SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
BERG, Astrid. Infant-parent psychotherapy at primary care level: Establishment of a service. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2012, vol.102, n.6, pp. 582-584. ISSN 2078-5135.
BACKGROUND: Access to infant and child psychiatric care in South Africa is limited. With focus on maternal and infant mental health, early identification and management of developmental, behavioural and psychosocial parent-child problems can be initiated. OBJECTIVES: To establish a mental health service for children aged 0 - 3 years, for delivery of infant-parent psychotherapy in a community setting. METHODS: The DC: 0-3R Classification for Mental Health and Development Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood was used for diagnosis and standard multi-modal parent-infant psychotherapy methods for short-term interventions. RESULTS: A total of 179 infants and their maternal caregivers were seen. The primary referral symptom was faltering weight. The most frequent psychiatric diagnosis made was 'feeding disorder of caregiver-infant reciprocity'. Seventy two per cent of caregivers were exposed to more than 4 stress factors; 75% proved compliant with treatment with resultant improvement in the relationship between caregiver and child (78%) and in the age-appropriated functioning of the infant (76%). CONCLUSION: This study confirms that a psychotherapeutic service for infants and mothers can be established at a primary healthcare level. Infant-parent psychotherapy was effective and readily accepted by the community. This service offers a training model for mental health providers enabling early recognition of mental health problems in children and psychotherapeutic intervention.