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The Lighthouse MBT Parenting Programme

The Lighthouse Parenting Programme is an evidence-based intervention, underpinned by research in the fields of attachment, child development, trauma, neuroscience and by core psychoanalytic concepts that offer insight into how our minds and relationships work.

About this training  

The training draws on advances in Mentalization Based Treatment for adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD). The Programme aims to improve parental reflective functioning and strengthen the parent-child relationship by means of a unique combination of psychoeducation, individual and group-based psychotherapy. It was developed to promote mentalizing and sensitive parenting in the high-risk, clinical population of parents who have caused or pose risk of severe harm to their children.

It aims to enhance parents’ capacity to mentalize and in particular their children, to enhance attunement in parent-child relationships, promote secure attachment and reduce risk of harm and risk of trans-generational transmission of psychopathology including BPD traits and attachment difficulties. In addition to using MBT treatment interventions (group, individual and adapted MBT-Parenting techniques), images and metaphors of the lighthouse, sea, sea journeys and the shore etc., help parents grasp hold of key mentalizing, attachment and psychoanalytic concepts.  

We suggest that the parent may see themselves as a lighthouse, providing a gentle, attentive light for their child’s journey and guiding the child back to a safe harbour (safe haven) for support, help, or comfort when rough seas are encountered. The programme aims to enhance parents understanding and responsiveness to the needs of their children, to facilitate the development of epistemic trust in the parent-child relationship, and to reduce the risk of harm.

The programme’s great strength in engaging parents who are high-risk, ‘hard to reach’ and who typically do not benefit from other parenting programmes. It has undergone adaptations for different populations (e.g. LH Family for multi-family work, Lightship outreach for Social Care) and different cultures (e.g. Chile). The programme is undergoing research in a number of studies in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Portugal, Chile, Spain and Ireland.  

Aims of this training 

The training will give participants: 

  • An understanding of the centrality of mentalizing to the parent-child relationship and recognise how mentalizing failures and deficits contribute to risk to children. 

  • An overview of the Lighthouse and Lightship programmes and the various adaptations for different cultures and populations.  

  • Training in how to establish epistemic trust and practice this in role plays in a small group setting.  

  • Training in how to enhance a parent's capacity to mentalize, and in particular, to mentalize their children. 

Who is this training for?   

This is an introductory training and will benefit all professionals working with children, adolescents, and their families.  Elements of the Programme can be used individually with a child, adolescent or a parent, and some practitioners have found Lighthouse materials useful in working with individual adults as part of an ongoing therapy. 

It will be especially beneficial for professionals working with parents who have caused or pose risk of severe harm to their children. 

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