DE’s Reach Parent-Child Program provides mental health services for infants and children using an attachment based, developmentally focused model. It focuses on infants and children with histories of neurodevelopmental trauma.
About the Program:
Infant Mental Health refers to how well infants are developing socially and emotionally prenatally to age 3, and a clinician trained in IMH work is equipped to help you through both the normal adjustments of having a new baby – addressing questions about infant sleep, behaviors, and development – as well as to help you support your baby through experiences such as traumas, attachment disruptions, medical difficulties, or transitions.
We know that early intervention is a key component of successful developmental and mental health outcomes, but too often we take a “wait and see” approach to the concerns we have for our babies – missing out on a significant opportunity for treatment.
What Makes My Child a Good Fit?
This treatment program was developed with children who have experienced difficult beginnings in mind. This might reflect itself in attachment difficulties and/or histories of neurodevelopmental trauma as a result of stressors such as abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, a change in caregivers, foster care or adoption, medical procedures, or parental postpartum depression or anxiety. Our model focuses on treating the caregiver and child dyad as a unit and helping to bring those relationships into a place of security, regulation, and mutual enjoyment.
In line with the research on the effects of such stressors on a child’s brain, we take a developmental approach to our treatment, understanding that the child’s whole self – brain, body, and emotions – have been changed as a result of his experiences. We use treatment that seeks to help change how the brain processes stressors, how it reacts to threats, and how it approaches relationships. We support what the body may need to feel safe. We see negative or unwanted behaviors as symptoms of the larger system that communicate what the child is experiencing, but not necessarily where we need to initially focus our interventions. And we view the caregiver-child relationship as the primary mode for bringing healing within this framework, thus expecting the caregiver to play an active role in the therapeutic process, helping learn to coregulate the child through her stress.
What Makes My Child a Good Fit?
How are we different:
There are many things that set the Reach Parent-Child Program a part from other pediatric mental health treatment you may have experienced, such as our focus on whole-child development and our level of clinician experience. But there are other differences, too, that you might be curious about and want to know why we do things the way we do them.
To begin, we rarely work individually with a child. Not only do we recognize the amount of time you spend with your child has the ability to be far more healing than the amount of time we spend with your child, but we also understand that children with difficult trauma and/or attachment histories may look different with a therapist than they do with a parent, and we want to minimize that tendency.
Secondly, especially in the beginning, a lot of our time in treatment may be without your child even present with the parent and therapist working together to prepare caregivers to feel prepared and confident in structuring the home environment and engaging in treatment. We are also open to seeing parents for their own individual treatment to help them on their journeys.
And third, we don’t wait for children to come to remarkable insights on their own. One thing we know about children who have experienced neurodevelopmental trauma is their tendency to shut down introspection and insight, which means traditional insight-oriented therapies can feel like they go nowhere or remain superficial. Through a process called co-construction, together we help lead the child to make connections between their histories and their current behaviors and relationships.
The Reach Parent-Child Program uses a variety of evidenced-based treatment modalities but primarily incorporates theory and strategies from Infant-Parent Psychotherapy, TheraPlay, and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. The child’s chronological and social-emotional age, verbal abilities, and readiness for treatment help determine which treatments we will use. Infant-Parent Psychotherapy is used with our youngest clients. TheraPlay based treatment is effective for helping children and caregivers strengthen their relationships through games and activities across the domains of structure, challenge, engagement, and nurture. Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) based treatment helps the child safely process and experience how their past continues to impact their present, especially when it comes to relationships. Each of these three treatments integrate together, all engaging the parent and child and working to create a safe, playful, healing environment.
Is the Reach Parent-Child Program the Right Fit for My Child?
Because of the treatment interventions we use, families should not be currently in significant crisis and stable caregivers who are able to commit to engaging in their childrens’ treatment themselves are needed. Parents may need some time to engage in their own treatment or work on developing some stability around their child prior to work with the Reach Parent-Child Program. This also means that children who do not currently have actively participating caregivers would likely be best served with one of DE’s other clinicians.
There will be times during or after a trauma or crisis where a child and family might be best served by a mental health clinic that can better support them while the crisis remains ongoing than what we can do in a private outpatient setting through stronger links to referrals, case managers, or psychiatrists. For instance, if a child is at high risk of self-harm or significant harm to others, they would likely be better served by a clinic that has ready access to day centers, psychiatric services, or an inpatient psychiatric hospital. We are also not set up to assess or treat childhood sexual abuse or to provide the legal supports that such trauma may warrant.