An exploration into the activities, perceptions, and understandings of the role of the psychologist in infant mental health service provision
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Aims: Research in the field of Infant Mental Health (IMH) suggests a lack of clarity and understanding regarding the practice of IMH and the boundaries that define the roles of professionals who work in this area. The overarching aim of this thesis is to explore professional roles and practices within multidisciplinary IMH service provision, with a particular focus on demystifying the role of the psychologist in their work with young infants and their families. Method: This study adopted a convergent parallel mixed methods approach to data collection, with Activity Theory being utilised as a guiding psychological framework. Quantitative data was gathered from psychologists working in multidisciplinary teams across Ireland using an online questionnaire. Semi-structured interviews were utilised to gather qualitative data from both psychologists and other professionals working with young infants and their families. Findings were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Results: Results offer a descriptive picture of the role of the psychologist through the creation of an Activity System model. Key findings include how psychologists meet the social and emotional needs of young infants by adopting an IMH framework. Moreover, findings indicate that a multidisciplinary approach to IMH is considered valuable, yet role boundaries between professionals in this area are not clearly defined. Finally, perceptions of the psychologist’s role and aspects of practice that are distinctive to the discipline of psychology are explored. A critical examination of the ‘unique contribution’ of the psychologist to IMH contexts is discussed. Conclusions: This small-scale exploratory study provides insight into professional roles in IMH contexts and has identified potential considerations for psychology practice and for multidisciplinary services dedicated to supporting the emotional wellbeing of infants.
KeywordsInfant mental health
Role of psychologist