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The Impact of Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health in Social Work  

It’s a fact. Research shows that the development of a child’s brain in their earliest years has an enduring impact. “For infants and young children, early support for both physical and emotional development can make a huge difference in the trajectory of their entire lives,” says Erikson Master of Social Work (MSW) Program Director Maggie Brett. “Early childhood mental health interventions can expand a child’s potential and reduce obstacles to development.”  

As noted in Social Work Today, “Early caregiving relationships have a profound effect on infant neurological, cognitive, social, and emotional development across the lifespan.”1 For infants and young children, early years are where the capacity to form secure relationships with adults and peers happen. It’s when a child builds their ability to experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions.  

Focusing on infant and early childhood mental health can be a game changer. The earlier we support milestones in social development, emotional development, and cognitive and language development, the better.  

Prepared to make an impact.

Social work professionals are on the front lines providing mental health services to young children and their families. A deep knowledge of infant and early childhood development is invaluable when working with anyone facing emotional challenges. Understanding a person’s developmental history is critical to understanding the patterns of thinking and behavior they formed early on. The wellbeing of infants and very young children is intertwined with that of their caregivers, so early childhood mental health interventions encompass the wellbeing of parents too.  

Erikson’s MSW program is one of a very few that have an Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health area of specialized practice. This track prepares our students with research-based knowledge, contemporary studies, practice building skills, and access to an active network of professionals. As with all of Erikson’s academic offerings, reflective practice is the factor that distinguishes an Erikson MSW.  

Enhanced by reflective practice.

It’s important for any social work professional to recognize that the heart of your work…is you. Just like the children and families with whom we work, we all come from somewhere, with our own experiences, and we apply our unique perspectives to the context of our relationships. And the important work we do for others is enhanced by understanding and attentively responding to our own thoughts and feelings in response to the people we support.  

Our master’s candidates learn reflective skills that increase self-awareness and effective responses within a small, supportive community. Self-understanding allows for a more authentic perspective. With it, you’ll be ready to meet the families where they are and be prepared to do your best work.  

Unlocking deeper understanding.

Brett points out, “The early childhood lens is a way to understand all of us.” Every one of us is shaped by our early interactions. At any point during the life span, there is genuine insight to be gained by an awareness of the “early” world. Understanding developmental processes gives the social work professional a way to look at the “roots of the system” for everyone. Erikson MSW graduates work as family therapists, supervise home visitors, consult with infancy and preschool programs and advocate for young children and their families in different settings.  

Life-changing expertise starts here.

Learn more about Erikson’s MSW program with one of the nation’s only Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health concentrations. Become a leader in the field and help build bright futures for all young children, families and communities.


Learn more about Erikson’s MSW Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Concentration. 


1“Infant Mental Health in Hospital Social Work Practice”, Social Work Today, Vol. 22 No. 2 P. 24  Authors: Ann M. Matthews, PhD, LCSW, Julia Torquati, PhD, Danielle Swanson, LCSW 

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