To mark the 30th anniversary, Head of Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies reflects on what it means to be thirty.

As an academic fascinated by the psychosocial worlds of children and young people I am intrigued by how humans mark and celebrate growth, development, and the passage of time. So, as I start as Acting Head of the Department for Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies (PPS) in our 30th anniversary year, I find myself reflecting on what it means to turn 30 and to celebrate 30 years of being. In doing so, I turn to the heart of psychoanalytic studies, its founders and pioneers.

At aged 30, in 1886 the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud was establishing his private practice in Vienna and married Martha Bernays.

Psychoanalyst Anna Freud, having started her private practice with children at 28, began teaching child analysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute in her 30th year. In this same year, she first met Dorothy Burlingham, the beginning of what would go on to be a long and fruitful collaboration.

By the time Carl G Jung turned 30, he was married to Emma Rauschenbach, and held a clinical appointment as a psychiatrist at the Burgholzli psychiatric hospital in Switzerland.

These biographical insights illuminate the extraordinary accomplishments of the founders of psychoanalytic studies in their first thirty years. PPS has much to celebrate too, as it turns 30.

The vision for PPS began with a module in Community Mental Health in the Sociology Department at Essex in the early 1990s. This seed grew into the formal approval for the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies in 1993 and, with Professorships in Analytical Psychology from 1995, we cemented our pluralistic approach to psychoanalytic theory and practice. We grew over the next twenty years into a fully-fledged department with students from foundation degree to PhD, renamed Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies in 2017.

Over these three decades PPS has grown into a world-renowned and internationally respected community for the production and dissemination of theoretical knowledge in psychosocial and psychoanalytic studies and the analysis and practice of the talking therapies. It is down to all of the founders, students, advocates, collaborators, and experts with their visions and tireless efforts that have enabled PPS to flourish during these first 30 years.

However, my brief journey into the chronologies of our fields’ founders also revealed that at 30, Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, and Carl Jung, all had much yet to do, significant trails yet to blaze.

Freud received his first professorship in Neuropathology at the University of Vienna in 1902 at the age of 42. Indeed, it wasn’t until Jung was 32 that they first met in person cementing their famed professional relationship (and later separation). Anna Freud published her first book at 32 and it wasn’t until she was 44 in 1940 that she set up her renowned ‘wartime nurseries’ to care for children affected by traumatic experiences of war in London. Like these influential figures to our discipline, PPS has many trails yet to blaze.

Our researchers are making a difference locally, nationally and internationally. Professor Raluca Soreanu’s UKRI funded multi-million pound FREEPSY project mapping free psychoanalytic clinics across the world truly cements PPS’s position as a force to be reckoned with. Professor Renos Papadopoulos is training specialists the world over to support those traumatised by war and displacement. Two of the editors of the Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies hold posts in PPS: Dr Julie Walsh and Dr Marita Vyrgioti. We have new Research Centres in Childhood Studies, new collaborations in virtual technology and flagship accredited courses that shape graduates who are award-winning, positive forces in their local communities. PPS is looking to a future where we confidently engage in interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations, while remaining true to our orienting and shared starting point of psychoanalytic studies and the talking therapies.

When celebrating thirty years of marriage in many European cultures one gives pearls. The Freud Museum London commissioned award-winning artist Mark Wallinger to celebrate their 30th anniversary with a piece entitled Self Reflection. When the Walt Disney Company turned thirty they marked the occasion with the release of Peter Pan - the perpetual child figure that has prompted much psychoanalytic exploration. While we cannot offer jewellery, or ever-lasting youth, we celebrate our 30th anniversary with a series of open, stimulating, collaborative, and lively events that speak to both the future roads of psychoanalytic studies and reflect upon our traditions, which remain ever true to its heart.

If PPS was thought of as a generation in today’s terms it would be dubbed a “millennial”. Make of that what you will. But if, as a millennial may do, one is to Google the best thing about for turning thirty, a top result is that you are “old enough to know what you want but still young enough to go after it”. In PPS we remain as committed and excited as ever about the possibilities of the next 30 years, we’re old enough to have forged a solid foundation and bold enough to start new journeys and ask rigorous and challenging questions of our field and ourselves. If Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Carl Jung, can pioneer many of their greatest achievements beyond their 30th birthdays then so can we.

See below for a list of events planned for the year to celebrate our Pearl anniversary

  • Freud Memorial Lecture (Patricia Gherovici), 26th May 2023, 5-7pm, EBS Building
  • ‘What is Health?’ Workshop, 7th June 2023, 12-2pm, Hexagon
  • Refugee Care Conference, 21st June 2023, 1-7pm, Tavistock Centre, London
  • ‘What is Dream?’ Workshop, 15th November 2023, 1-3pm, Hexagon
  • Alumni Reception, 29th September 2023, 6-9pm, Freud Museum, London
  • ‘Oedipus Electronica’ Play & Discussion, 12th October 2023, 7pm, Lakeside Theatre
  • Psychosocial Lecture (Ranjana Khanna), January 2024 (Exact Date and Location TBC)
  • ‘What is Trauma?’ Workshop, 18th January 2024, 12-2pm , Hexagon
  • C. G. Jung Lecture (Murray Stein), 20th March 2024, 6-8pm, Online
  • ‘What is Fantasy?’ Workshop, 24th April 2024, 12-2pm, Hexagon
  • Student Research Conference, May 2024 (Date and Location TBC)
  • ‘What is Memory?’, 24th May 2024, 12-2pm , Hexagon
  • Freud Memorial Lecture, May 2024 (Date TBC), 5-7pm, EBS Building Followed by Founding Members Reception
  • The sealing of the PPS time capsule, 31st May 2024

Contact for more information on these events.