The Ububele Baby Mat Service – A primary preventative mental health intervention in a culturally diverse setting

  • N Dawson
  • J Richards
  • K Frost


The Ububele Baby Mat Service is a community-based, parent–infant mental health intervention offered at five primary health care clinics in Alexandra Township, in Johannesburg. The aim of the intervention is to promote healthy caregiver-infant attachments. There has been a steady increase in the number of mother-baby dyads making use of the service. This paper aims to explore how the Baby Mat Service and Baby Mat practitioners position and locate themselves in a culturally diverse community setting where multiple meaning systems are drawn on for making sense of health concerns. Two key components of the Baby Mat Service are discussed: i) the presence of an inter-racial therapeutic couple on the mat; and ii) the stance adopted by the Baby Mat practitioners in relation to culturally diverse understandings of a presenting problem. The therapeutic couple engages with culturally-informed frames of reference in an attitude of wondering and tentative thinking (“mhlawumbe” in isiZulu). When a respectfully curious stance was taken by practitioners, it was found to help those accessing the mat to find symbolic meaning in the presenting problem and integrate this with cultural understandings.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1728-0591
print ISSN: 1728-0583