Infants and their caregivers influence each other enormously, and the parenting that infants receive shapes their development. When a mother or father of a young infant has a serious mental health problem, therefore, the real patient is the parent-infant relationship.
In our understanding of infant development, the child is the product of the continuous dynamic interaction of the child and the experience provided by his or her family and social context, with equal weight given to the effects of the child and to his or her social environment.
The child is not independent of his or her environment, but that environment does play a significant part in determining the child's experience. For this reason, the way in which a child develops cannot be described without analyzing the effects of the environment on the child.
Furthermore, the parent's problems impact on the child just as the experience of the infant creates sizeable challenges for the parent. We believe that addressing either in isolation, normally treating the parent without considering the infant, will often be only partially effective as an intervention.
In effect, when the assumption is made that addressing the parent's problem alone will be sufficient to rectify the problems already experienced by the child, the infant is excluded from consideration.
About parent-infant psychotherapy
The Parent Infant Project at the Anna Freud Centre offers parent-infant psychotherapy to families who might be struggling to find their feet in their relationship with their infant(s) aged 0-12 months.
You can read more about PIP by downloading the Anna Freud Centre’s PIP flyer here.
Parent-infant psychotherapy works with parents and their babies to help them understand their relationships. We talk together about strengths and concerns, and reflect on what the baby is trying to communicate and how the parents want to respond.
Parents are seen in one-to-one sessions with their baby or within a mother-baby group (these are known as parent-infant psychotherapy sessions).
A book which describes the Parent-Infant Project's model of Parent-Infant Psychotherapy was published by Routledge in November 2005. It has become a standard text book for practitioners in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Africa and the USA, as well as the UK. Click here for more information about this volume
We are conducting a randomized controlled trial to try to identify the specific benefits for infants from therapies which include them and their mothers as opposed to routinely available services which are often focussed on mental health issues alone.
The project is also developing research measures to establish how effective community-based parent-infant intervention services are (i.e. not just private services, but those available to the more deprived sectors of society).
To investigate the outcomes of parent-infant psychotherapy (PIP) compared with routinely available services ("treatment as usual") for families experiencing difficulties.
To demonstrate the value of parent-infant treatment with families who do not normally have access to parent-infant psychotherapy.
To explore the expectations, beliefs and experiences of parents concerning parent-infant psychotherapy and other services in order to arrive at a better understanding of the barriers that parents experience in relation to this type of treatment.
For more information, please contact the research psychologist, Michelle Sleed, by email on Michelle.Sleed@annafreud.org or telephone 020 7443 2216.