Towards the mid-1980s a group of psychiatrists, psychologists and others decided to meet under the guidance of Dr Thomas Freeman to study both psychoanalytic writings and practice with a view to deepening their own understanding of this fascinating theory of the human mind. Thomas Freeman was then the only psychoanalyst in Northern Ireland. Because of his expertise in this area he was ideally placed to assist this nascent group.

Freeman’s major focus of expertise was in the psychoses, particularly on the psychoanalytic understanding of these dreadful conditions. He had published widely in this area and during his time as a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Hampstead Clinic (now the Anna Freud Centre) he developed the psychological profile then used with children and adults for application to those persons suffering from psychotic illness.

In 1988 the group decided to form a formal association named The Northern Ireland Association for the Study of Psychoanalysis. A constitution was drafted, and officers appointed and the group met on one Tuesday evening and one Saturday each month during term time.  Such were the beginnings of the Society we are today.

Each year saw new members added to our roster. Our once monthly Saturday meetings, where clinical and theoretical issues were discussed, usually had as well a visiting psychoanalyst from London. Indeed the list of these visitors is impressive, representing a wide range of psychoanalytic thinking, and included (alphabetically) Ron Baker, Arthur Couch, Donald Campbell, Christopher Cordess, Dennis Duncan, Mike Fitzgerald, Peter Fonagy, Caroline Garland, Mervyn Glasser, Robert Hinshelwood,  Brendan McCarthy, Edna O’Shaughnessy, Eric Rayner, Joseph and Anne Marie Sandler, Elizabeth Spillius, Harold Stewart, Paul Williams, and many others too numerous to mention, many of whom visited frequently. The range of psychoanalytic thinking represented by this group of visitors is still embedded in our training. NIASP organised also a variety of successful conferences, either at Malone House or at the Dunadry Hotel, which attracted world class speakers and large attendance.

In the late 1990s NIASP made formal moves to join what was then the umbrella group for most psychoanalytically based trainings in the UK, and our Association was accepted as a Member Institution of the British Confederation of Psychotherapists (BCP). This umbrella organisation was later to become what is better known today as the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC), one of the main regulating bodies for psychoanalytic therapy and training.

In addition, during this time a number of members successfully graduated from the Sponsored Training scheme offered by the British Psychoanalytic Society and became psychoanalysts registered with the BPaS. Today Northern Ireland Psychoanalytic Society has 5 psychoanalysts on its Roster (one of whom is a Training and Supervising analyst with the BPaS) as well as psychoanalytic therapists, group therapists and child therapists. A number of our members are also psychiatrists.  A list of full members of Northern Ireland Psychoanalytic Society is available here.

Northern Ireland Psychoanalytic Society has continued to flourish over the years and even though we have lost some members, (two who have emigrated, one back to South Africa and one Associate Member to Canada, two who have retired, and four who have died), the Association currently has 15 full members, and 7 Student members undertaking the demanding 4+ year training to become psychoanalytic therapists registered with the BPC, and 16 Guest members.  Details of the types of Northern Ireland Psychoanalytic Society membership can be viewed here.