The ACP continues its ABC of children’s mental health with I for Infant Mental Health


Many ACP trained child and adolescent psychotherapists work with parents and infants and ACP member, Federica Melandri has developed innovative work overseas with a parent-infant pilot project providing parent-infant psychotherapy for mothers with a history of drug addiction and living in a mother-baby unit in Italy.

Her Italian colleague Adriana Grotta, who has been attending the AFC colloquium and Parent Infant Project study day for many years, shared the same interest and together they have endeavoured to make this early intervention better known and available in Italy. Over the past six years, several clinicians from PIP have been invited to Bologna to train a group of child psychotherapists in parent-infant psychotherapy and have started to practice it in a privately run clinic.

The innovative pilot project began two years ago in a mother-baby unit where the mothers have a history of drug addiction and are undergoing a rehabilitation programme and it all started by chance with Adriana Grotta seeing a mother and baby from the unit for a period of time and the staff becoming interested in her work after observing positive changes in the mother and in her relationship with her baby son. They then devised a more structured intervention within the unit: training and supervision of the staff; group discussion on parenting for the mothers; and parent-infant psychotherapy for some of the dyads that seemed particularly troubled.

After training the staff, they commenced monthly supervision groups for them. The supervision focuses on detailed observations of the mother-child relationship through the use of video clips on daily activities of mothers and babies in the unit (feeding, playing, bathing, nappy changing) and thinking together with the staff about the meanings behind mother-infant communication as well as possible risk factors and actions they could take to create a facilitating environment for the mothers and babies to thrive.

Parent-infant psychotherapy in this project was provided on a voluntary basis but in order to offer more lengthy treatments to the mothers and babies they are now applying for funds.