Peter Fonagy

Professor Peter Fonagy


Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and UCL


Peter Fonagy

Professor Peter Fonagy is the Chief Executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

The primary focus of Professor Peter Fonagy’s work has been on early social experience, identifying genuinely formative aspects of the family environment which influence subsequent personality functioning, including the quality of social relationships, future wellbeing and mental health. His longitudinal studies which linked the quality of parent-infant attachment to theory of mind development have important implications for strategies for early prevention not accounted for by genetic influences.

In collaboration with Montague & Strathearn, he showed that the parents attachment history (quality of relationships to their own parents), assessed before the birth of their child, predicted the strength of their reward systems response to the infants and identified a potential neural mediation for the transgenerational transmission of patterns of attachment. The link between human attachment and social cognition led Bateman, Fonagy and colleagues to develop a model of and a highly effective treatment approach for borderline personality disorders (BPD). Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) is now one of the two evidence-based psychological treatments used for severe PD and is widely practiced in the UK, Europe and the USA.

As a separate line of work, Professor Peter Fonagy contributed to establishing the evidence-based movement in psychological therapy, including founding the Centre for Outcome Research and Effectiveness at UCL which has been responsible for 19 out of 20 of the NICE guidelines for treatment of mental health problems. He has chaired the NICE GDG on childhood and adolescent depression and was responsible for developmental contributions on the ASPD guidelines and is invited to serve on the conduct disorder GDG currently in the process of being set-up.

He is involved as PI or Co-PI in several large RCTs of psychosocial treatments for adolescents including multisite studies of the treatment of conduct problems and depression (with Goodyer), and smaller scale RCTs of borderline personality disorder, self-harm, eating disorder, and treatment resistant depression. He is currently director of the Mental Health and Wellbeing stream of the UCL Academic Health Science Centre which involving partnership with 5 NHS Community Trusts covering a population of 3 million and he is National Clinical Advisor to the Children and Young People's IAPT programme.

Professor Peter Fonagy has published over 300 peer reviewed papers, 15 books and 175 chapters over a scientific career spanning almost 30 years. He has published in high impact journals including Science, Child Development, The American Journal of Psychiatry and Archives of General Psychiatry. In 2004 he was winner of the Lancet Paper of the Year award. He has been keynote lecturer in the most prestigious international meetings including the World Congress of Psychiatry, the World Congress of Psychotherapy and the World Association of Infant Mental Health. His h-index is 40 and he is one of the five most cited living psychoanalyst in the world (

Peter Fonagy has received many international honours including the Sigourney Prize on two occasions (for his organisational contribution as Chair of the IPA Research Committee and for his original research work), the Goethe Prize, the Sigmund Freud Prize of the City of Vienna, the Millennium Prize for Contributions to Child Psychiatry and is honorary member of several scientific bodies. He was twice invited to address the Annual Creative Global Leadership Summit, New York and has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 1997.

Courses this tutor is involved in