Child–Parent Psychotherapy with Infants Hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Abstract

Hospitalization in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a stressful and potentially traumatic experience for infants as well as their parents. The highly specialized medical environment can threaten the development of a nurturing and secure caregiving relationship and potentially derail an infant’s development. Well-timed, dose-specific interventions that include an infant mental health approach can buffer the impact of medical traumatic stress and separations and support the attachment relationship. Many psychological interventions in the NICU setting focus on either the parent’s mental health or the infant’s neurodevelopmental functioning. An alternative approach is to implement a relationship-based, dyadic intervention model that focuses on the developing parent–infant relationship. Child–parent psychotherapy (CPP) is an evidence-based trauma-informed dyadic intervention model for infants and young children who have experienced a traumatic event. This article describes the adaptation of CPP for the NICU environment.

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Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Lorena Samora, IFMT for sharing her clinical insights about her work with families in the NICU.

Funding

Support for the project was provided by the Stein Tikun Olam Infant–Family Mental Health Initiative.

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Correspondence to Patricia P. Lakatos.

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Patricia P. Lakatos, Tamara Matic, Melissa Carson, and Marian E. Williams declare that they have no conflict.

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This article did not include any research studies of human or animal participants. Informed consent was obtained for the individual participant in the case vignette.

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Lakatos, P.P., Matic, T., Carson, M. et al. Child–Parent Psychotherapy with Infants Hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 26, 584–596 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10880-019-09614-6

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Keywords

  • Infant mental health
  • Neonatal intensive care unit
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Child–parent psychotherapy
  • Pediatric psychology
  • Pediatric medical traumatic stress