The primary mission of the infant mental health profession is to promote and support nurturing relationships for all infants. The focus is on the development of the infant or toddler within the context of complex relationships. Services are comprehensive and intensive, covering multiple domains, including concrete needs, problem solving skills, and family relationships, as well as infant/toddler development, parentinfant interactions and developing attachment relationships. Services are supportive, affirming, and strengths-based. They are specifically designed to be respectful of the infant’s and family’s individuality, culture and ethnicity.
VAIMH service providers/professionals work in a variety of ways to assure that all infants have opportunities for nurturing relationships essential for optimal growth and development. VAIMH service providers/professionals offer direct services to infants and families: supervise and train staff; consult with, collaborate, and educate other community professionals; advocate for services; develop best practice policies; and/or teach and conduct research in colleges and universities. All of these activities reflect a commitment to values that are the bedrock of infant mental health practice.
Value: Importance of Relationships
Value: Respect for Ethnicity, Culture, Individuality and Diversity
Value: Knowledge and Skill Building
Value: Reflective Practice
Infant Mental Health Basic Beliefs
1. Optimal growth and development occur within nurturing relationships;
2. The birth and care of a new baby offer a family the possibility of new relationships, growth and change;
3. What happens in the early years affects the course of development across the life span;
4. Early developing attachment relationships may be distorted or disturbed by parental histories of unresolved losses and traumatic life events;
5. The therapeutic presence of an IMH Specialist may reduce the risk of relationship failure and offer the hopefulness of warm and nurturing parental responses.
Infant Mental Health Skills and Strategies
1. Building relationships and using them as agents of change
2. Meeting with the infant and parent together throughout the period of intervention
3. Sharing in the observation of the infant’s growth and development
4. Offering anticipatory guidance to the parent that is specific to the infant
5. Alerting the parent to the infant’s individual accomplishments and needs
6. Helping the parent find pleasure in the relationship with the infant
7. Creating opportunities for interaction and exchange between parents and infant or parent and practitioner
8. Allowing the parent to take the lead in interacting with the infant or determining the agenda or topic for discussion
9. Identifying and enhancing the capacities that each parent brings to the care of the infant