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Infant-Parent Training Institute

Speaker Series

The Infant-Parent Training Institute offers professional development seminars, each spring, and fall.

These presentations are opportunities for experts in the field to share current research and knowledge on a variety of infant-parent mental health topics. The IPTI Speaker Series is open to the general public; advanced registration is required. CEUs for some disciplines are offered.

Upcoming Presentations

Intersections of Infant Mental Health and Parent Mental Health

*Coming Spring 2023!

Babies and young children develop and thrive in a responsive, sensitive, and attuned relationship. This nurturing relationship provides a protective buffer to the child’s developing sense of self and helps the child manage challenges throughout their lifespan.  

A parent’s mental well-being is impacted by their experiences of personal and/or historical trauma, unresolved loss, early life experiences and underlying biology. The interplay between a child and a primary caregiver’s mental health is complex and nuanced. A young child sees him/herself reflected in the parent’s expression and experience of the world. This interplay in some cases provides a protective buffer, but in cases of loss and trauma, it can contribute to challenges in a developing child’s mental health. A parent’s emotions and regulation of those emotions affect the child and the child’s affect the parent. This complex dynamic is the essence of the intersecting realms of parent and infant mental health. 

In this training, we will explore four key concepts of mental health development (see below) and examine the interplay between infant/young children and their parent in a culturally sensitive framework. Home visitors will be encouraged to gain awareness of their own experiences during a visit, using these observations in their work with families. 

We will provide tools to identify strengths and healthy connections in parent/child relationships as well as opportunities for growth and development. We will help home visitors develop skills at noticing what is happening in these relationships, and how to foster comfort, connection, and security in a parent-child dyad. 

Cultivating Curiosity 
Home visitors will be encouraged to take a curious stance in their work, examining the multiple layers of interaction between parents and their children with a culturally sensitive lens. They will be encouraged to wonder together with the parent about the baby’s experience, as well as the parent’s own thoughts and feelings. They will be encouraged to “stay curious,” asking questions about these interactions, focusing on the complexity of the interrelationship between parent and infant. In addition, home visitors will consider what these interactions elicit within themselves, and how to “read” their own experiences in order to understand what is happening between a parent and child.  
Reading emotional cues 
Reading a baby’s cues is vital to brain development and to a baby’s emerging sense of self and being understood. Home visitors will learn observational tools to increase their skills in noticing a baby’s behavior and cues. This increased awareness builds upon this curious stance, giving “voice” to wondering what the baby might be thinking and feeling. They will learn tools such as “speaking for the baby,” to foster the caretaker’s curiosity about their baby’s experience. In turn, they will also learn to observe how the baby’s cues affect the parent, staying curious about that as well. Home visitors will strategize about ways to help facilitate shared conversations with parents about their baby’s cues. Home visitors will learn to “gently say what you see” and wonder with parents about a child’s possible needs and emotional states. 
Emotional regulation 
A parent’s role as a calm and regulatory presence for the infant is important in the developing child’s emotional development. Moments of dysregulation will also be examined, as home visitors explore the ways in which parents transmit their distress to their babies, and that babies convey their discomfort to their parents. Home visitors will learn tools to support the parents’ role as calm and regulating for the child even when they feel uncomfortable themselves. Once again, home visitors’ own experiences will be emphasized and explored. 
Providing a “holding” environment with a reflective stance 
We will explore what it means to support a parent and a baby’s developing relationship deeply and respectfully, with a culturally sensitive stance. At the heart of this support is the home visitor’s capacity to stay curious and wonder with the parent about their experience as well as the baby’s experience. They will learn the ways in which they can be a supportive, containing and holding presence for the families they serve, as well as how to reflect upon and manage their own feelings while working with parents and their children. 

More info coming soon!

Recent Presentations


From Research to the “Real World”: The journey of bringing Mothering from the Inside Out to parents in recovery from substance use disorders 

IPTI Speaker Series Overview

Parenting can be stressful, recovery can be stressful, and parenting in recovery can be especially stressful. Many parents in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) are thus referred to participate in parenting interventions in conjunction with SUD treatment. However, existing parenting interventions that take a behavioral or coaching approach often have limited success for families managing SUD, suggesting the need for an alternative approach. 

In this presentation, we describe an evidence-based approach, Mothering from the Inside Out (MIO), that focuses on supporting the emotional quality of the parent-child relationship. We will share: 1) theory and background underlying MIO; 2) results from three randomized controlled trials studying MIO; 3) remaining research questions; 4) the implementation of MIO in community settings through the FIRST Steps Together Program; and 5) important next steps in understanding how to effectively bring MIO to scale in Massachusetts and beyond. 

About the Speakers

Amanda Lowell, PhD

Dr. Lowell is a licensed psychologist and an associate research scientist at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut. She completed her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Central Florida before relocating to Connecticut in order to complete her training at Yale at the Child Study Center and in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Lowell specializes in the treatment and research of mothers in recovery from substance use disorders, as well as infants who were exposed prenatally to substances, and young children who have experienced trauma. She is trained in Child Parent Psychotherapy, Circle of Security Parenting, and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in addition to being a trainer for Mothering from the Inside Out (MIO). Her research uses an infant mental health framework to address the intergenerational transmission of addiction, adversity, and attachment. She is currently studying how addiction impacts mothers’ neural responses to infant cues, the implementation of MIO, and the impact of MIO on the maternal brain.

Lili Peacock-Chambers, MD, MS

Dr. Peacock-Chambers is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School Baystate Campus. She completed her medical degree at the University of Washington in Seattle and her residency at the Boston Combined Program at Boston Children's and Boston Medical Center. She then completed a fellowship in General Academic Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center where she earned a degree in epidemiology. Her research, currently funded by the NIH, SAMHSA, and the Tufts CTSI, takes an interdisciplinary community-engaged approach to the development and implementation of parenting programs to support families affected by substance use disorders.  

Learning from Latinx immigrant parents: An evidence-based treatment to address trauma in young children and parents

IPTI Speaker Series Overview

Parenting young children can be a time filled with dreams and expectations. Yet for many, it also includes major challenges and stressors. What happens when early parenthood is accompanied by trauma, immigration to a new country, limited resources, and a lack of community connections?

This presentation will offer a window into a promising clinical approach to fostering resilience and ameliorating the consequences of parental and early childhood trauma among Latinx immigrant families. 

We will share evidence of how Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas' adapted Child-Parent Psychotherapy approach is associated with positive outcomes for parents and children, and what the intervention means to participants. We will close with clinical examples and an opportunity for conversation. 

About the Speakers 

Ruth Paris, Ph.D., LICSW is an Associate Professor of Clinical Practice at Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) where she serves as the Chair of the Clinical Practice Department. At BUSSW, she teaches courses on clinical practice with families, trauma in early childhood and clinical research methods. Her program of research focuses on attachment-based interventions for vulnerable families with young children. With support from SAMHSA, DOD, NIH, HRSA and private foundations, she has developed and evaluated multiple interventions implemented in a variety of community settings focused on families facing adversities. These include mothers with substance use disorders and their children, immigrant/refugee mothers and young children with trauma histories, women with postpartum depression and their infants and post-deployment military families. One current project is the evaluation of Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas, a JF&CS program to address the needs of primarily immigrant young children and their families who have experienced traumaDr. Paris is a graduate of Smith College (MSW) and the University of California, Berkeley (PhD).

Karen Garber, LICSW, CEIS IMH-E, is originally from Venezuela where she trained as a psychologist. For over 25 years, she has been an Early Childhood Mental Health provider and consultant, serving young children and their families in a variety of setting including Early Intervention, home based and outpatient programs. She currently works at the Center for Early Relationship Support at Jewish Family & Children’s Service of greater Boston, where she coordinates EC/CT, a SAMHSA funded project created to reduce the impact of early childhood trauma in the Waltham, MA, and surrounding communities. Recently, Karen has treated families impacted by a variety of adversities including substance use and provided early childhood mental Health consultation to local agencies that provide treatment for Latino families in recovery. Karen is interested in the impact of immigration, culture and trauma on attachment and parenting. Karen is a member of the Culture Consortium of the NCTSN and an active volunteer at Post Partum Support International and Healthy Waltham.

Expanding the Circle of Security: A research-based approach to helping strengthen the parent-child attachment and improve children’s behavior.

IPTI Speaker Series Overview

This IPTI Speaker Series presentation will explore the way in which Circle of Security informs our understanding of children's behavior. The COS-Parenting (COS-P) and COS-Classroom (COS-C) 8-week facilitated group models provide a paradigm shift for parents and early educators. Rather than interpreting challenging child behaviors as attention-seeking, the Circle paradigm sees them as attempts to establish connection. Informed by attachment theory, the Circle of Security video-enhanced curriculum helps caregivers understand that when a child’s underlying need is seen, valued, and met, behavior improves. This relational perspective offers parents and early educators a pathway to strengthening attachments and resilience in children and caretakers.

In this panel presentation we will hear the ways that Circle of Security groups and individualized interventions are used in child welfare systems, early education and care, family day care, parent-child psychotherapy as well as the integration of a socio-cultural lens in the work with immigrant families.

About the Speakers

Cyntia Barzelatto, Ed.M. is a bilingual psychologist with expertise in maternal and infant-parent mental health, trauma-informed interventions, and culturally sensitive practice. She currently works as a Parent-Child Clinician for Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas at the Center for Early Relationship Support® at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, serving Latino immigrant families with children ages birth to five.

Sami Bradley, LIMHP coordinates with Nebraska state and local partners to facilitate Circle of Security within the state-wide systems that support the social and emotional well-being of young children.

Monica Contreras, MSW, supervises and coaches COS-P group facilitators throughout Connecticut and nationally. Initially she joined the staff at Saint Francis Hospital Parenting Support Services in Hartford, CT as a bilingual Parent Educator. Previous experience includes child guidance and outpatient adult treatment.

Peggy H. Kaufman, M.Ed., LICSW, is a member of the Infant-Parent Training Institute’s faculty and the founding director of the Center for Early Relationship Support® of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. With a background in perinatal emotional health and the earliest relationships, Peggy has become a champion of Circle of Security.

Marina Rodriguez, M.Ed., upholds her mission to lift the voices of the community and to look for platforms that lend themselves to attachment and trauma responsive care including understanding the detriments that systematic racism has had on communities like her very own. Marina, participated in a Circle of Security group as a young parent and has since worked dedicatedly with family childcare educators, coaches and others to share the work of the program.

Natacha Shillingford, BS is the Director of the Epiphany School Early Learning Center in Dorchester, MA. With a degree in Social and Cultural Studies she has directed over 20 years of her professional work to the field of Early Education and Care. Trained in Circle of Security she is committed to bringing the language of Circle to her entire staff. 

Examining Implicit Bias Embedded in our Developmental Science

IPTI Speaker Series Overview

This lecture will explore the dominant culture biases within the science and practice of infant mental health. We will reflectively examine our universal standard against the experience of BIPOC communities as caregivers and parents prepare their children for the inequities of systemic racism.

About the Speaker

Barbara Stroud, PhD is a renowned trainer, consultant, author, co-founding organizer of CalAIMH and an experienced graduate level faculty member. She holds endorsement as an Infant Family Early Child Mental Health Specialist/Reflective Practice Facilitator Mentor and is a ZERO TO THREE Fellow. In April of 2018 Dr. Stroud was honored with the Bruce D. Perry Spirit of the Child Award. Dr. Stroud is the author of ‘How to Measure a Relationship: A practical approach to dyadic interventions,’ ‘Intentional Living: finding the inner peace to create successful relationships’ and a contributing author to the text ‘Infant and early childhood mental health: Core concepts and clinical practice’ edited by Kristie Brandt, Bruce Perry, Steve Seligman, & Ed Tronick.

Dr. Stroud is particularly passionate about the unique needs of children of color in the mental health and foster care systems. She has an impressive history of working across infant and early childhood systems to integrate developmental models, culturally respectful services within a relationship-based framework. Dr. Stroud remains steadfast in her mission to ‘change the world – one relationship at a time’.

Racially Wounded: Nappy-Haired ‘Ghosts’ of Colorism in Parent/Infant/Therapist Relationships

Master Class Overview
This master class presents Dr. Marva Lewis’s work in articulating a cultural practice of hair combing interaction (HCI) as a therapeutic context to strengthen parent-infant attachment between parents and children of color. The HCI approach is now a manualized curriculum titled Talk, Touch and Listen While Combing Hair©. The training will include how to use HCI as a daily opportunity to connect with young children, how the parent’s early experiences with messages about body image and hair type may impact their behaviors during HCI, and how social workers may use HCI during therapeutic visits with birth parents and foster parents to develop a co-parenting model.

About the Speaker
Dr. Lewis earned a PhD in sociocultural psychology at Tulane University School of Social Work, with a clinical appointment in the Institute of Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health. She developed community-based interventions to strengthen attachment and address intergenerational legacies of the historical trauma of slavery and acceptance or rejection of children based on skin color. Her book Therapeutic Cultural Routines to Build Family Relationships: Talk, Touch & Listen While Combing Hair© will be released in 2021. She serves on the National Zero to Three Advisory Board and is a consultant with Safe Baby Court Teams to promote racial equity in child welfare.

Using Basic Principles of Developmental Science to Guide Trauma-Informed Care of Young Children and Families

Master Class Overview
This Master Class will offer a frame for listening to children and their caregivers who have experienced early developmental trauma. Dr. Gold will present a model informed by core principles of infant mental health, including reflective functioning, the mutual regulation model, the neurobiology of safety, and the neurosequential model of therapeutics. The Master Class will include opportunities for discussion about the application of this frame to participants’ clinical work.

About the Speaker
Claudia M. Gold, MD is a pediatrician and writer. After practicing general and behavioral pediatrics for over 20 years, she now specializes in infant-parent mental health. She is the director of the Hello It’s Me project, a program designed to bring infant mental health principles to rural communities. She works as a clinician with FIRST Steps Together, a federally funded program for pregnant and parenting women with opioid use disorders. She has written four books: The Power of Discord with co-author Ed Tronick (forthcoming June 2020), The Developmental Science of Early Childhood (2017), The Silenced Child (2016), and Keeping Your Child in Mind (2011). She is on the faculty of the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Brazelton Institute at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Coming to Life in Time: Early Deprivation and the Sense of a Lively Future

Master Class Overview
Time plays a central role in both clinical work and child development. Dr. Seligman conceptualizes “disorders of temporality”; one form involves the blurring of past and present, but another is a more basic deficit in the sense of a meaningful future. This lifeless state will be linked with the experience of an infant with a parent who does not respond to the baby’s feelings and gestures so as to support the infant’s most basic senses of personal agency. A relational-developmental approach is applied to show how the common sense of time as motion toward an emerging future is embedded in personal experiences of other people’s sympathetic responses. Video vignettes of infant-caregiver interaction will illuminate moments of patient-therapist interaction, alternatively reflecting chronic lifelessness and enlivening responsiveness.

About the Speaker
Stephen Seligman, D.M.H., is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF; Joint Editor-in-Chief of Psychoanalytic Dialogues; Training and Supervising Analyst at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California; and Clinical Professor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis. Dr. Seligman has recently authored Relationships in Development: Infancy, Intersubjectivity, and Attachment (Routledge, 2018) and is co-editor of the American Psychiatric Press’ Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: Core Concepts and Clinical Practice.

This Master Class is offered in conjunction with A Home Within, a national organization dedicated to meeting the emotional needs of foster youth. 

High-Risk Families in the Court System: The Integration of Infant Mental Health Practice into Family Courts

Master Class Overview
This course will address the important contributions that infant mental health professionals can make in cases of child abuse and neglect within the court system.  The class will review the risk factors that infants contend with in the context of maltreatment, and the complex needs of court-involved parents. It will describe the shortfalls inherent to child welfare systems and Family Courts, in which legal and judicial staff make critical decisions about very young children without the benefit of background in early child development, and the benefits that accrue when an infant mental health practitioner becomes an active presence in the Family Court.  The course will describe efforts around the country to develop specialized courts for infants and toddlers, with a particular focus on New York City's Strong Starts Court Initiative.

About the Speaker
Susan Chinitz is a psychologist with specialties in the areas of infant/early childhood mental health and developmental disabilities in infancy and early childhood.

She was the former director of the Early Childhood Center and the Center for Babies, Toddlers and Families at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she was a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and the Raizen Distinguished Scholar in Pediatrics. She is currently spearheading the development and expansion of the Strong Starts Court Initiative in the NYC Family Courts and is also the Clinical Co-Director of a Training and Technical Assistance Center that is providing support to seven new Early Childhood Mental Health Treatment Centers funded by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Remembering the “Forgotten Parent:” Lessons from Practice and Research About the Changing Roles and Needs of Fathers of Infants and Young Children.

Master Class Overview
Fathers used to be known as “the forgotten parent” but their presence as front-line caretakers has increased dramatically since 1965. Research suggests that fathers spend three times as much time with their children now as they did in 1965. The success of the Feminist Movement and the changing economic climate in the US have led fathers, some out of necessity and some out of interest, to be more active and emotionally engaged in their children’s lives. At the same time, 25% of children grow up without a father in the house. In the context of this polarized picture, Dr. Ray Levy will discuss child outcomes and fathers' attitudes about the birth of their children. From his work at The Fatherhood Project at MGH, Dr. Levy will share lessons learned on incorporating father friendly practices in medical services to encourage early father involvement and the development of programs for fathers in recovery and teen dads.

About the Speaker
Dr. Levy is the Founder and Executive Director of The Fatherhood Project at Mass General Hospital. Through programs, training and original research, TFP is dedicated to helping men be more knowledgeable, active and emotionally engaged with their children. Being a father has been a central part of Dr. Levy’s life. He is also the Senior Editor of a book series on Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Research. Dr. Levy has been in the private practice of psychotherapy for 35 years, currently in Belmont, MA.

Trauma and Immigration Stress among Latino Families: Implications for Infant-Caregiver Well-Being 

Master Class Overview
The experience of immigration is universally stressful and the current climate heightens feelings of uncertainty and fear. How do these realities impact families and the relationships between parents and their young children? An ecological model can provide a frame to understand the multiple risk and protective factors, which determine the quality of an infant-caregiver relationship. Immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to trauma, discrimination and health disparities, yet there has been limited research describing the implications for maternal-child well-being. This master class will include a presentation of findings from clinical research studies of Latino immigrants in the United States and clinical examples to examine the factors that have an impact on Latina immigrant women's emotional health, including the impact of exposure to interpersonal violence, discrimination, poverty and disadvantage and immigration status. We will discuss implications for infant-caregiver health, and specific intervention, prevention, and policy considerations. Following the didactic presentation, staff from the Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas program of the Center for Early Relationship Support will share clinical vignettes and qviruestions from dyadic work with Latina immigrant parents and their young children.

About the Speaker
Lisa Fortuna, MD, MPH is Medical Director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. She is Co-Director of Transforming and Enhancing Access to Mental Health in Urban Pediatrics (TEAM UP for Children), a BMC-community health center partnership aimed at building excellence in behavioral health care integration in primary care for children (ages 0-18 years) and families in Boston and Lowell, MA. Her clinical career has focused on health services research with a particular focus on post-traumatic stress disorder; Latino, immigrant and adolescent mental health services; access to care and quality of treatment for underserved minority and immigrant populations. She is a co-founder of the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center Community Counseling program, which offers mental health care integrated within a refugee resettlement agency in Boston. She has been an investigator on several NIH-funded national and international epidemiological and clinical studies of immigrant and minority mental health. She has published peer reviewed articles and chapters in the field of multicultural mental health services research and in posttraumatic stress and a book on the treatment of PTSD and co-occurring substance use disorders in adolescence.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Master Class Overview
Professionals in the early childhood field are faced with the difficult tasks of identifying early signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in infants and young children and of sharing their concerns with parents sensitively and effectively. In this Master Class, Dr. Carter will discuss research that helps us understand early symptom presentation and the varied course of onset of autism spectrum disorders. Specific strategies to assist in identifying early symptom presentation, including the use of behavioral checklists and structured observations, will be discussed. The importance of learning about parents’ concerns and beliefs about their children’s red flag behaviors will be emphasized as well as potential approaches for discussing ASD when you suspect that a child may be on the spectrum.

About the Speaker
Alice Carter is a professor in the psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Trained as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Carter’s work focuses on young children’s development in the context of family relationships, with an emphasis on the early identification of psychopathology and factors that place children at risk for difficulties in social and emotional development. Dr. Carter is an author or co-author of more than 200 articles and chapters, the co-editor of the Handbook of Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Mental Health Assessment with Rebecca Del Carmen, PhD, and the co-author of the Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment (ITSEA) and the Brief Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment (BITSEA) with Margaret Briggs-Gowan, PhD. She is a member of the Zero to Three DC: 0-5 Task Force, and a DC: 0-5 trainer.


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