainees. We have extended this programme and it is now open to the public.

The infant observation course is suitable both for psychotherapists who wish to enhance their professional work by a greater understanding of the baby's early life and relationships, and for those who are considering the possibility of training in psychotherapy, and other interested professionals.

Origins of Infant Observation

As a discipline, infant observation has a long tradition. It began more than 50 years ago at the Tavistock Clinic as part of the first child psychotherapy training. Its inception and development is primarily associated with Esther Bick. Although Bick wrote rather little - only four published papers in all - her pioneering ideas, grounded in her observational experiences, have had a profound and enduring influence on psychoanalytic thinking about primitive emotional states in the baby. As a skilled observer of babies and as an inspiring teacher, she laid the foundations of an approach which has provided a new and powerful way into the baby's world.

The Nature of Infant Observation

Infant observation is a 'naturalistic' experience and takes place within the family. The emphasis is on depth and particularity, and unconscious communications are of fundamental importance. The observer's task is to seek to enter the baby's world and to observe minutely what is going on for the child within in the family and particularly in relation to the mother. It requires the observer, as far as possible, to leave behind existing theories and presuppositions, and to open themselves to the immediate experience. The observer is required not merely to register what is 'out there' but seeks also to be aware of, and make use of, their own emotional responses. Counter-transference responses are central to the observational process.

This exploration of the baby's world engenders a vivid sense of the close links between psyche and soma and it affords the opportunity for the observer to witness, at first hand, the crucial power of relationship.

The Place of Seminars

The spirit of openness and enquiry that characterizes infant observation is encouraged and developed in the seminars, and the collective explorations in seminar meetings are an essential part of the infant observation process. It is where uncertainties are shared and where emotional states, not least in the observer, can emerge and be reflected upon. Anxieties are thought about and, in time, the observer's capacity to bear anxiety, and seek to understand it rather than relieve it, can grow.


Infant Observation and Clinical Practice

First and foremost, infant observation enriches one's knowledge of the process of child development. But, because the process is grounded in empathic understanding, it is also a special and valuable form of learning for the observers themselves. The observation can evoke their own early experiences and contribute to a growing self-awareness.

To undertake an infant observation is to make a big commitment and to open oneself to change. It is not to be undertaken lightly. However, almost invariably, observers find it to be a singularly important experience in their lives and for their clinical practice.


The Infant Observation Itself

The Infant observation involves observing a baby and their developing relationships from birth for one hour a week in the baby’s home, up to the age of two years.

Seminar Groups

Each observer is a member of a small seminar group which meets usually four times a term for two and a half hours, in Leamington Spa or South Birmingham. Each student will usually present a recent detailed observation to the seminar group twice a term, and will provide copies of the written recording of those observations for all other seminar members.

Individual Tutorials

Individual tutorials with the infant observation leader are scheduled to take place once a term. This time can be used to think about how the individual participant is finding the process of observing a baby, any problems which might have arisen, for discussing the yearly infant observation leader’s report, or for thinking about the content of the forthcoming final essay on the observation.

Annual Report

An annual report will be written by the seminar leader. An opportunity will be made for these to be discussed with each participant individually. These reports are designed to be helpful to each seminar participant in their development as observers.

Final Essay

Writing an essay of around 8000 words focussing on the infant observation is considered a meaningful and integral part of the whole observation experience. This paper should be submitted within one year of ending the infant observation. It is expected to demonstrate links between the observed baby within the family, psychoanalytic child development theory, and the significance of the seminar member as participant observer.

Assessment of Learning

Participants are required to write an annual assessment of their own learning which will be discussed with their seminar leader in a tutorial.




This programme meets a requirement of the WMIP Training in Jungian Analytical Psychotherapy.

This course may be followed as a CPD programme.

Applicants are expected to have established themselves in a relevant profession.

Applicants will be expected to have had some experience of individual psychotherapy of an analytical / psychodynamic orientation and also will usually be in therapy for a period before commencing and during the period of the observation.



All participants will be eligible for a Certificate of Completion:

  • as a part of their training in the Jungian Analytical Psychotherapy programme.
  • or as a record of their Continuing Professional Development work.

A Certificate of Satisfactory Completion of elements of the programme may be made available in extenuating circumstances.

For further information please visit or to request a Prospectus and application form please contact Sue Harford, Administrator to the Jungian Training Committee via or by telephone – 08444 631 341.

Type of course: 
West Midlands Institute of Psychotherapy
Nairn House, 1174 Stratford Road, Hall Green, Birmingham B28 8QA