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Training Ugandan Mental Health Practitioners in Emotionally-Focused Couple Therapy
Author: Elmien Lesch
Published: 19/07/2023

In Uganda, there is a high prevalence of couple and relationship problems which have negative effects on the mental and relational well-being of individuals, couples, and families. Despite evidence supporting the effectiveness of couple and family therapy interventions in treating various couple and family problems globally, there are limited training opportunities for mental health professionals in Uganda and many other African countries to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to implement these evidence-based couple and family interventions. This is due to factors such as the lack of training in family and relationship therapy at the inistitutional level, inadequate resources  to conduct or attend such trainings, and mental health systems and policies that do not prioritise systemic/relational interventions.

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy  (EFCT) is one of very few relationship therapy models with evidence of effectiveness in diverse cultural contexts. However, most of this research has been conducted in North American and European contexts. Only one small pilot implementation of the model has been done on the African continent. In this study, Prof. Elmien Lesch and colleagues explored if and how a group of South African couples related to, and experienced a relationship psychoeducation program based on the EFCT model. We found that the couples could relate to the EFCT principles and they reported that the program helped them deepen their relationships. More work, however, needs to be done to investigate the model's effectiveness and cultural relevance in the various cultural contexts in Africa.

To address this gap, the Uganda EFT project team organised and supported the training of 80 Ugandan mental health professionals in EFCT. The training was led by Prof Elmien Lesch and took place in Kampala from 4 – 7 July 2023. Many of the participants said in the feedback throughout the training that they found it personally "life changing". We are now in the process of further investigating these professionals' experience of the training, their perceptions of the relevance of the model in their working contexts, and needs for further training and support.  The EFT Uganda training and research project is the result of various collaborators which include, amongst others, Ronald Asiimwe from Uganda, a doctoral candidate in the Couple and Family Therapy program, Michigan State University, USA; Prof. Elmien Lesch, associate professor and certified EFT trainer, Psychology Department at Stellenbosch University; Dr. Mark Maxwell, San Diego State University, USA; the Uganda Counseling Association which is the local professional body that oversees professional counseling in Uganda; and Dr Rosco Kasujja, Department of Mental Health and Community Psychology, Makere University, Uganda.