Updated Oct 22, 2019

Social, Emotional and Economic empowerment through Knowledge of Group Support Psychotherapy content (SEEK-GSP)

Part of Makerere University

Group support psychotherapy is a culturally sensitive and cost-effective first line intervention for depression and other common mental health problems among vulnerable populations in rural areas and can be delivered by lay health workers


Etheldreda Nakimuli-mpungu

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Stage 4: Transition to Scale

This innovation has been successfully implemented in three districts (Gulu, Kitgum and Pader) in northern Uganda. Findings on the innovation's large scale effectiveness have been submitted for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals

Focus Areas:

Mental Health, HIV/AIDS, Economic Empowerment and 2 MoreSEE ALL

Mental Health, HIV/AIDS, Economic Empowerment, Gender-based Violence and Youth Engagement and ContributionSEE LESS

Implemented In:



Country Implemented In
Funds Raised to Date
Verified Funding


Group support psychotherapy addresses the problem of depression. Worldwide, 350 million people are living with depression, 7 out of 10 of those people are living in poverty. And out of those 7, 5 of them do not have access to treatment.



Finding effective treatment for depression in rural areas is very difficult. However, village health workers do visit isolated communities to care for people who live with HIV. So the SEEK-GSP program decided to train those village health workers to recognise and respond to persons with depression by delivering group support psychotherapy (GSP) sessions in the villages.

Target Beneficiaries

The SEEK GSP program is working within existing health systems to bring culturally sensitive depression therapies to rural communities which would otherwise be unreachable. The program trains village health workers to identify the symptoms of depression and to deliver GSP sessions to the affected persons . Participants are empowered emotionally, socially, and economically. This innovation is helping people who have depression to access treatment that otherwise wouldn’t have been available.

Mission and Vision

Our Mission and vision is to provide culturally appropriate and cost-effective mental health treatments to save and improve lives of those affected by depression by empowering African communities socially, emotionally and economically. In so doing, the SEEK-GSP program will reduce inequalities between rural and urban areas and also promote decent work and economic growth in rural communities.

Innovation Description

The development of GSP involved focus group discussions with community members to identify perceptions of depression, local strategies used to deal with depression, and opinions on what would be the most culturally acceptable components of a group support psychotherapy intervention to alleviate depression symptoms in HIV-affected adults. On the basis of the findings from these two activities, a manual for implementation of the 8-week group support psychotherapy intervention was developed by the investigating team. GSP is delivered in eight sessions held weekly, lasting 2–3 h each. Participants are divided into gender specifc groups of 10–12 participants. Intervention facilitators are of the same gender as the participants, and they deliver the intervention material following a scripted intervention manual. Participating in GSP sessions leads to acquisition of knowledge and skills that enhance social connections, emotional and social support. Also, participants learn how to cope better with adverse situations and stigma. Practising these new skills leads to a reduction in depression symptoms. The absence of depression improves ability to work and obtain savings and other livelihood assets. The pursuit of livelihoods helps restore the dignity and independence of those affected by depression, thereby leading to a further reduction in stigma, which, in turn, would sustain reduction in depression symptoms and improvement in functioning.

Competitive Advantage

Existing solutions for depression are being rolled out among women only because they are neither attractive nor effective in men. Group support psychotherapy attracts both males and females. Therefore, its integration into existing HIV care platforms may confer additional value, particularly in engaging men in HIV treatment services; thereby improving the health of the entire community. Further, GSP is not only effective against depression in the long term but also reduces post-traumatic stress symptoms, alcohol use, improves ART adherence and viral load suppression and is cost-effective in a primary care setting. GSP has been evaluated using rigorous scientific methods and participants have been followed up for one year and results confirm that the beneficial effects of GSP are sustained in the long term. Detailed results can be found here: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3350557

Planned Goals and Milestones

Currently we are disseminating results from the large scale evaluation and looking for partners to scale up the innovation to more vulnerable populations and other African communities. We have had discussions with potential funding partners e.g. Child Relief International Foundation. We are having discussions with Africa Mental Health Foundation, Kenya University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and University of Limpopo, Pretoria in South Africa who have expressed interest in implementing GSP
Funding Goal5,000,000
Projected Cumulative Lives Impacted2,000,000
New Implemented CountriesKenya, South Africa
Recruit3 Country Directors, 5 program officers, 30 research assistants, 500 community health workers
New Featureadapt group support psychotherapy for youth (10-18 years)


Mar 2019
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
Feb 2016
Feb 2016
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
TITLEElsevier Foundation Award
Date Unknown
New Country Implemented In

Supporting Materials