Benefits of Early Intervention

Mental health services to infants, toddlers and their parents address early signs of distress and support the parent’s role, the child’s development and the unfolding parent-child relationship.

Healthy social and emotional development is the essence of infant and early childhood mental health. During the first years of life an infant experiences extraordinary growth in relationships with parents, family and community. Successful early relationships create a foundation for trust, lifelong learning and competence.

Explore specific concerns at each stage of development:

Infant girls sitting between mother's legs.Infants and Toddlers (Birth to Two)

No child is too young to refer and all parent concerns are appropriate to consider. Themes of the first year of life include crying, feeding, sleeping and establishing routines. Pediatricians and Family Medicine physicians are knowledgeable resources regarding these themes; however, when concerns persist a mental health perspective may offer additional support and guidance. A rich time of early learning unfolds as the toddler becomes mobile and begins to understand language. As the baby becomes the exploratory toddler, parents are challenged to adapt to the child’s need for encouragement, limits, and safety.

Common concerns include:

  • Fussy baby, difficult to soothe, excessive crying
  • Sleeping or feeding challenges
  • Difficulty establishing routines
  • Questions about development and behavior
  • Coping with health issues and adjustment to ongoing medical or special needs
  • Hospitalization including adjustment following a NICU stay
  • Concern about the relationship between child and parent (attachment)
  • Change, loss, trauma affecting the child or the child-parent relationship

Preschool boy sits with father reading a book.Preschool Children (Three to Five)

The preschool child explores a widening universe and accomplishes a range of skills from dressing and putting on shoes to making simple choices offered by parents. It is a time of powerful emotions, using language to express ideas, practicing taking turns and sharing, and learning through experience. Many preschoolers are adjusting to group childcare and preschool educational settings.

Common concerns include:

  • Difficulty with routines of bedtime and sleeping
  • Toileting fears or reluctance in toilet training
  • Emotional or behavioral concerns including mood and tantrums
  • Concerns about degree of sensitivity or reactivity
  • Separation distress that is frequent, intense and not easily soothed
  • Child is fearful or worried
  • Difficulties in child care setting or preschool
  • Parent-child relationship issues
  • Change, loss, trauma

School age girl works on a white boardSchool Age Children (Six to Twelve)

School age children experience remarkable growth in physical, cognitive and social-emotional spheres. Learning includes academics, trying new activities, discovering interests, making and being a friend, and opportunities for independence. During these elementary school years children experience a mix of successes as well as mistakes and disappointments as they “grow into themselves”.

Common concerns include:

  • Difficulty adjusting to school expectations and/or learning challenges
  • Difficulty managing emotions or behavior
  • Worry, anxiety or fearfulness
  • Sadness, depression, moodiness
  • Peer or friendship difficulties, including being bullied or bullying
  • Identity themes, including gender
  • Sibling or family conflicts
  • Adjustment to health or medical circumstances
  • Life events causing stress, loss or trauma

Teen girl studies a book on her bed.Adolescents (Thirteen to Nineteen)

Adolescence encompasses a transition with early, middle and later stage themes, from childhood to young adulthood. Adolescents experience puberty, think more deeply and critically, and experience relationships that are more varied and complex. Questioning and trying new things is in the service of forming an identity and sense of self.

Common concerns include:

  • Emotional and behavioral concerns including stress, anxiety, depression
  • Transition to middle and high school environments and expectations
  • Academic and learning concerns
  • Challenges and difficulties in friendships
  • Screen and social media use
  • Sleep patterns and habits
  • Communication and conflicts with parents
  • Questioning gender and other aspects of identity
  • Sexuality, including sexual orientation
  • Traumatic events, losses, changes

Young Adults (Eighteen to Thirties)

Young adulthood is varied and a time of both continued exploration and consolidation of aspirations, identity, and self-acceptance. The young adult is making decisions that may include education, vocation, work and becoming financially self-sufficient . Establishing satisfying relationships with others, friendships and romance, are often a significant focus of young adults. Some are considering marriage and first parenthood. Optimally the young adult develops a sense of self as a unique individual while also sustaining family and other significant relationships.

Common concerns include:

  • Questioning or ambivalence regarding identity themes that may include values, purpose, gender, sexuality, self-acceptance
  • Uncertainty regarding young adult decisions and goals
  • Feeling stuck or struggling in the transition from adolescence to adulthood
  • Managing emotions, stress, anxiety, depression
  • Difficulties or dissatisfaction in friendships or intimate, romantic relationships
  • Adjusting to workplace expectations
  • Challenges or conflicts with parents or family

Father caries a sleeping child on his shoulder.Parents and Caregivers

Parenting and caregiving are roles that ask the adult to consistently put the needs of a child center stage. Our society idealizes parenthood in media images and stories and there is often little available to the new parent or caregiver about how to parent and what a baby or child needs to thrive. Each parent carries out her or his role while embodying a history of having once been a child with unique experiences. Joy, fear, confidence, uncertainty, ambivalence, distress, feelings of connection or isolation and many other emotions may be aroused while parenting. Evidence suggests that the relationship with a child benefits when the parent is able to reflect on thoughts and emotions experienced in the parenting role.

Common concerns include:

  • Difficulty in the transition to parenthood
  • Worry, stress, uncertainty associated with being a parent or the emotional relationship with the baby or child
  • Parenting when experiencing depression or anxiety including perinatal mood disorders
  • Parent history of childhood abuse, neglect, or other trauma or loss
  • Change, loss or trauma affecting the parent in the present
  • Parent history of infertility, miscarriage, death of a baby or child
  • Traumatic birth, NICU stay or hospitalization of a child
  • Adjustment to a child’s medical or developmental need
  • Parenting questions, interest in developmental guidance