Infant Mental Health



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What is Infant Mental Health? ​

Infant Mental Health is a multi-disciplinary field focused on the social-emotional capacities and the primary relationships in children birth through age five. Relationships in the earliest years of a child's life provide the basis for children's development and mental health, which research suggests is important for later functioning in school and in relationships with others. 

Most commonly, infant mental health professionals identify and provide services to support families with vulnerable children whose development is at risk. Infant mental health researchers often study the role that early relationships play in a child's neurological, emotional and social development and the effectiveness of attachment-based interventions. Across disciplines, Infant Mental Health professionals' work recognizes the importance of consistent and nurturing relationships with caregivers, which is influenced by the caregivers own relational history, mental health, and life circumstances. A relational framework guides infant mental health work; the professional-parent relationship is valued and the professional values a reflective stance. 

If you are considering whether further training in infant mental health is right for you, consider the following questions:

  • Do you believe that the first 3 years of life are foundational?
  • Do you believe that providing support to parents ultimately enriches the lives of young children?
  • That intervening early can prevent many child behavior problems?

If so, infant mental health training is right for you. To learn more visit our Dual-Title Degree Page.

Our Infant Mental Health Program at the Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute includes:

  • A Dual-Title Degree Program in Infant Mental Health. We offer this program for graduate students at Wayne State University in collaboration with the School of Social Work, the Department of Psychology and the College of Nursing. Students whose programs have not adopted the Dual-Title Degree are encouraged to enroll in infant mental health coursework and participate in infant mental health research labs. Graduate students at other universities can enroll in our courses for credit at their home institution. Professionals who have earned a bachelor's degree can enroll in our courses as a guest student.
  • Professional Development and Community Engagement. Our Infant Mental Health faculty and staff enjoy and are skilled at collaborating with and providing professional development for community agencies serving families and their young children. Faculty sit on advisory boards, work with agencies to develop and deliver high quality trainings for staff, and conduct program evaluations.
  • Infant Mental Health Research. Our Infant Mental Health faculty are engaged in research that can inform practice and policy aimed to improve the lives of vulnerable families and their young children All of our faculty mentor undergraduate and graduate students from across campus in their research labs.