What is Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation?
And how it can help your setting or organisation ...
Social-emotional health is one of the most critical factors in a child’s healthy development and readiness for school and life success - a factor that depends on weaving effective mental health services into programs that support young children, including early care and education. (1)
Early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) has been identified as a specific approach to ... promote successful social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes in infants and young children. (2)
This work starts from the premise that all relationships in a child’s life matter, and works to promote both strong relationships and supportive environments for children, all of which are key to brain-building. (3) Sometimes also called Infant + Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (or I-ECMHC), ECMHC is defined as:
"A problem-solving and capacity-building intervention implemented within a collaborative relationship between a professional consultant with mental health expertise and one or more caregivers, typically an early care and education provider and/or family member." (Duran et al, 2010) (4)
Early childhood mental health consultation aims to build the capacity (improve the ability) of staff, families, programmes, and systems to prevent, identify, treat and reduce the impact of mental health problems among young children and their families. (Adapted from Cohen & Kaufmann, 2000) (5)
This work is not about 'fixing kids'. Nor is it therapy. Mental health consultation equips caregivers to facilitate children’s healthy growth and development. (6)
WHY INCLUDE ECMHC IN YOUR SETTING OR ORGANISATION?
As noted above, social and emotional health - the ability to form strong relationships, solve problems, and express and manage emotions - is critical for school readiness and lifelong success. Without it, young children are more likely to have:
difficulty experiencing or showing emotions, which may lead to withdrawal from social activities and maintaining distance from others
trouble making friends and getting along with others
behaviour problems, such as biting, hitting, using unkind words, or bullying - behaviours that often lead to difficulty with learning, suspension or expulsion, and later school dropout. (7)
Mental health consultants are highly-trained professionals with specialised knowledge in childhood development, the effects of stress and trauma on families, and the impacts of adult mental illness on developing children. (8)
ECMHC has been shown to:
improve children’s social skills and emotional functioning
promote healthy relationships
reduce challenging behaviours
reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions
improve 'classroom' quality
and reduce provider stress, burnout, and turnover. (9)
CHILDHOOD MATTERS NZ + ECMHC
I have been working in the area of Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation since 1999 when I first moved to and started work in London. I was employed by the South London + Maudsley NHS Trust and part of a community mental health team working in areas of south-east London.
The roles I held and the settings I worked in varied in the years I was based in London (1999-2001 + 2003-2008) but one constant was my consultation, supervision and training work with and for the children's workforce.
Since this time I have continued my consultation work in the Hawke's Bay in a variety of settings and with a number of organisations. I have guiding principles which support me in this work; you can read about these here.
It is in the area of ECMHC that I feel I have the most to offer professionally - and which inspires me to keep learning and developing myself.
I have a quote that inspires me in this work:
For me, whether I am working with a child, parent, professional or team, it is always about building and strengthening relationships. Relationships are the foundation of any consultation work.
If you would like to find out more about ECMHC, my work in this area - or talk about how this work might look like in your setting or organisation, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Retrieved from www.ecmhc.org/documents/Day_in_the_Life_MH_Consultant.pdf
(3) Retrieved from www.samhsa.gov/iecmhc/about
(4) Retrieved from www.ecmhc.org/documents/Day_in_the_Life_MH_Consultant.pdf
(6) Retrieved from www.samhsa.gov/iecmhc/about