Nurture and Play


Delivery of the intervention: Group-based

Aim of the intervention: The intervention aims to enhance the mother’s mentalization ability and to teach her cognitive-behavioral methods to control depression and anxiety. The intervention provides support for the mother’s emotional ability to respond to her baby’s needs and for the formation of the attachment relationship.

Description of the intervention: The Nurture and Play is a group-based intervention for pregnant women and families with a baby, where the mother suffers from depression, anxiety or discordant attitude towards parenthood. The intervention lies on the theories of mentalization and attachment relationship as well as research-evidence on the adverse effects of antenatal depression on child development (Calkins & Hill 2007; Field 2011, Gentile 2017). The intervention is designed to be delivered during pregnancy and the first year of the child. The peer groups gather four times during pregnancy and seven times after childbirth. The family is visited once after the childbirth. Two professionals who have received a Nurture and Play –training steer the peer groups. Each meeting is structured by a defined theme but the mothers are provided an opportunity to discuss among themselves too. A Nurture and Play guidebook is available for use.

Availability of the intervention in Finland: The Nurture and Play is aimed at social and health care professionals. Training is provided in Lahti by the Deaconess Institute and Pilke clinic in Helsinki. The intervention has been developed in the Lahti Deaconess Institute’s Magic of Babies –project. The intervention can be used in social and health care, especially in the maternity and child health clinics. The Nurture and Play group-based intervention has been delivered mainly in the capital region and in Päijät-Häme.

Research- and evidence-based efficacy of the intervention: There is a Finnish RCT study on the Nurture and Play intervention (Salo et al. 2019). In the study, the reflexive ability and emotional presence increased more in mothers who participated (n = 24) in the Nurture and Play group-based intervention compared to the mothers in the control group (n = 21).  The intervention has moderate research-based evidence of effectiveness in Finland.


  • Calkins, S. D. & Hill, A. (2007). Caregiver influences on emerging emotion regulation. In book Gross JJ. (ed.): Handbook of emotion regulation. The Guilford Press: New York, 229–248.
  • Field, T. (2011). Prenatal depression effects on early development: a review. Infant Behavior and Development, 34, 1–14.
  • Gentile, S. (2017). Untreated depression during pregnancy: short-and long-term effects in offspring. A systematic review. Neuroscience, 342, 154–166.
  • Salo, S. J., Flykt, M., Mäkelä, J., Biringen, Z., Kalland, M., Pajulo, M. & Punamäki, R. L. (2019). The effectivess of Nurture and Play: a mentalisation-based parenting group intervention prenetally depressed mothers. Primary health Care Research & Development, 20, 1–11.