Div. 54 has established a SIG bringing NICU psychologists together to discuss current practices.
By Alexa Bonacquisti, MS, Pamela A. Geller, PhD, and Chavis A. Patterson, PhD
Currently, in the U.S., approximately between seven and 15 percent of infants born each year are treated in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Mothers of NICU infants exhibit elevated rates of postpartum depression and other psychological symptoms, necessitating focused strategies for mental health care engagement. Regular inclusion of psychologists as members of the multidisciplinary NICU team can address maternal psychopathology, promote adjustment and improve interactions among parents and staff (Patterson, 2013). While most NICUs offer some level of mental health support, few have adequate, dedicated resources; even fewer have consistent, comprehensive psychosocial and developmental programs in place or psychologists on staff (Geller, 2013). Continued clinical, research and advocacy work in addressing unmet needs of NICU parents is paramount, especially in light of the unique contributions psychologists provide in improving the experience of NICU families as they navigate this incredibly taxing time (Rapoff, 2013). To date, APA’s Div. 54 has established a Special Interest Group (join Div. 54 Neonatology SIG) bringing NICU psychologists together to discuss current practices. The National Perinatal Association has convened an interdisciplinary task force to establish standards of care for psychosocial support in the NICU (Hall et al., 2015). Additional attention and research are necessary to shed light on the varied psychosocial experiences of NICU mothers and suggest directions for intervention on both the individual and systems levels.
Geller, P.A. (2013). Psychologists in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU): Current issues and challenges. In P.A.Geller (Chair), Psychologists in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Symposium presented at the 121 st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, HI.
Hall, S., Hynan, M., Phillips, R., Press, J., Kenner, C., & Ryan, D. J. (2015). Development of program standards for psychosocial support of parents of infants admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit: A national interdisciplinary consensus model. Newborn and Infant Nursing Reviews, 15 , 24-27.
Patterson, C.A. (2013). System level challenges surrounding psychological support for NICU parents. In P.A.Geller (Chair), Psychologists in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Symposium presented at the 121 st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, HI.
Rapoff, M. (2013). The president’s message: What we do matters. Progress Notes, 37 (3).