Infant Observation

The Infant observation program focuses on early child development, primary relationships, primitive anxieties, defenses and implications for child and adult psychotherapy later in life.

2020-2021 Program Starts Oct 30, 2020

Taught by IPI faculty, the seminar meets online via secure, Zoom videoconference, linking students internationally and from across the US as they study in-depth these early primary relationships through in-person and audio-visual observation of the mother/baby couple. The seminar draws on the technique of Esther Bick and the IPI Group Affective Model (GAM). Mrs. Bick developed infant observation seminars as part of the child psychotherapy training program at the Tavistock Clinic in London in the late 1940’s. Since then, such training has been required in many psychoanalytic and psychotherapy programs around the world.

The Infant Observation Seminar introduces aspects of development of the infant, and importantly, the infant in relation to their mother, other primary caretakers, siblings, and extended family members. This unique in vivo learning experience takes place through the technique of weekly observation of the infant with their mother/father. Learning about development and infants in this way helps us to understand some of the earliest primitive anxieties and defenses that take shape in the infant, and informs our analytic work with child and adult patients.

Program Chair

Karen Sharer-Mohatt, PsyD

Program Components

The seminar will be held online as a two-way secure, HIPAA-compliant live videoconference using the Zoom videoconference platform, requiring only a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a camera/microphone and internet access.

Seminars take place one to two Fridays a month, from approximately 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. for the introductory group, and 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. for second-year advanced students.  Times are US Eastern Time.  Please note these times may be adjusted due to time zones and the number of students participating.

Students are expected to:

  • Observe an infant and their primary caregiver(s) 1 hour per week, either in-home or via secure audio-visual connection
  • Write up process notes for each observation to share with the group
  • Participate in the small group discussion of infant observation
  • Participate in the group affective model.

**the first six seminars are didactic, and guide the participant is how to find a baby/parent to observe and establish a contract and working alliance with the family.  Due to COVID-19 the number of initial didactic seminars may vary.

Course Requirements

Participants will need to purchase the book Surviving Space: Papers on Infant Observation (The Tavistock Clinic Series) by Andrew Briggs, Karnac 2002. It may be purchased through Price is dependent upon used or new offers. When accepted into the seminar, we will provide any other assigned readings, forms, the seminar schedule, and other important programmatic information. A requirement of the seminar is that each participant find a mother/father/infant couple to observe in the home or via audio/visual connection for one hour each week for approximately 8-9 months.

In order to earn CE credits, participants will need to submit a total of 15 sets of process notes of infant observations which will be presented and discussed during the seminars. (The number of sets of process notes to be submitted may be adjusted due to Covid-19.)  Students are also required to submit their process notes password protected to preserve confidentiality. Notes should be submitted to the group and instructor 48 hours prior to the seminar.
Some students may choose to earn the Infant Observation Certificate. In that case, they will contract with the parent/baby couple for approximately two years of weekly observations.


The seminars will take place approximately twice a month except around major holidays and IPI training weekends.  Each seminar will be two hours in length during which we will discuss book chapters, assigned readings, and infant/caretaker observations.  Once accepted into the seminar and the number of students is determined, participants will receive the detailed information for each seminar.

Meeting dates

Intro group meets 11:00-1:00 ET; Adv. group meets 3:00-5:00 ET

30 Oct
20 Nov
04 Dec
18 Dec
08 Jan
22 Jan
12 Feb
19 Feb
05 Mar
19 Mar
02 Apr
16 Apr
30 Apr
07 May
21 May
04 Jun
18 Jun
09 Jul
23 Jul
30 Jul
06 Aug
20 Aug

Educational Objectives

The purpose of this training at IPI is several fold:

  • to observe a baby and a mother develop individually and in relationship to one another
  • to learn by in-home observation or audio/visual connection about the baby’s and mother’s primitive anxieties and defenses as the baby comes to life outside the protective womb
  • to allow oneself, as observer, to better understand the primitive anxieties of our adult and child patients and ourselves in relation to these patients
  •  to develop an analytic way of thinking through the receptive role of taking in affective experience for study
  •  to further process the student/observer’s experience of the observation within the GAM group structure
  •  to identify transference and countertransference dynamics through the experience of the observations.

Some of the specific learning objectives to be met in attaining these goals are:

  • Provide two (2) examples of adhesive identification or secondary skin formation as described by Esther Bick.
  • Identify two (2) examples of how Bick’s ideas on secondary skin formation and/or adhesive identification may be observed in infant observations.
  • State two (2) factors to consider in choosing the appropriateness of an infant and family for observation.
  • Elucidate two (2) factors to consider in keeping the frame during an infant observation.
  • Name two (2) reasons why keeping the frame in doing an infant observation is important.
  • Provide three (3) examples of countertransference responses to the infant observations presented over the course of the seminar.
  • Provide two (2) examples of transference responses that occur during the infant observations over the course of the seminar
  • Provide one (1) example of how an infant observation influenced the seminar group process (parallel process)
  • Provide two (2) examples of how the use of audio/visual connection vs in-person observations to conduct the infant observations influenced the dynamics of the observations
  • Provide one (1) example of how the ethics of audio/visual connection vs in-person observation are described to each infant/caregiver couple and obtain written permission to conduct the observations in this manner as necessary due to COVID-19.

Continuing Education Credit Hours

The seminar provides 44 hours of CE credit for the 22 two-hour sessions.


Prerequisites for admission include completion of at least one year of the IPI Core Program or an equivalent program, a professional license and good standing in your particular discipline, and to be in your own treatment or to have been in treatment in the past with a psychodynamic/ psychoanalytic therapist or analyst.

Tuition and Fees


Tuition may be paid in installments over the course of the seminar.

Application fee: $50.  Application fee will be credited towards tuition for accepted students.


To apply, complete the online application

Membership Benefits

Become a member of IPI at the “Associate Member PLUS”, or “Full Member PLUS” level and you will receive an IPI Zoom Pro account as one of your member benefits.
HIPAA compliant Zoom video accounts are provided for all IPI Associate Member Plus and Full Member Plus memberships. IPI has a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement with Zoom, which provides a HIPAA compliant platform for our accounts. HIPPA compliance is strongly recommended for all internet-mediated clinical work and clinical teaching. The “PLUS” add-on to the IPI membership gives the user the ability to host online meetings with multiple people at the same time. [Current members can upgrade to the “Plus” account and only pay the difference in price from your current membership level.]
Click for IPI Membership and Zoom Account information

Continuing Education Information

The International Psychotherapy Institute, IPI, is approved by The American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. IPI maintains responsibility for the program and its content. The International Psychotherapy Institute has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6017. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The International Psychotherapy Institute is responsible for all aspects of the programs. The International Psychotherapy Institute is an approved sponsor of the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners for continuing education credits for licensed social workers in Maryland. The International Psychotherapy Institute is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers.

Participants are responsible for verifying that IPI CE credit is accepted by the licensing boards in their own states. Please note: At this time we are aware that CE credit for IPI events will not be accepted by the New Jersey Board of Social Work.


Should you have any questions about the program or the application process, please feel free to contact:

Karen Sharer-Mohatt, PsyD -