Donald Winnicott and Contemporary Psychotherapy

Live and Interactive Webinar via Zoom

4 CEUs

Donald W. Winnicott has emerged as one of the most generative thinkers in the psychoanalytic tradition, and his developmental theories and clinical perspectives continue to deepen our appreciation of essential concerns in contemporary practice. In this workshop we introduce the orienting perspectives of Winnicott’s developmental psychology and show how his contributions enlarge our understanding of problems in living and concepts of therapeutic action in clinical practice.

Winnicott elaborated compelling accounts of human development and therapeutic action, over the course of his career as a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, but he did not codify his ideas in a systematic fashion. He wrote in a personal idiom that is often characterized as poetic and evocative, what Andre Green calls “a richly alive experiencing,” and critics see him as elusive and iconoclastic in his refusal to define his fundamental concepts in a more technical language and rigorous manner. Even the most experienced readers of Winnicott struggle in their attempts to grasp the defining features and central themes of his theoretical and clinical writings.

In the first part of the workshop we outline the fundamental elements of his developmental psychology, identifying core concepts and orienting perspectives. We review basic developmental formulations, drawing on passages from Winnicott’s writings, and consider how his deep faith in our capacity for change, growth, and health informs ways of approaching the therapeutic situation. We explore points of connection with recent developments in the science of mind and Buddhist psychology.

In second part of the workshop we outline concepts of therapeutic action based on Winnicott’s formulations of development, vulnerability, and psychopathology. We consider how core concepts shape our approaches to assessment, establishment of the holding environment, ways of listening and speaking, use of relational experience, and engagement of enriching activities in everyday life.

In our discussion of help and care we emphasize pragmatic, flexible use of therapeutic approaches in light of the concrete particularity of the clinical situation—creative efforts to carry out what Winnicott called “experiments in adapting to need.”


William Borden, PhD, has taught courses on contemporary psychoanalysis and comparative psychotherapy at the University of Chicago for more than three decades. He is Lecturer Emeritus in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice and works in independent practice as a psychotherapist and consultant. He is author of Neuroscience, Psychotherapy, and Clinical Pragmatism (Routledge, 2021), Contemporary Psychodynamic Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2009), and other writings on a range of concerns, including the work of Donald Winnicott, narrative psychology, neuroscience, and stress and coping.


This workshop will take place via Zoom. Access information will be shared via email at least 48 hours prior to the start of the course. The workshop will not be recorded.

If you have any questions about access or to request a reasonable accommodation that will facilitate your full participation in this event such as ASL interpreting, captioned videos, Braille or electronic text, food options for individuals with dietary restrictions, etc. please contact the event organizer.