Take Home Messages

Take Home Messages

mother pushing child on swing

The framework for effective early childhood mental health consultation, established by a study of consultation programs demonstrating positive child, family, provider, and/or early care and education program outcomes, includes core program components of:

  • Solid program infrastructure
  • Highly qualified consultants
  • High quality services
  • Positive relationships
  • Readiness for early childhood mental health consultation

Core areas of content knowledge essential for an effective mental health consultant include:

  • Infant and early childhood mental health, including the underlying causes of challenging behavior
  • Child development, including typical versus atypical development
  • The realities of working in early childhood settings
  • Best practices, evidence-based practices and interventions realted to infant and early childhood mental health
  • Cultural and linguistic competence, with particular attention to the cultures of the population being served
  • Child, family and early childhood service systems and community resources

Key skills associated with being an effective mental health consultant include:

  • Build strong, collaborative relationships
  • Conduct observations and use findings appropriately
  • Work effectively with young children in group settings
  • Communicate effectively (i.e., in a clear and engaging way) in formal and informal situations (e.g., presentations, one-on-one conversations)
  • Develop individualized strategies to address child, family and/or program issues that reflect consultees’ cultures, skills, strengths, needs and preferences
  • Motivate staff and family members to try different strategies and approaches
  • Provide meaningful support to consultees to help with strategy implementation
  • Link consultees to other services and systems as needed

Essential attributes or personality traits associated with an effectiveare mental health consultant include:

  • Respectful — values others’ opinions
  • Open-minded/non-judgmental — accepts people for who they are
  • Reflective
  • Flexible — will adjust schedule and modify strategies as needed
  • Approachable/easy to talk to
  • Good listener
  • Trustworthy
  • Compassionate/empathetic
  • Team player
  • Willing to be hands-on and not just stand in the corner
  • Reliable, dependable
  • Self-motivated
  • Positive/upbeat
  • Patient — recognizes that change takes time
  • Persistent — does not give up if there is resistance to change
  • Loves children — shares the “children come first” mentality
  • Warm/people person

High quality early childhood mental health consultation services include:

  • A service array that offers both child and family —centered consultation and programmatic consultation
  • Consultation activities that address promotion, prevention and intervention
  • A consultative process by the consultant and in collaboration with consultees for selecting the appropriate service or strategy for intervention that includes:
    • Information gathering
    • Initial strategy brainstorming
    • Collaborative service planning
    • Ongoing support and, as needed, course correction
    • Planning for conclusion of services
  • An approach to service delivery that includes:
    • A strong service initiation process
    • Values that support relationship-building and high-quality service provision such as:
      • Collaboration
      • Family-centered
      • Cultural and linguistic competence
      • Strength-based approach
    • Individualized services/strategies
    • Promotion of consistency across home and classroom settings
    • Utilization of hands-on, practical materials

Within HS/EHS programs, effective early childhood mental health consultation would also include those services and supports that will help programs meet their requirements and goals as well as enhance the scope and quality of mental health services to help strengthen the program overall.

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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.