Types of Consultation

Types of Consultation

toddler pouting

Although the definition of consultation has evolved since it was originally set forth in 2000 by Cohen and Kaufmann, there has been consistency over time regarding the two general types of consultation: child or family-centered consultation and programmatic consultation (Cohen & Kaufmann, 2005; Duran et al., 2009; Hepburn et al., 2007).

  1. 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.
    • For example: Robert cries and disturbs other children during naptime. He does not eat very much and does not seem to enjoy classroom activities. The consultant meets with Robert’s parents and teachers and discovers that mother’s new work schedule causes frequent disruptions in the family routine. The consultant helps both parents and child care staff to understand Robert’s behavior and helps them develop new strategies at home and in the classroom so Robert develops a sense of predictability.
  2. 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.
    • For example: A month ago, there was a serious fire in the building next to the ABC Head Start Center. Although no one was hurt, it was a scary experience for the children, who had to be quickly evacuated from the Center. In the days following the fire, children were clearly shaken by the experience and some parents reported that their children had nightmares. Mrs. Vernon, the program director, enlisted the help of the mental health consultant, who conducted a training for teachers and parents on how to support children who experience trauma, assisted teachers in developing lesson plans incorporating opportunities for children to express their feelings, and recommended books and activities that parents could do at home.

Frequently, a mental health consultant will apply both child/family-centered and programmatic consultation to the same situation or need. For example, building on the scenario with Robert (above), in addition to individual planning and support for him, the mental health consultant might also work with staff to improve how they transition the entire class from lunch to nap time as well as how to respond to the special needs of individual children in the classroom. Providing both types of consultation helps to ensure a comprehensive focus on promotion, prevention and intervention.

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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.