UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Prof Mary Target

Prof Mary Target


Psychoanalysis Unit
1-19 Torrington Place


  • Professor
    Clinical, Edu & Hlth Psychology
    Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences
  • Emeritus Professor
    Clinical, Edu & Hlth Psychology
    Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL


Research Themes

My interdisciplinary approach to psychoanalytically-relevant research spans three main areas. The first is to build and link the findings of developmental psychology, particularly in the field of social cognition, to adult personality functioning, especially in the area of attachment and general relationship formation. There is a great need for a comprehensive theory of personality development, integrating emotional, social and cognitive strands into a model which offers a framework and comprehensible map for clinical technique with some of the hardest cases to treat. With collaborators I have proposed a developmental approach to personality disorder and its treatment. The second area is therapy process and outcomes, aiming to contribute to the evidence base of psychotherapies (in different modalities but including psychoanalytic psychotherapy), increasing knowledge and understanding of 'what works for whom' among the talking therapies. The third is the subjective meaning of illness and treatments to patients and families, especially to young people and their parents. The prediction is that understanding what distressing life events and disorders means to those affected by them may provide a crucial factor in understanding outcomes of the available treatments (and perhaps to developing new effective treatments too). 

These areas of research are pursued using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, enhancing what either by itself is able to teach us.

Award year Qualification Institution
1993 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
Developmental Psychology
University of London
1979 MSc
Master of Science
Abnormal Psychology
University of Oxford
1977 BA Hons
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Experimental Psychology
University of Oxford

I started at Oxford University as a medical student, hoping to become a neurologist or psychiatrist, as I was most interested in mental disorders, including how these interacted with bodily functioning. However, half-way through my undergraduate years, I switched to Experimental Psychology and followed this with training as a clinical psychologist also at Oxford. After ten very rewarding years in clinical psychology working in acute adult psychiatry, paediatric liaison and community clinical psychology within general practices, I had the opportunity to return to study for a PhD at UCL. This was also the beginning of developing my long-standing interest in psychoanalysis, in which I then undertook further clinical training. It also began an affiliation with the Anna Freud Centre (AFC), where my research on predictors of child psychoanalytic outcomes was based. The Centre combines an enduring, strong social mission with cutting-edge treatment research and development, and first rate postgraduate teaching programmes. I learned to lead and manage educational and research programmes, to mentor staff and eventually from 2003-2013 to serve as Professional Director of the AFC. A further crucial influence which began with my PhD was a collaboration with my supervisor Professor Peter Fonagy, whose inspiration, critical and creative approach and generosity to his colleagues provided an enduring model. Other important influences have included several other researchers and clinicians. Increasingly, my career has enabled me to work internationally as a researcher, consultant and invited speaker. In London, time is divided between teaching and programme management, research and clinical practice. This privileged position has I hope enabled me to give back to many students, junior colleagues and patients something of what I have myself been given.