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Multidisciplinary Infant Mental Health

Being infant and early childhood mental health informed means using knowledge, skills and reflective experiences to guide our work with infants, young children, and families. Are you wondering how infant and early childhood mental health applies to you? Any role that interfaces with infants, young children, or their parents could benefit from learning more about infant and early childhood mental health. Below are some examples of those intersections.

Early Intervention: Early interventionists who are IECMH-informed understand that infants and toddlers learn best through everyday experiences and interactions with familiar people in familiar contexts.  They understand which assessment and intervention practices can build upon the very young child’s primary relationships which are foundational for healthy development in all domains. And they understand that an important role of the service provider is to work with and support family members in the infant and very young child’s life.
Early care and education providers: Center and non-center-based care providers have wonderful opportunities to help children gain social and emotional capacity through daily classroom experiences. Teachers can help children identify strong emotions - such as anger, excitement, and sadness - and facilitate the healthy expression of those emotions. Childcare providers have multiple occasions to partner with parents in understanding the social and emotional development of their infants and children. They can also help promote the child parent relationship.  
  Child welfare: Services to preserve and support families are particularly important for families with infants and toddlers who may need extra support in parenting. Infants and toddlers in foster care are at risk for mental health disorders. Foster and biological parents can be provided guidance in promoting the child parent relationship and social emotional development. 
Mental health clinicians: Infant mental health clinicians provide diagnostic assessments and relationship-based therapeutic intervention that supports the parent child relationship. Common capacity-building interventions include teaching and training, clinical supervision, infant and early childhood mental health consultation, and parent infant psychotherapy. Treatments are focused on improving adults’ effectiveness in their interactions with young children.  
  Judicial: Judges work in a strategic position to bring infant mental health principles into consideration and practice as part of the decision-making process. Taking into consideration brain research and evidence-based practices better assures optimal early childhood social emotional outcomes.
Early Intervention: Early interventionists who are IECMH-informed understand that infants and toddlers learn best through everyday experiences and interactions with familiar people in familiar contexts.  They understand which assessment and intervention practices can build upon the very young child’s primary relationships which are foundational for healthy development in all domains. And they understand that an important role of the service provider is to work with and support family members in the infant and very young child’s life.  
  Home visitors: Home visitors promote healthy child growth and family functioning. Home visitors can provide relationship-based, parent-child assistance that enhances the capacities of parents and young children and provides parents with information regarding their role in the social and emotional development of their children. 
Health care: Health care providers who are IECMH-informed provide comprehensive, compassionate, culturally effective care that integrates behavioral health and relationship needs of infants, toddlers, and  parents when either one presents for service. They offer preventive care that systematically screens for parental depression, signs of toxic stress, developmental milestones, and provides bridges to services that are offered within a relationship-based context when indicated.  
  Faith Community: IECMH-informed ministers, youth pastors, and faith-based child care providers have wonderful opportunities to help children gain social and emotional capacity through interactions within the church and community. Their support of the family helps to support the child parent relationship, and their strong sense of community helps children connect to caring adults who are willing to serve oftentimes as extended family members.
Policy Makers: IECMH-policy makers consider the impact of any legal decision on children. They advocate for programs and services that keep families unified and children safe; they support quality child care options for all children; and they voice their support for services and providers that work to the benefit of children.   

This information was adapted with permission from the Oregon Alliance for Infant Mental Health’s document, “Building Oregon Expertise in Social Emotional Development: Multidisciplinary Infant Mental Health Endorsement.” We sincerely thank IMH partners in Oregon for their support.

SCIMHA is a 501(c)3 organization

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