In this blog Peter Toolan, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist and Clinical Lead for our NEWPIP Service explains why such a service is needed.

NEWPIP (Newcastle Parent Infant Psychotherapy Service) is a psychotherapeutic service to help parents/care givers and their baby (up to 2 years old) develop a healthy relationship. Established in 2017 it is helping babies and their mother, father, grandparent, foster carer or adoptive parents throughout Newcastle.

Understanding the neurobiology of babies helps us to have a more accurate perception of what babies can and can’t do and what they need. The first 1001 days of life is a critical period for a baby’s emotional development during which they learn to experience, regulate and express emotions and form close and secure relationships. Experiences during this time shape a person’s emotional responses, cognitive functions and behaviours throughout life, forming the foundation for their lifelong emotional and mental health as well as their physical health.

One reason for working with babies and parents who need help, in the 1001 critical days’ period is that things are not fixed, they are in a developmentally critical phase of sensitivity and very rapid brain development.  This sensitivity or ‘plasticity’ of the baby’s brain at this time represents both great potential but also risks.

“Neurobiological, neuropsychiatric and attachment data clearly indicate that prevention and intervention should begin even before the nursery, during pregnancy, and extend through the perinatal and postnatal period, the interval of the brain growth spurt.” [1]

Emerging international literature is beginning to describe consistent impacts of ACEs (Adverse Experiences in Childhood), on behaviour, and both physical and mental health outcomes across a variety of nations [2, 3,]. Neurobiological studies have already identified changes to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex associated with ACEs, while epigenetic studies are exposing gene-environment interactions with negative health consequences once exposed to stressors [4].

The good news is that early intervention can really make a difference. Even a few sessions for parent(s) and baby who are struggling to form secure relationships can help parents to move beyond ways of thinking and feeling about their babies which might have become troubled and/or ‘stuck’. 

At NEWPIP our skilled and specially trained therapists’ link into a national network of other ‘PIP’s around the country to ensure latest research and best practice are applied for the benefit of families right across Newcastle. Our approach is to work sensitively and with discretion with families from all backgrounds and circumstances all of whom deserve to receive help and support at this most important stage of their babies’ lives.

Early intervention like this has become a specialist field over the past 30 years and is recognised as important by the UK Government through the ‘1001 Critical Days all-party group’ and by the Association for Infant Mental Health UK.

Research clearly indicates that early intervention can have a positive impact on the trajectory of common emotional or behavioural problems as well as outcomes for children with serious disorders [5]

The earlier intervention is available the more chance there is for change, as very young children are significantly affected by the impact of adverse and good relationships.  Their problems are more likely to be ameliorated the earlier the intervention and the more likely these problems may prove to be transient rather than persistent.

Thus it is imperative for early intervention services to be available in order to maximise healthy development. [6] It is why NEWPIP is needed and why Children North East is working hard to raise awareness of the importance of this early intervention service to improve outcomes for babies and their future.

NEWPIP is funded by Newcastle City Council through the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s Transformation Challenge Award.

REFERENCES

  1. Schore, A. (2003) Early relational trauma, disorganised attachment and the development of a predisposition to violence. pp 106-167 in: Solomon & Siegal (Eds.) Healing Trauma. The Guilford Press.
  2. Bellis MA, Lowey H, Leckenby N, Hughes K, and Harrison D: Adverse childhood experiences: retrospective study to determine their impact on adult health behaviours and health outcomes in a UK population. J Public Health 2013.
  3. Sethi D, Bellis MA, Hughes K, Gilbert R, Mitis F, Galea G: European Report on Preventing Child Maltreatment. Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe; 2013.
  4. Danese A, McEwen BS: Adverse childhood experiences, allostasis, allostatic load, and age-related disease. Physiol Behav 2012, 106:29–39. 2011, 199:29–37.
  5. Music, G. (2011)
  6. Joyce, A. (2005)