Psychoanalysis Unit



SUpporting Mothers’ Mental health with Interpersonal Therapy: A large multi-site study evaluating the impact of Group Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) In Lebanon and Kenya

What is postnatal depression? 

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness which can affect any woman who has had a baby. Symptoms can include persistent low mood, lethargy, trouble sleeping, difficulty bonding with the baby, and frightening thoughts such as wanting to hurt the baby. 

Women with depression often struggle to respond to their children’s needs. Research shows that as a result of this, children of women with postnatal depression (PND) have poorer learning, or cognitive development, and more emotional and behavioural problems as they grow up. These issues can be exacerbated by other challenges faced by families living in low- and middle-income countries and can further negatively affect children’s development. 

What is group interpersonal therapy (g-IPT)?

Group-Interpersonal Therapy is a structured and time-limited talking therapy treatment for depression in adults. With its basis of psychoanalysis and attachment theory, g-IPT focuses on interpersonal relationships, life transitions, and the therapeutic alliance. It believes that depression is triggered and worsened by interpersonal problems and adversities, such as grief, interpersonal disputes, role transitions, and loneliness and social isolation. It therefore works on identifying how the onset of current depressive symptoms relates to interpersonal problems, and provides skills which can aid in more effective management of said problems. 

What is the SUMMIT trial?

The study consists of two phases; feasibility study and a large-scale randomised control trial. Teams in Kenya and Lebanon will work with the team in the United Kingdom to explore the community and cultural vue on maternal depression, and how to access help may be affected by local factors. A culturally adapted version of g-IPT will then be developed to be delivered to mothers in both countries. 

The feasibility study portion of the trial will involve a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) comparing the effects of g-IPT to those of High Quality - Standard Care (HQ-SC). Participants will be randomly assigned to receive either g-IPT or HQ-SC. Participants in the g-IPT arm of the trial will undergo an 8-session WHO-endorsed therapy, with each session lasting 90 minutes. Participants in the HQ-SC arm will receive an illustrated guided self-help manual, delivered over 2 sessions, focused on stress management and coping with adversity. Following the feasibility study, the protocol will be scaled up to large scale randomised control trial across multiple sites in both countries.

Trial Objectives

  1. Develop an understanding of how postnatal depression is perceived by local communities 
  2. Use this understanding to develop an adjusted g-IPT in partnership with experienced local practitioners 
  3. Use local and community intelligence and policies to identify the best solution for screening women for PND
  4. Train local workers to deliver the newly adapted g-IPT 
  5. Carry out a feasibility RCT to evaluate the critical elements of g-IPT
  6. Learn about and improve sustainable care pathways for postnatal depression and g-IPT treatment in partnership with local communities, practitioners, and policy makers, as well as develop a toolkit to support training and implementation in other countries. 

Feasibility study: data collection 

Participants will be contacted 8, 13 and 24 weeks post-baseline to complete a set of outcome measures. The primary outcome measure is the Patient Health Questionnaire used to assess the presenting severity of depression. Participants will also be assessed on their family circumstances, early development, physical health and sleep patterns of the baby, anxiety and depression, sleep functioning, general health and alcohol use, breastfeeding patterns, social isolation and quality of life, and relationship satisfaction. A further economic analysis will evaluate the monetary value of IPT treatment. 

What were the findings?

The trial is currently underway.


This will be an international collaboration between the UCL’s Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP), the Institute for Global Health (IGH) and Bangor University, Columbia University, ABAAD and the University of Saint Joseph in Lebanon and the University of Nairobi and HealthStrat in Kenya.


National Institute for Health Research - Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) programme

Trial Team

Chief Investigator

Professor Peter Fonagy, University College London 

Principal Investigators

Dr Rabih El Chammay, Ministry of Public Health Lebanon, Lebanon    
Dr Carol Ngunu, Nairobi City County Government, Kenya                              
Professor Pasco Fearon, University College London, United Kingdom     
Professor Stephen Pilling, University College London, United Kingdom
Dr Elizabeth Allison, University College London, United Kingdom    
Professor Henrietta Moore, University College London, United Kingdom 
Hannah Sender, University College London, United Kingdom     
Professor Jolene Skordis, University College London, United Kingdom 
Dr Zoe Hoare, Bangor University, United Kingdom    
Professor Lena Verdeli, Columbia University, United States    
Dr Fouad Fouad, American University of Beirut, Lebanon    
Professor Ghida Anani, ABAAD, Lebanon
Dr Manasi Kumar, University of Nairobi, Kenya      
Dr Andrew Nyandigisi, Health Strat, Kenya                   
Dr Lucina Koyio, Nairobi City County Goverment, Kenya                     

Trial Statistician

Rachel Evans, Bangor University, United Kingdom    

Trial Coordinators

Principal research coordinator, London
Dr Elizabeth Simes, University College London, United Kingdom

Local trial coordinators, Kenya
Dr Beatrice Madeghe, University of Nairobi, Kenya 
Nduku Wambua, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Local trial coordinator, Lebanon
Pardi Maradian, National Mental Health Programme, Lebanon 

Useful Links

1. Information on postnatal depression:

Postnatal depression, Royal College of Psychiatrists (rcpsych.ac.uk)

2. ISRCTN record of the trial: ISRCTN52076264


Contact the trial coordinator directly: e.simes@ucl.ac.uk

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Participant/Clinician Portal

Open in due course