PIRI’s Treatment Programs & Trials

Treatment of Postnatal Depression & Anxiety

Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression Group Program

This is a twelve-week cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) group program designed primarily to improve maternal mood. Each session lasts approximately 1.5 hours. Women learn coping strategies to help manage their moods. Nine of the sessions help mothers develop the following:

Behavioural Skills:

  1. Understanding and managing moods
  2. Pleasant activities, how can I find the time?
  3. Relaxation on the run
  4. Assertiveness and self-esteem, telling others what I think and how I feel.

Cognitive Skills:

  1. Unrealistic expectations of parenting, influences from the past
  2. My internal dialogue, the missing link
  3. Developing a more helpful thinking style
  4. Challenging my internal critic
In addition, three couples’ sessions are held, usually in the evenings. These provide information and support for partners as well as an opportunity for them to become involved in the therapeutic process.
We typically include 5-8 women in a group. We have found this to be an optimal number to allow the time and opportunity for everyone to be heard, while also having enough women in the group to provide a sense of mutual support. 

An Overview of PIRI’s Research

This program has been evaluated in randomised trials and has found to be highly effective. Women who have completed the ‘Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression Program’ report gaining a sense of support and understanding from other women in the group. In addition to learning coping strategies to help deal with anxiety and depression, women often report that through the group process their experiences have been validated, they feel less isolated, which has also served to alleviate their sense of distress at a difficult time.

To speak to one of our friendly staff, contact us on (03) 9496 4496

We are currently seeking mums for this program.

To make a referral please email piri@austin.org.au or contact us on (03) 9496 4496 to find out more.

MumMoodBooster (MMB)

MumMoodBooster is an online treatment program for postnatal depression, based on the content from the Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression (GAPND) program.

The program consists of six interactive sessions that are supported by a weekly phone-call from a psychologist/dedicated phone coach.

These six sessions are designed to help women develop skills and strategies that will assist in improving their mood. Some of these skills include:

Behavioural Skills:

  • Understanding and managing moods
  • Pleasant activities – how can I find the time?
  • Relaxation and stress management

Cognitive Skills:

  • Managing negative thoughts
  • Increasing positive thoughts
  • Developing a more helpful thinking style

Additional information in the form of companion library articles is also accessible at any time on topics such as: communication skills, problem solving, stress management, getting support, time management, sleep and caring for baby, your baby’s needs and the couple relationship.

A web forum and a partner support website can is also available. The MumMoodBooster program and phone calls are free of charge, and women do not have to attend the clinic as the program is accessed entirely online, in the comfort of one’s own home. For more information, see mummoodbooster.com.au

We are currently seeking mums for this program.

To make a referral please direct your client to the MumMoodBooster website mummoodbooster.com or contact us on (03) 9496 4496 or piri@austin.org.au to find out more.

Overcoming Depression

Overcoming Depression is an evidence-based brief 6 session treatment designed for health professionals working with women with mild to moderate postnatal depression.

The program uses counselling skills to help develop a therapeutic relationship, to explore and understand contributing issues and to support problem solving. Elements of cognitive behavioural therapy are also included to increase pleasant activities, challenging negative thinking and managing anxiety through relaxation. The Overcoming Depression Program includes one couples session to provide information and support to the partner.

It has been found to be very effective in reducing postnatal depression when delivered by either a trained Maternal Child Health Nurse or Psychologist as part of a randomised controlled trial looking at the efficacy of 3 models of care. All health professionals received some training from PIRI and then comparisons of GP routine care with GP and MCHN or GP and Psychologist delivering the Overcoming Depression Intervention over 6 weeks were made.

Treatment Focused on Mother-Infant Interaction Difficulties


PIRI is dedicated in the quest to make a difference to the lives of premature babies and their families. Over the years we have engaged in a number of projects supporting this vulnerable group. PIRI has been awarded two successive four-year research grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to fund the PremieStart research program.

To download a brochure click here.

PremieStart makes a difference!

Mothers of babies born less than 30 weeks gestational age were given the opportunity to be a part of PremieStart, PIRI’s most recent research into the brain development of premature babies. Currently, up to 50% of Victorian preterm infants suffer from one or more developmental difficulties in early childhood. It is hoped that the PremieStart program makes a difference to this at-risk population by reducing stress in the early months after birth – a time when infants are exposed to necessary but painful hospital procedures and are often unable to experience normal levels of physical interaction with their mothers. PremieStart focuses on improving mother-baby interactions through an intensive 8-session training program, held with the mother while the babies are still in hospital.

To download a PremieStart-Beautiful Beginnings brochure click here.

Happiness Understanding Giving & Sharing (HUGS) BabyHUGS

BabyHUGS is the most well-established of our mother infant relationship programs, and was developed to be implemented following treatment of maternal postnatal depression (PND). Baby HUGS has two other variants.

Our second program is an expanded version of BabyHUGS, with a focus on running the program in the community, CommunityHUGS is a 10 session therapeutic playgroup. Our third program, PremieHUGS is designed for mothers and their premature infants. A mother-infant dance therapy program – Intuitive Mothering – is also well established and regularly offered.

BabyHUGS is a four session intervention program designed for women and their infants and follows on from the Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression program. Treating the mother-infant relationship is often most effective after a mother has begun to recover from her depression. BabyHUGS focuses on assisting mothers to become more fully engaged and attuned to their infant. BabyHUGS comprises four sessions, which include: play and physical contact to promote parent-infant engagement; a focus on observing and understanding infant cues; and, the examination of parental responses to infant cues. BabyHUGS comprises four sessions, which include: play and physical contact to promote parent-infant engagement; a focus on observing and understanding infant cues; the examination of parental responses to infant cues; and a session to put it all together. BabyHUGS has been previously researched and results demonstrated a rapid decline in parenting stress.

For more information, contact us on (03) 9496 4496 to speak to one of our friendly staff.

H.U.G.S. stands for “Happiness, Understanding, Giving and Sharing”

Community HUGS

This therapeutic playgroup was developed in recognition of the fact that postnatal depression and other issues in the early postnatal period can lead to disturbances in the mother-infant relationship, and that treatment of maternal symptoms of postnatal depression alone may not improve the mother-infant relationship.

Download the CommunityHUGS brochure (157KB)

Mothers often feel regret that they have missed out on some of the valuable time they could have spent.


The playgroup consists of 10 structured sessions. Each session lasts for 1.5 hours and focuses on enhancing the mother-baby relationship and experiencing the enjoyment of parenthood through:

  • Exploring new ways to manage infants, while encouraging mothers to look after their own needs
  • Facilitating positive interactions between mothers and infants
  • Sharing observations and anxieties, in a supportive setting
  • Experiencing fun, laughter and a positive, accepting atmosphere.

Session content includes:

  • Play and physical contact and movement with baby
  • Anxiety management and baby massage
  • Learning about babies’ personalities and preferred styles of relating, through observing and increasing parents’

understanding of their baby’s cues

  • Examining mothers’ feelings and responses to their baby’s cues
  • Information about what babies need from their parent and how we learn to be a parent

Previous research has found that the H.U.G.S. Playgroup has a number of benefits for mothers and babies including significant improvement in mother’s depression, anxiety and stress ratings and improvement in mother’s sense of competency and ease of interaction with their babies.

For further information contact Jennie Ericksen on (03) 9496 4496.


A premature birth is often associated with multiple traumatic experiences for both mother and baby. Mothers may experience significant loss of control, grief/loss issues and may struggle to adjust, often contributing to depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms. Premature infants also endure multiple traumas of an emotional, social and medical nature, which may leave them vulnerable to developmental complications. PremieHUGS is an 8-week playgroup program for mothers and their premature infants once they are home. The objective of the group is threefold: to provide maternal support, focus on the mother-infant relationship and potentially enhance early infant development.

For more information contact Dr Carol Newnham on (03) 9496 4496

PIRI also produces Premiepress, a twice yearly magazine which provides information for parents of premature babies. To subscribe, visit our Products and Information page.

Intuitive Mothering

This 8-week program has a focus on the natural movement, holding patterns and imaginative play that occurs between mother and infant. It incorporates movement and dance with music and is followed by a brief time for discussion with mothers about what they noticed in their baby’s play. Intuitive Mothering builds on how each woman intuitively interacts with her infant and is facilitated by an experienced dance therapist.


To find out more speak to one of our friendly staff on (03) 9496 4496 or email piri@austin.org.au

Treatment Focused on the Antenatal Period

Beating the Blues Before Birth


Beating the Blues before Birth (BBB) is an 8-session cognitive behavioural therapy program. It is designed for women experiencing depression during pregnancy and includes one couple session to provide partners with information, support and an opportunity to be involved in the therapeutic process.

BBB was developed by adapting PIRI’s evaluated treatment for Postnatal Depression and including relevant aspects from other PIRI programs including Towards Parenthood and research.

To download the Beating the Blues before Birth brochure click here.

Beating the Blues Before Birth Treatment

Women receive 8 sessions of cognitive-behavioural therapy. The sessions aim to teach coping skills to help better manage mood. Seven sessions help women develop the following:

Understanding and managing mood

Pleasant Activities: How can I find the time?

Relaxation on the run

Assertiveness and self-esteem: Telling others what I think and how I feel

Unrealistic expectations of parenting: Influences from the past

Developing a more helpful thinking style

Challenging my internal critic

In addition, one couple session is held to provide information and support to partners.

For more information or if you would like to be involved in the study, please contact Christopher Holt on (03) 9496 4496 or email christopher.holt@austin.org.au.

Antenatal Preparation for Parenthood

Towards Parenthood


Towards Parenthood has been evaluated as an intervention to prepare couples for the transition to parenthood. Towards Parenthood is able to provide helpful information to make a significant difference in the adjustment to parenthood for women. In a randomised controlled trial, women who received Towards Parenthood antenatally together with phone coach calls were:

  • less anxious
  • less stressed
  • less depressive symptoms
  • experienced less parenting stress during the transition to parenthood than those who did not have TP.

Click here for the research article

The self-help workbook includes nine chapters eight antenatal and one postnatal. Each chapter contains information and activities to generate thought and reflection, conversation and communication between partners.

Chapter 1: Toward Motherhood.
Chapter 2: Toward Fatherhood.
Chapter 3: We’re Expecting! Preparing for Parenthood.
Chapter 4: Caring for Yourself is Caring for Your Baby.
Chapter 5: From Lovers to parents- Managing Relationship Changes.
Chapter 6: Keeping some Balance in your Life.
Chapter 7: Healthy Thinking, Healthy Self.
Chapter 8: Caring for your Newborn Baby.

Postnatal Unit

Chapter 9: welcome to “The Club”.

The workbook has now been published by ACER and was launched on 23 June 2009 by Professor Rob Moodie, Professor of Global Health, Nossal Institute for Global Health, University of Melbourne & Chair of the National Preventative Health Task Force. It is currently in its first reprint.

The program has experienced international interest and is translated into Italian see www.towardsparenthood.org.au and is currently being translated and modified for use in the Netherlands. It is also being used in the United Kingdom.

For more information about the Towards Parenthood program, or to purchase the workbook, click here.

To download the inaugural media release for the Towards Parenthood Workbook, click here.