Dawn Cannon, MA, RHV, RM, RGN

About the author

Infant Mental Health Online – IMHOL


Infant mental health (IMH) refers to the developing capacity of the child from birth to form close relationships, manage and express their emotions, and explore the environment and learn (Osofsky & Thomas, Zero to Three, 2012). In 2014 in the United Kingdom there was no standardised training in infant mental health for professionals from across the multi-disciplinary team working with babies/children & their families. Indeed, many of these professionals didn’t know what IMH was. An inter-professional course to inform practitioners of the fundamental principles of IMH was needed to address this shortfall.

Aim of the project

The aim of the project was to:

  1. Develop an inter-professional course
  2. To promote an understanding about the fundamental principles of Infant Mental Health
  3. For practitioners to be able to relate the relevant theory and research to their professional practice

Description of the Project

The first stage of the project was to form an expert reference group of the Association of Infant Mental Health (UK) committee members to review what the fundamental principles of IMH were?

Secondly, the mode of delivery had to be considered for what was practical for busy practitioners, and an online training course was decided upon.

Thirdly, the course had to be developed by Warwick Infant and Family Wellbeing Unit (WIFWu).

The following objectives were set for practitioners to work towards:

  1. Identify key concepts  and terminology used in relation to IMH
  2. Describe the importance of IMH for infants and their parents/carers
  3. Be developing the necessary skills to identifyIMH problems and promote IMH.

Infant Mental Health (IMHOL) was piloted in November 2015 to a cohort of fifty participants. The initial feedback from the pilot was very favourable with practitioners reporting increased confidence in their ability to transfer the IMH evidence into their clinical practice. To date there have been 14 cohorts of IMHOL with practitioners including:

  • health visitors; early years’ practitioners; perinatal psychologists; mental health nurses;
  • general practitioners; child & family workers; psychologists and social workers.
  • The next stage for this project is to map IMHOL against the UK Infant Mental Health Competency Framework to be launched in 2019.


The practitioners who have completed IMHOL since 2015 report increased confidence in their IMH skill set, but also specific areas that require further training including: transgenerational transfer of trauma and attachment classification; observational skills and reflective supervision. WIFWu is working towards meeting this need by delivering the Parent Infant Interaction Observation Scale as part of it’s provision.

Recommended training