Imagine a baby sitting on a couch describing to the therapist his dreams... Hmm… not quite.
I always get a perplexed look from people when I tell them that I provide services to families and their infants ages 0 to 5. People ask me - what kinds of problems can an infant have? A gas? This is bogus.
It's a pretty rational thought; we tend to look at infancy and toddlerhood as the most pristine years of a person's life. Before I go into further detail, I wanted to offer a brief definition of infant mental health and then talk about what sorts of issues are a focus of therapy.
Infant mental health (IMH) focuses on children ages 0 through 5 years of age and their caregivers. IMH refers to the child’s ability to develop their physical, intellectual, social, and emotional potential. Because infants grow in a context of nurturing environments, IMH involves the psychological balance of the infant-family system.
Infant- family system. Those are the key words that really describe IMH. Often, parents complain about their child's tantrums, difficulties with sleep, eating, and other daily routines, and plain disrespect. Some parents of newborns don't feel a bond with their infant. These issues relate to a lack of attunement in their relationship with their child. Attunement is the ability for one person to understand and accept another person, and let the other person feel understood and accepted. Basically, both being on the same page.
IMH's focus is on the relationship between the caregiver and the child. One of the major goals is for the caregiver and child to be attuned to one another- therefore each person feeling a better and easier flow in the relationship. When parents and their children get along, the usual behaviors of tantrums, not following directions, fights during mealtime, bath time, and sleep time are few and far between. When parents provide consistent limit setting based on love, their children also will behave better. These first few years of life are crucial for brain development, social development, and psychological health. The relationship between the infant and their caregiver during these first 5 years is the blueprint for future relationships with teachers, friends, and their spouse or significant other.
So... how does it work? Weekly psychotherapy sessions help the parent and child become attuned to one another with the assistance of the psychologist trained in IMH.
Dr. Eva Benmeleh
I am a licensed clinical child psychologist in Hallandale Beach. I hope you enjoy the site!
221 West Hallandale Beach Blvd., Suite 202
Hallandale, FL 33009