Parent/Infant Psychotherapy

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Parent/Infant Psychotherapy is also known as mother/infant psychotherapy. But the terms “parent” and “mother” are actually too narrow because the therapy can involve anyone who is the primary caretaker of the baby. It could be a person who is not actually the parent but is closely involved in the baby’s care such as a granny, an aunt or foster mother – in fact, anyone who has taken over the role of “mothering” the baby. However, for convenience, the term “parent” or “mother” is generally used. The therapy sometimes includes both parents, only the mother or the father, or a primary caretaker

Parent/infant psychotherapy is a supportive, gentle and non-threatening form of therapy.

It is generally short-term (approximately 12 sessions) and takes place with the parent/s and infant in the room with the therapist. The baby is an important member of this team

The aim is to teach skills that help parents enhance their ability to sensitively respond to their baby’s cues. This will go a long way in helping to establish a bedrock of emotional security in the baby.

The long term benefits of this work are many. For example, research in infant bonding and attachment has found that emotional security in infancy can help the baby’s brain to grow. – literally. It also has a profoundly positive impact on later learning and memory. In addition it plays a huge role in the person’s ability to self-regulate feelings and behaviour and enhances the development of social relationships and friendships.   All of these factors have been shown to play a major role in successful school performance.

Moreover, it helps to develop a tolerance to stress which is an essential life-long skill.

Most importantly (from a relationship perspective), a baby who has had sensitive and responsive caring is likely to grow up into a sensitive and responsive adult who is able to form long lasting intimate and social relationships.

I see babies and toddlers from within the first year of life, up to the age of approximately three. Parents usually experience the therapy setting as a “safe haven” in which they can relax in a non-judgemental space.

The therapy generally starts with one or two adult sessions (without the baby present) in which I try to get to know the parent/s and their reasons for seeking my help. Further sessions usually take place on the floor with the baby as a welcome member of the therapy “team.” The “role” of the baby is to send us his or her signals and the job of the adults is to try to understand them and respond to them in a way which will help the baby to feel understood and safe. Gradually parents start to feel more confident in being able to read the cues of the baby. Teaching parents to recognize their own feelings and those of their baby is a key aspect of the therapy.

The sessions with the baby are usually videotaped (as long as the parent feels comfortable with this).   Generally parents find that watching the video can be extremely useful as often the baby will send signals which could easily be missed during a busy session. As with all psychotherapy sessions, information obtained (including video material) is kept completely confidential. There are age appropriate toys available which the babies and toddlers find fun and interesting.

Occasionally I will see a parent for individual psychotherapy to help them identify and work with their own issues which may be getting in the way of their ability to bond easily with their baby.

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