National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation

Take Home Messages

  • Early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) is defined as: A problem-solving and capacity-building intervention implemented within a collaborative relationship between a professional consultant with mental health expertise and one or more caregivers, typically an early care and education provider and/or family member. Early childhood mental health consultation aims to build the capacity (improve the ability) of staff, families, programs, and systems to prevent, identify, treat and reduce the impact of mental health problems among children from birth to age 6 and their families. (Adapted from Cohen & Kaufmann, 2000)
  • An important distinction between ECMHC and other types of mental health interventions is the emphasis on improving child outcomes indirectly by enhancing caregivers' abilities to nurture children's social and emotional development and address challenging behaviors.
  • A hallmark of ECMHC is the focus on relationship-building and collaboration between and among the mental health consultant and caregivers (including early care and education providers and family members).
  • There are two types of consultation:
    • Child or Family-Centered Consultation: The primary goal of child or family-centered consultation is to address the factors that contribute to an individual child's (and/or family's) difficulties in functioning well in the early childhood setting. This type of ECMHC is typically provided to staff and families and is often initiated by concerns about an individual child's problematic behavior.
    • Programmatic Consultation: The primary focus of programmatic consultation is the overall quality of the program or agency and/or assisting the program to solve a specific issue that affects more than one child, staff member, and/or family. This type of ECMHC is typically provided to program staff and administrators.
  • Direct therapy, including therapeutic playgroups, is not considered consultation.
  • Mental health consultants have three major, complementary roles:
    • Fostering a positive attitude toward early childhood mental health
    • Empowering caregivers (e.g., family members and early care and education providers)
    • Enhancing mental health services and supports




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Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development National Center for Effective Mental Health Consultation