Infant Mental Health Mentor Competency Guidelines

Area of Expertise: Theoretical Foundations

  1. Pregnancy & early parenthood
    infant/very young child development & behavior

  2. Infant/young child- & family-centered practice

  3. Relationship-focused, therapeutic practice

  4. Family relationships & dynamics

  5. Attachment, separation, trauma, grief, & loss

  6. Psychotherapeutic & behavioral theories of changes

  7. Disorders of infancy/early childhood

  8. Mental & behavioral disorders in adults

  9. Cultural competence

  10. Adult learning theory & practice

  11. Statistics

  12. Research & evaluation

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • May practice each of the following oneself, but more importantly facilitates these skills in novice practitioners, students, clients, and other colleagues; applies to all three designations (A):

    • Understands both typical and atypical development during pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood through formal observation, assessment, and in day-to-day interactions with the infant/very young child and family 

    • Supports provision of information, guidance, and support to families related to the development and care of infants and very young children to further develop their parenting capabilities and the attachment relationship 

    • Understands the conditions that optimize early infant brain development 

    • Supports interpreters and literature in languages that meet community’s needs 

    • Supports informal and formal observations and assessments to identify capacities and strengths, as well as developmental delays and/or emotional disturbance in infants and very young children served 

    • Supports informal and formal observations and assessments to identify capacities and strengths, as well as relationship disturbance, disorders, and risks in early childhood families 

    • Supports development of service plans that take into account each infant’s/very young child’s and family’s unique needs, desires, history, lifestyle, concerns, strengths, resources, and priorities 

    • Promotes services that reinforce and nurture the caregiver-infant/very young child relationship 

    • Supports in parent-infant/very young child relationship-based therapies and practices to explore issues (including attachment, separation, trauma, and loss) that affect the development and care of the infant/very young child 

    • Recognizes conditions that require the assistance of other professionals from health, mental health education, and child welfare systems 

    • Understands family relationship development, with sensitivity to cultural differences

  • Typically demonstrates these skills oneself:

    • Applies understanding of cultural competence to communicate effectively and establish positive relationships with a wide range of people and organizations (A)

    • Writes articles and books on infant mental health principles and practice (P/RF) 

    • Promotes, develops, and delivers effective learning interventions as part of conferences, workshops, university courses, and other opportunities to educate on effective infant mental health principles and practice (P/RF)

    • Facilitates monitoring and evaluation of service process and outcomes (P/RF)

    • Promotes research projects intended to increase the body of knowledge on infant mental health, early development, and effective interventions (P/RF)

    • Develops or impacts policy and practice intended to increase the extent or effectiveness of infant mental health interventions (P)

Area Of Expertise: Law, Regulation, & Agency Policy

  1. Ethical practice

  2. Government, law, & regulation

  3. Agency policy

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Applies to all three designations (A):

    • Exchanges complete and unbiased information in a supportive manner with service recipients, colleagues, agency representatives, legislators, and others 

    • Promotes the maintenance of confidentiality of each family’s information in all contexts with exception only when making necessary reports to protect the safety of a family member (eg, Children’s Protective Services, Duty to Warn)

    • Respects and advocates for the rights of infants, very young children, and families 

    • Understands, utilizes, and facilitates adherence to provisions and requirements of federal, state, and local laws affecting infants/very young children and families (early intervention, child protection) to infant mental health programs, community groups, etc, including the rights of citizen children of non-citizen parents 

    • When consulting/providing expert testimony to agencies, service systems, legislative bodies, and programs, develops conclusions and recommendations that reflect the needs and best interests of the infant/very young child within the context of the family
      Understands and makes effective use of federal, state, and agency funding, contracting, and reporting requirements to enhance service availability and effectiveness

Area of Expertise: Systems Expertise

  1. Service delivery systems

  2. Community resources

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Applies to all three designations (A):

    • Understands the services available through the formal service delivery systems (child welfare, education, mental health, health etc.) and through other community resources (eg, churches, food banks, child care services), and informal supports (family members, friends, other families)

    • Utilizes an expert knowledge of the formal service delivery systems and community resources in decisions and recommendations

Area Of Expertise: Direct Service Skills

  1. Observation & listening

  2. Screening & assessment

  3. Responding with empathy

  4. Intervention/treatment planning

  5. Developmental guidance

  6. Supportive counseling

  7. Parent-infant/very young child relationship-based therapies & practices

  8. Advocacy

  9. Safety

  10. Reflective supervision

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Models, coaches, promotes, and otherwise instructs in the following competencies; applies to all three designations (A):

    • Establishes trusting relationship that supports the parent(s) and infant/very young child in their relationship with each other and facilitates change

    • Works with the parent(s) and infant/very young child together, primarily in the home, in accordance with accepted practice

    • Observes the parent(s) or caregiver(s) and infant/very young child together to understand the nature of their relationship, culture, developmental strengths, and capacities for change

    • Conducts observations, discussions, and formal and informal assessments of infant/very young child development, in accordance with established practice

    • Interprets information (including family perceptions & priorities) from observations, discussions, and formal and informal assessments to: 

    • Identify and feed back to the parent(s) or caregiver(s) the strengths, capacities, needs and progress of the infant/very young child and family/caregivers

    • Develop mutually agreed upon service plans incorporating explicit objectives and goals

    • Effectively implements relationship-focused, therapeutic parent-infant/very young child interventions that enhance the capacities of parents and infants/very young children

    • Helps parents identify goals and activities that encourage interaction and that can be woven into the infant’s/very young child’s and family’s daily routines

  • Uses multiple strategies to help parents/caregivers:

    • Understand their role in the social and emotional development of infants and very young children

    • Understand what they can do to promote health, language, and cognitive development in infancy and early childhood

    • Find pleasure in caring for their infants/very young children

  • Promotes parental competence in:

    • Facing challenges

    • Resolving crises and reducing the likelihood of future crises

    • Solving problems of basic needs and familial conflict

  • Uses toys, books, media, etc, as appropriate to support developmental guidance

  • Identifies/diagnoses disturbances or disorders of infancy and mental illness in family members, as appropriate, using available diagnostic tools (eg, Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health & Developmental Disorders of Infancy & Early Childhood (DC: 0-3R)

  • Attends and responds to parental histories of loss as they affect the care of the infant/very young child, the parent’s development, the emotional health of the infant/very young child, and the developing relationship

  • Recognizes environmental & caregiving threats to the health and safety of the infant/very young child and parents, and takes appropriate action

  • Enables supervisees to use the supervisory/consultative relationship to reflect upon direct work with families, including:

    • Observation of own feelings and thoughts regarding the selection and use of clinical interventions in various settings; and

    • Effects of treatment relationships and of specific interventions

  • Promotes an IMH service delivery that includes screening, referral assessment, use of diagnostic tools, development of trusting relationships, service planning, relationship-based therapeutic parent-infant/very young child interventions, and interagency collaboration

  • Promotes reflective supervision

  • Encourages use of data to improve practice

Area of Expertise: Working With Others

  1. Building & maintaining relationships

  2. Supporting others

  3. Coaching & mentoring

  4. Collaborating

  5. Resolving conflict

  6. Crisis management

  7. Empathy & compassion

  8. Consulting

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Applies to all three designations (A): 

    • Builds and maintains effective interpersonal relationships with a broad range of people: families, colleagues, agency and community representatives, and/or legislators, as the individual role requires by:

    • Being proactive in establishing connections

    • Sharing information 

    • Partnering on projects (eg, research, publication, program development, legislation, education initiatives)

    • Identifying and reaching out to cultural families not being served or being underserved

    • Deals with all people in a tactful and understanding manner

    • Promotes supervisory relationship in which the supervisee can explore ideas, reflect about cases, and grow 

    • Actively participates and works cooperatively with interagency teams, planning committees, and ongoing work groups

    • As an expert resource, provides guidance and feedback to novice staff, graduate students, and other colleagues as requested 

    • Provides expert advice, testimony, and/or recommendations to programs, agencies, legislative bodies, service systems, taking into account needs, goals, context, and constraints to:

    • Develop policy and procedure that support relationship-focused work

    • Advocate for policy, program, and/or system improvements

    • Obtain funding and other resources

  • Applies to Clinical (C):

    • Training/coaching of caregivers and/or other professionals (eg, child care teacher, foster parent, health, mental health, legal)

Area of Expertise: Communicating

  1. Listening

  2. Speaking

  3. Writing

  4. Group process

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Applies to all three designations (A): 

    • Actively listens to others; clarifies others’ statements to ensure understanding

    • Appropriately uses and interprets non-verbal behavior

    • Communicates honestly, professionally, sensitively, and empathetically with any audience

    • Demonstrates clarity, focus, accuracy, and diplomacy when speaking at workshops, meetings, conferences, legislative sessions, committee meetings

    • Writes clearly, concisely, and with the appropriate style (business, conversational, etc) in creating books, policy memoranda, contracts, articles, research, Web content, grant applications, instructional and meeting materials, reports, and correspondence

    • Effectively facilitates small groups (eg, interdisciplinary or interagency teams)

Area of Expertise: Leading People

  1. Motivating

  2. Advocacy

  3. Developing talent

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Applies to all three designations (A): 

    • Models personal commitment and empathy in promotion of all aspects of the practice of infant mental health

    • Uses influencing and persuading skills, backed by own and others’ expert knowledge, to promote effective infant mental health principles, practice, and programs

    • Coaches novice practitioners, students, colleagues, reporting employees, clients in a range of skills to help them become:

      • Highly effective infant mental health practitioners/professionals

      • Positively contributing human beings

      • Culturally sensitive individuals

Area of Expertise: Reflection

  1. Contemplation

  2. Self awareness

  3. Curiosity

  4. Professional/personal development

  5. Emotional response

  6. Parallel process

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Practices each of the following oneself, but also nurtures these skills in novice practitioners, students, and other colleagues; applies to all three designations (A):

    • Regularly examines own thoughts, feelings, strengths, and growth areas; discusses issues, concerns with supervisor or mentor

    • Seeks a high degree of congruence between self-perceptions and the way others perceive him/her

    • Consults regularly with others to understand own capacities and needs, as well as the capacities and needs of families

    • Encourages others (peers, supervisees, etc) to examine their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences in determining actions to take

    • Remains open and curious

    • Uses results of reflection to identify areas for personal development; identifies and participates in value-added learning activities

    • Keeps up-to-date on current and future trends in infant/young child development and infant mental health practice

    • Regularly examines effectiveness of policies and procedures

    • Utilizes statistics and other data to assess service effectiveness and appropriate use of resources

    • Modifies policies and procedure to enhance service effectiveness and appropriate use of resources

    • Utilizes training and research resources to enhance service effectiveness

    • Recognizes and responds appropriately to parallel process

Area of Expertise: Research and Evaluation

  1. Study of infant relationships & attachment

  2. Study of infant development and behavior

  3. Study of families

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Applies to Research/Faculty (RF):

    • Generates research questions that promote infant mental health

    • Generates new knowledge and understanding of infants, parents, caregivers, and relationship-focused practice based on sound research

    • Assists programs and agencies in measuring outcomes related to the optimal well-being of infants, very young children, families, and their caregiving communities

    • Generates research that reflects cultural competence in the infant-family field

    • Applies research findings to culturally sensitive, relationship-focused policy promoting infant mental health

    • Shares his/her generated knowledge with others via publication in infant-family related books and journals and/or presentations at conferences