Infant Mental Health Specialists and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
Infant Mental Health Specialists
Trained Infant Mental Health Specialists have unique knowledge and skills to observe and address the emotional health of the infant and parent or caregiver; identify mental health concerns, delays or disabilities; explore relationship conflicts that impact the infant’s development; and utilize clinical skills and strategies to assess and intervene in troubled infant/parent relationships. They take a developmental perspective and offer anticipatory guidance to parents, support the infant-parent relationship, and enhance the capacity of the parent or caregiver to support their infant’s social, emotional and cognitive development.
Infant mental health practice can be described as a therapeutic process that is guided by a set of foundational principles. At the core, infant mental health practices aim to support the critical variables that influence infant and toddler mental health? healthy pregnancy and perinatal care, family relationships and parent-child interaction, caregiving practices, cultural perspectives, the early care environment, and the developmental trajectory (physical, cognitive, and emotional development) of the child. The foundational principles that guide Infant Mental Health Specialist training programs include:
( Weatherston, D. 2000)
Infant Mental Health Practice and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation
Many of the principles of infant mental health practice listed above (1-7) also apply to the consultative role. In a consultative role and by applying the skills related to the consultative stance (Johnston & Brinamen, 2005 and 2006), Infant Mental Health Specialists bring their knowledge and expertise to work collaboratively with parents and caregivers and build the capacity of parents and caregivers to support the infant’s social and emotional development. Principle 8, the provision of clinical therapeutic interventions to an infant, parent, or family in accordance with clinical or professional practice standards (such as infant-parent psychotherapy), would be considered beyond the scope of the consultative role. However, mental health consultants should be able to recognize and respond sensitively to any potential concerns regarding a child’s social and emotional development. When problems arise, early childhood mental health consultants can facilitate planning and support for young children at risk of or experiencing social and emotional concerns in partnership with the child's family and caregivers. When a young child demonstrates concerning behavior that does not dissipate and is frequent in nature than the early childhood mental health consultant may refer the child and his family to those who are available in the community to provide these direct service interventions (Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation).