Theoretical orientation and curriculum

Our theoretical roots are psychoanalytic but our interests and emphases are diverse and we do not define ourselves by adherence to a particular school of thought. Our concern is with what each individual manages to make of the many sources of knowledge and inspiration they may choose to use.

The idea of curriculum doesn’t describe us very well. The root meaning of curriculum or course is onward movement in a particular direction, a track, a race or a plan. It is an appropriate metaphor for many trainings where what is to be learnt is set out in advance and progress through it can be monitored, but it doesn’t suit us. Our approach to learning is not that of a course. Alternative metaphors people have used from time to time are that of a garden and its cultivation, a meal with many choices and a journey with many possible routes, companions and modes of transport.

In short, there is no set curriculum. We do not list what people should study. We do not give lectures or seminars. We ask people to create their own encounter with the field. People inevitably grapple with the psychoanalytic inheritance that forms such a powerful background to all psychotherapeutic work. We also encourage people to read widely and variously in whatever else interests them – philosophy, the arts, literature, cultural studies, for example. This is done individually and collectively. Individually it is an important personal journey where each student is free to read and study what they wish. With the help of the ordinary members and other students, each person can explore the range of possible inspiration and knowledge and develop their own way through it. As much as what is read, we value the way it is read and the quality of the engagement people have with their reading. We want it to be personal, appropriate, and stimulating. This is often dependent on finding the right text at the right time and the right person or people with whom to discuss it. Collectively the student group plans topics for discussion and invites ordinary members and outside speakers to participate. This usually provides a helpful and containing background for the more individual work. It also involves sharing responsibility for others’ learning. Ordinary members can always be approached for suggestions and advice. When this approach to learning works it produces feelings of ownership, confidence, breadth and appreciation of complexity, in which there are genuine transformations of understanding. It doesn’t suit everyone however and we ask applicants to think carefully about whether they feel able to undertake it.