Take Home Messages
- The mental health consultant's ability to form and facilitate positive, respectful, and collaborative relationships with staff and families is foremost in being an effective consultant.
- The "consultative stance" is a way of being and a way of guiding collaborative work between consultant and consultee that embodies elements and practices that represent a relationship-based and capacity building approach.
- Key elements of the consultative stance include:
- The centrality of relationships
- Parallel process as an organizing principle
- Avoiding the position of the expert
- Mutuality of the endeavor
- Understanding another's subjective experience
- Considering all levels of influence
- Hearing and representing all voices
- Wondering instead of knowing
- Holding hope
- Practices associated with the consultative stance include:
- Building relationships
- Acknowledging and valuing the experience of others
- Understanding different perspectives
- Information gathering
- Sharing ideas clearly and soliciting ideas from others
- Developing hypotheses in collaboration
- Planning intervention in collaboration
- Supporting step-by-step change
- Enduring setbacks
- Encouraging reflection
- Being a mental health consultant and taking the consultative stance require a unique set of skills and special focus to fully prepare for this work. There are few formal certificate or degree programs in early childhood mental health that provide training on the consultative stance. Strategies for mastering the consultative stance:
- Training and preparation, that include pre-services and in-service training that focuses on relationship-based work , the consultative stance, and reflective practices.
- Supervision and supports that include a focus on reflective practices, such as one-on-one reflective supervision, peer group supports, didactic seminars, or shadowing and mentoring.
- Essential early childhood program features for relationship-based consultation and support for effective use of skills associated with the consultative stance include:
- A program philosophy that includes the view that healthy social emotional development of young children takes place in the context of caregiving relationships, that learning is life-long and reciprocal, and that relationships influence relationships in a "parallel process"
- Relationship building and collaboration opportunities that include regular meetings, adequate time to work together, and regular communication
- Reflective practices for staff and caregivers to address the stress in their work, take care of themselves, in an open and supportive environment.