Lighthouse Parenting Programme

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What is the Lighthouse Programme?

The Lighthouse Parenting Programme is an evidence based intervention, underpinned by research in the fields of attachment, child development, trauma and neuroscience and by core psychoanalytic concepts that offer insight into how minds and relationships work. The programme aims to improve parental functioning and strengthen the parent-child relationship by means of a unique combination of psycho-education and individual/group-based therapy.  It aims to enhance parents’ capacity to mentalize (mentalising involves understanding another person’s mind*), and in particular to mentalize their children. This can enhance attunement in parent-child relationships, to promote secure attachment. 

*Mentalizing refers to our ability to attend to mental states in ourselves and in others as we attempt to understand our own actions and those of others on the basis of intentional mental states.  A focus on this very human activity as a therapeutic intervention forms the core of mentalization based treatment (MBT). .

How does the programme work?

The Lighthouse programme uses mentalization-based treatment techniques to help parents achieve a better balance in their management and regulation of their own feelings and thoughts and support them to see their child more clearly.

The programme uses strong visual metaphors to help parents grasp key insights from mentalizing and attachment research. The core metaphor is that of the parent as a Lighthouse whose light of attention can bathe a child in the warmth of their curiosity, and reliably ‘find’ the child’s mind to respond sensitively to their needs, bringing the child reliably into safe harbour as often as is needed.

Parents attend a  group and individual sessions to support their progress through the programme.

More Information and training:

The Lighthouse MBT-Parenting Programme was developed in collaboration with the Anna Freud Centre. The programme has been written to the strict guidelines provided within the Quality Manual for MBT to ensure treatment integrity (i.e.: treatment adherence, therapist competence and treatment differentiation) and has been approved by Professors Anthony Bateman and Peter Fonagy. An independent pilot evaluation has been published and there are two RCTs underway, and other studies in Portugal, Lithuania, Poland, Australia and Ireland are planned for 2022.

Pilot Study (2018)

The results of a pilot within the NHS were reported in the paper published in November 2018 in the Journal of Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

  Byrne, G., Sleed, M., Midgley, N., Fearon, P., Mein, C., Bateman, A., & Fonagy, P. (2018). Lighthouse Parenting Programme: Description and pilot evaluation of mentalization-based treatment to address child maltreatment. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. See here for more info

The Supporting Parents Project (UK)

In the UK we are trialing the delivery of the programme to parents on child protection (CP) or child in need (CIN) plans by social care practitioners trained and supervised by Gerry Byrne and his team, the research is led by Dr Michelle Sleed of ChAPTRe at the Anna Freud National Centre, London. It is funded by What Works for Children’s Social Care.

Understanding and Breaking the Cycle of Abuse (Germany)

In Germany, researchers in Heidelberg and Berlin led by Professors Svenja Taubner and Jana Volkert are conducting a RCT in which an adapted Lighthouse Programme is aiming to strengthen attachment competencies in parents with mental illness.

For upcoming dates and information on March 2022 training in the Lighthouse MBT Programme  see