The CoE for IECMHC’s Response for the Field

The CoE for IECMHC’s Response for the Field

Our Center of Excellence for IECMHC has been working steadily over the last year to support the growing field of IECMHC in a variety of ways: supporting programs in articulating their implementation plan/strategies, creating online resources for training consultants, and culling the literature to better understand the evidence base. While our team is committed to continuing our work, we would like to hit the pause button and reflect on what it means to be a consultant or run an IECMH consultation program during a global pandemic.

Questions running through our minds include:

  • How does one build a relationship with a teacher when social distancing?
  • How can consultants support child care centers or other early childhood programs that have closed? Or those providing support for essential employees?
  • How can consultants attend to their own mental health needs when supporting others?
  • How we do maintain our integrity to the IECMHC competencies during a crisis?
  • How much do we bend and flex to meet needs for the duration of the pandemic?

While we don’t have all the answers, nor can we account for the variety of local influencing factors, we want to provide the IECMHC field with direction, guidance and support.  Whenever possible, we suggest IECMHC programs continue providing mental health consultation services, even if these services look different.  We realize it might seem difficult or impossible to do that right now, so we encourage programs to consider the following:

Infant and early childhood mental health consultants come to this work with a strong foundational knowledge of mental health, trauma, attachment, and child development and can offer this knowledge to programs, above and beyond what consultation services might have looked like even two weeks ago. So what would this look like if centers are closed? Or home visiting services are suspended? Or a primary care practice is only doing tele-health?

Mental health consultants can provide virtual trainings (live or pre-recorded), check ins with staff and directors, lead virtual staff wellness activities or share this information virtually, and share mindfulness resources and stress reduction techniques – as a few examples. We know this is a time of extreme stress for the whole country and those in vulnerable situations are at increased risk. Knowing this, programs can reach out to other child serving agencies, such as child welfare, which might begin to see increases in workloads and overwhelmed caseworkers. This is again a time when a mental health consultant’s unique qualifications can be utilized to support those on the front lines of this crisis.

The bottom line is no mental health consultation program is operating “normally” right now. Everyone needs to pivot to meet the needs of communities and partners.  We want mental health consultants and consultation programs to be utilized and recognized as the incredible resources they are. We suggest technology be used to the fullest extent possible.

This is a crucial time for mental health professionals and especially those with all the knowledge and skills held by an infant and early childhood mental health consultant. We want to ensure our Center is able to provide a space for connection, processing and information sharing. 

We thank you for reading and please join our efforts to share the important ways mental health consultation can support programs, families and communities during a crisis.

Please visit the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development’s website for a detailed list of information and support beyond IECMHC.

This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.