sarah sutton

Dr Sarah Sutton has over thirty years’ experience of working with children, parents and families whose early lives have been disturbing.

Her psychoanalytic training, child development research and experience in children’s services have clearly shown the formative impact of a child’s social and relational context on their developing mind.

In writing, training and supervision, she has focused on the implications of relational development: the crucial significance of relationships in the first 1000 days, setting a navigation system we rely on for the rest of our lives.

She acted as an expert witness for court, trained in the Anna Freud Story Stem Assessment Profile and taught on Tavistock psychoanalytic studies & infant mental health programmes.

Sarah is co-director of the learning studio, where we work on the premise that in order to do things differently, we need to see things differently. We look at framing relationships in each particular working context, to understand more about what is said and unsaid, valued and undervalued, in order for meaningful change to come about.


sarah sutton’s books

Psychoanalysis, Neuroscience and the Stories of Our Lives



“This is the book we have been waiting for, a riveting work by Sarah Sutton, who is witty in writing about serious issues, law-abiding and revolutionary. She writes with respect about psychoanalysis and makes connections with ground-breaking neuroscience and relational psychotherapy, helping to fill the gaps between them. She illuminates the book with both poetry and science. She talks of ‘silent understanding’ and reading the book gives an experience of this. It is both comforting and inspiring. It confronts the modern dilemma that mental health difficulties lead to more referrals than can ever be met by clinicians, and optimistically shows that thinking relationally, not just individually, can take the pathology out of mental health, and generate a fuller understanding which helps regulation and recovery. The book helps us understand better not only ourselves, but also the communities we live in.”
Dilys Daws, Honorary Consultant Child Psychotherapist at the Tavistock and Portman Clinics, Founding Chair of the Association for Infant Mental Health UK

“This book provides an innovative and impressive synthesis of neurobiological and developmental research with in-depth psychoanalytic thinking, a synthesis which has profound implications, both for clinical work but also for our understanding of life in general, a text for which clinicians and those generally interested in the challenges of being human, will be extremely grateful.”
Dr Graham Music, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist at Tavistock & Portman Clinics

“Sarah Sutton is a terrific writer. Her writing is full of seemingly casual but hugely powerful zest. She happens also to be a gifted artist and she somehow makes the links between these two, usually exceedingly difficult, subjects of psychoanalysis and science totally accessible, alive, exciting and beautiful.”
Anne Alvarez PhD MACP Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist

“This accessible integration of psychoanalytic theory and interpersonal neurobiology puts relationships at the heart of development and the creation of personal meaning. Together these two approaches are used to open a creative perspective on the formation and workings of the mind and how, when needed, help may be offered. Babies employ the skills needed to relate from birth, although they do not know it, and relationships with parents sway the consolidation of important neural networks during infancy (and also, but less so, beyond) that are the foundations upon which the development of the psyche must build. When significant relationships are inimical to healthy development, or missing, small children cannot escape by themselves and so must endure and adapt. They know no alternative, and without intervention may eventually base their sense of self on this survival software. This is a matter of unconscious hardwired expectations of the moment to come that bias how the world is comprehended and generate a reaction before now is even noticed. A symptom has been distilled from a role that had to be played within a family drama. As this book shows, only with in-depth understanding allied with compassionate and considered relationships can such misplaced responses to a past environment of difficult relationships be changed.”
Robin Balbernie, Infant mental health specialist; Child and adolescent psychotherapist


Being Taken In: The Framing Relationship


“This is a brilliant and fascinating book. It tells a moving and dramatic story of the recovery, through psychotherapy, of a boy severely damaged by abuse and neglect. But more than this, it explains how and why psychotherapy works, and the ways in which the brain may be re-wired and the connections to other human beings re-made. It describes the heavy task of the psychotherapist faced with such initial bleakness and bitterness, and why the carrying of this burden is central to the process and to the astounding results.”
Anne Alvarez, PhD, MACP, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist

“This state of the art synthesis of psychoanalytic theory and neuroscience expands on how our internal worlds are not just a personal possession; instead, on both a biological and psychological level, they are continually shaped and shared though relationships. The delicate therapeutic work described in detail here shows, often painfully, how children who have been maltreated in their early years unconsciously bring a host of demons from their past to populate every new relationship in negative and often frightening ways. We are given an account of therapy and theory that has much to interest anyone working or living with a traumatized child, from adoptive parents to experienced clinicians; and it is particularly recommended to anyone contemplating becoming either for its detailed account of what it feels like and what happens when you share the mind of a traumatized child.”
Robin Balbernie, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist; Clinical Director

“A unique synthesis of neuroscience, psychoanalysis, and developmental research as applied in clinical practice with disturbed children. Sarah Sutton describes the psychic damage of early trauma on a young boy and how an emotionally attuned, psychoanalytic play-based therapy can facilitate the recovery of hope, playfulness, and trust.”Dr Graham Music, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist


Parent Infant Psychotherapy for Sleep Problems: Through the Night

I had the honour of collaborating with Dilys Daws, Founder of and Honorary Advisor to AIMH (UK), on a new edition of her classic book.


‘This rewarding book provides a fundamental contribution to the literature on parent infant psychotherapy. Dilys Daws’ compassionate understanding creates an accepting emotional climate which is the necessary foundation for successful work. The experience of reading it can itself feel therapeutic. It is indeed a masterpiece in its field.’
Juliet Hopkins, Hon Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist, Tavistock Clinic

‘I am delighted that a new generation of practitioners will benefit from this updated edition of Dilys Daws’ thoroughly professional and practical book of wisdom. It is like a calm, reliable friend who is always there to help those supporting families with sleep problems. I have used Through the Night successfully over many years to inform and guide my health visitor practice and can highly recommend it.’
Maggie Harris, Specialist Health Visitor for Infant Mental Health (Retired), Former Hon Sec of AIMH UK

‘This book by Dilys Daws is an essential resource for any clinician working with distressed infants and their families. The author has woven an amazing tapestry from clinical wisdom, psychoanalytic understandings and infancy research to create a thoughtful and practical guide to working with infants with sleep difficulties. Drawing on the knowledge of relationship-based neurophysiology of infancy, psychoanalysis, attachment theory and infancy research we are given a powerfully rich picture of the baby as a person within her intimate relationships. Through this book we see how brief psychoanalytic therapy can be used to help sleep disrupted infants and parents seen in the family medical practice through to the psychotherapist’s clinic. Through exploring the meaning of the infant’s behaviour, we learn how to support parents to ensure that the baby falling asleep feels safe and loved from the very beginning of life.’
Associate Prof Campbell Paul, Consultant Infant Psychiatrist, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and the University of Melbourne, President-Elect, World Association for Infant Mental Health


Chapter in Psychoanalysis and Other Matters: Where Are We Now? edited by Judith Edwards.

What You See is What You Get: Observation, as Opposed to Inspection, as a Means of Organizational Change



‘Dr. Judith Edwards really knows how to throw an intellectual party! This remarkable book, brimming with contributions from clinicians, sculptors, film-makers, anthropologists, teachers and cyberneticians, explores the complexities of depth psychology from innumerable perspectives, and represents a true tribute to the profundity of psychoanalysis – the gift that keeps on giving. One will feel infinitely more intelligent after having read this book.’
Professor Brett Kahr, Senior Fellow at the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology, London; Trustee of the Freud Museum, London, UK. 

‘This collection will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the development of ideas, and will nourish the clinical imagination of practitioners.’
Maria Rhode, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychotherapy, Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

‘This book is rooted in the practice of observation. Judith Edwards’s contributors, from a range of disciplines, address issues of how we see, and the role theory plays in seeing. In her introduction, Edwards advocates “bridges rather than walls” between psychoanalytic thinking and other fields, whereby “cross-validation of rich networks of thoughts… increases their strength and broadens our horizons”. The book fulfils this promise.’
Michael Brearley, Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society, London, UK

‘The image that came to mind when reading this book was Paul Klee’s ‘Revolving House’. The painting captures something of the spirit of this engaging and thought-provoking collection which gathers together in dynamic conversation different perspectives on the central and vitalising importance that the creative play of ‘relationships between’ plays in psychic health. These evocative essays lightly link across cultures, histories, places, bodies, therapy, science and the arts creating a deeply felt resonant weave that addresses what it means to be ‘human’. The book is a testament to the values of the ‘interdisciplinary mind’ and holding the question ‘open’.1
Amanda Dowd, Jungian analyst, Australia and New Zealand Society of Jungian Analysts; Deputy Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology