The Experience of Therapy for Postnatal Depression

  • Holly Hadfield-Price

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


This thesis explored the experiences of mothers who had sought psychological and psychosocial therapy for postnatal depression from their healthcare systems using qualitative methodologies. The thesis consists of three papers: 1) a systematic literature review, 2) an empirical study and 3) a critical reflection of the research process. The systematic literature review (‘paper one’) is a qualitative meta-synthesis of the experiences of seeking and receiving psychological support for postnatal depression. Seventeen studies from four countries including the views of 585 women were included and were analysed using the thematic synthesis approach. Four main themes were derived from the analysis: ‘the help-seeking process’, ‘barriers to seeking and accepting support’, ‘valued aspects of support’ and ‘outcomes’. The results suggested that although mothers encountered numerous barriers, they found psychological and psychosocial therapy beneficial and acceptable. Recommendations were made to service providers in light of these results. The empirical study (‘paper two’) reports a qualitative exploration of mothers’ experiences of psychological therapy for postnatal depression delivered within UK primary care mental health services with a specific focus on aspects related to being a parent. Fourteen mothers were interviewed and data were analysed using framework analysis. Three superordinate themes were identified: ‘the experience of therapy’, ‘therapy outcomes’ and ‘views about parenting interventions for postnatal depression’. Although mothers generally received traditional psychological therapy for depression, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, mothers related aspects that were distinct to the experience of being a parent. The findings were considered in conjunction with the existing literature to make recommendations for future service provision. Mothers endorsed the inclusion of parenting support in an intervention for postnatal depression under collaborative conditions but emphasised that their own needs should be met as well. The critical reflection (‘paper three’) provides an appraisal and detailed description of the research process, including discussions of the methodological approaches taken. This paper also includes personal reflections in the context of the research and the impact on the trainee’s learning and development as a clinical psychologist.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRachel Calam (Supervisor) & Anja Wittkowski (Supervisor)


  • service user experience
  • parenting interventions; mother-infant outcomes; primary care mental health; group therapy; perinatal mental health
  • psychology
  • womenâ??s health
  • mental health
  • qualitative research

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