Dawn Cannon, MA, RHV, RM, RGN

About the author

Developing an Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework


Infant mental health refers to the capacity of the infant to regulate themselves in terms of their emotional and behavioural states. The capacity for self-regulation requires parent/s/caregivers to provide the type of care during the first eighteen months of life, that are now recognized to promote optimal infant mental health (e.g. sensitivity; contingent interaction; marked mirroring etc.)

The Infant Mental Health Competency Framework (IMHCF) has been developed for all staff working to support parent/s/caregivers to promote infant mental health (IMH), from pregnancy to the second year of life. It is designed to increase general awareness of IMH and to raise standards of practice and care, by supporting all staff to optimize their skill set, including supporting advanced and specialist care.

Aims of the Project

The aim of the IMHCF is to:

  1. Provide a set of freely available, evidence- and consensus-based competencies aimed at standardising and improving IMH practice
  2. To provide a registration mechanism by which individual practitioners can rate their practice;
  3. Assess the effectiveness of the IMHCF in improving training and practice.

Description of the Project

The first stage of the work was to complete  a range of evidence and consensus based competencies  to be  developed over the seven domains, and three levels. Generally, the three levels distinguish between (1) general knowledge and skills, (2) advanced knowledge and skills, and (3) the knowledge and skills required to supervise and manage.  The framework has now been piloted with IMH practitioners across the UK, and the preliminary feedback has indicated that practitioners did not find it difficult to self-assess themselves against the IMHCF.The next stage of the work will involve developing a registration process, and establish the effectiveness of the framework in improving training and practice.


Competencies for infant mental health work are now required to enable IMH workers to standardise and improve their practice. This framework provides an evidence and consensus based set of competencies that are freely available, to improve practice nationally and internationally.

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