The Program

The Acorn Program is a multi-faceted, evidence-based intervention designed to provide an opportunity for mothers with mental health difficulties to come together once a week in groups and be supported in their relationship with their young child aged from birth to three years.

Acorn group programs run for 15 weeks for up to 10 mothers at various stages of wellness, who have identified that their mental health struggle is having or has had an impact on their relationship with their child(ren).

Acorn is for both people in the relationship with an equal emphasis on mother and child, and is therefore all about supporting the mother-child relationship itself.

The Program

One of the unique characteristics of Acorn is that it offers three primary components – Dance Play, Journaling and Therapeutic Letters – within one group program, facilitated by a skilled multi-disciplinary team involving a Dance Worker, a Family Support Practitioner and a Mental Health Clinician, supported by volunteers.

  • Dance Play involves the whole group and places the focus on the children to create the immediate conditions for playful interaction through movement and song.
  • Journaling provides time and a safe space for the mothers to develop reflective skills that will support them build and sustain their connection with their children. During journaling the children enjoy shared play with the Dance Worker and volunteers in an adjacent space.
  • Therapeutic letters are sent weekly to each mother and child. The letters encourage the mothers by noting golden moments of loving connection and wondering about important areas of their experiences of the group activities.


Acorn groups provide a range of opportunities for mothers to witness, experience, hear about, reflect on and gradually understand how to be in warm, playful, reciprocal relationship with their children.

Additional Information

  • For a detailed information on the background, rationale and delivery of Acorn group programs, assembled in a 52 page book, please click on the image.
  • For a detailed evaluation of Acorn Parenting Program by Dr Paul Aylward B.A (Hons) MA. PGCE. MA(Ed) PhD assembled in a 72 page book, please click on the image.
  • For a detailed Economic Evaluation Outcomes from the Acorn Parenting Program by Dr Tim Schulz(1) and Dr Paul Aylward(2), please click on the image (1)Senior Research Fellow, Flinders Health and Medical Research Foundation, Flinders University (2) Action Research Partnerships)
  • Please find above a video summary of The Acorn Program launch from SAHMRI on the 25th of May 2022. Featuring Jessica Harmsen, Prof. Steve Wesselingh, Jay Weatherill, Dr. Anne Sved-Williams, Katrine Hildyard MP, Dr Sally Chance, Paul Aylward, Peter Sandeman and Tim Campbell. 
  • Please find above the full length presentation of Associate Professor Anne Sved Williams  – Video Presentation: “Acorn Program” Consultant psychiatrist, Helen Mayo House, PIMHS, Women’s and Children’s Network, South Australia
  • Please find above the full length presentation of Dr Sally Chance – “The Acorn Program” Acorn Co-ordinator, Dance practitioner.