A therapeutic playgroup for depressed mothers and their infants: feasibility study and pilot randomized trial of community hugs Academic Article uri icon


  • Symptoms of depression negatively impact on mother-infant relationships and child outcomes. We evaluated a novel, 10-session mother-infant therapeutic playgroup-Community HUGS (CHUGS)-which combines cognitive and experiential components through psychoeducation, play, music, and movement. Participants were mothers experiencing a range of postnatal mental health difficulties, including depression, with infants ≤12 months of age. However, the aim was not to treat maternal depression but to ameliorate associated problems in the mother-infant interaction. In the feasibility study, all participants received CHUGS. In the pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT), participants were randomized between intervention and a wait-list. Outcomes were the Parenting Stress Index (PSI; R.R. Abidin, 1995), Parenting Sense of Competency Scale (Self-Efficacy subscale; J. Gibaud-Wallston & L.P. Wandersman, 1978), and the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales (P.F. Lovibond & S.H. Lovibond, 1995). In the feasibility study (n = 74), PSI scores dropped on all subscales, all ps < .01. Depression, p < .001, anxiety, p = .01, stress, p = .01, and self-efficacy, p < .001, all showed improvements, as did observer-rated mother-infant interactions, p < .001. In the RCT, depression, p < .001, anxiety, p = .005, and stress, p < .001, symptoms were significantly reduced for intervention participants (n = 16), as compared to wait-list participants (n = 15). The CHUGS program had high participant satisfaction and produced improvements in self-efficacy, depression, anxiety, stress, and mother-infant interactions that supported the program's acceptability and the utility of further rollout.


  • Ericksen, Jennifer
  • Loughlin, Elizabeth
  • Holt, Charlene
  • Rose, Natalie
  • Hartley, Eliza
  • Buultjens, Melissa
  • Gemmill, Alan W
  • Milgrom, Jeannette

publication date

  • 2018