Certificate in Early Childhood Mental Health

Early childhood Mental Health social work

This 12-credit certificate program—structured so it can be completed in as little as one year—enables master's level social workers and other mental health professionals to develop expertise in early childhood development, psycho-social risk and resilience, and in providing mental health services to young children (age 0-6 years) and their families and consultation to early care and education providers.

This specialized graduate certificate program prepares clinicians to provide mental health services to children and their families in a variety of settings, including:

  • Early care and education programs
  • Kindergarten and early elementary grades
  • Healthcare and mental health agencies
  • Child protective agencies
  • Head Start, Early Head Start programs
  • Early Intervention programs
  • Other home-visitation programs

It also prepares mental health professionals to provide consultation and form productive, collaborative relationships with parents, teachers, and other adults who play important roles in the lives of young children.

Growing Demand for Mental Health Services

Recent discoveries in brain science have led to increased recognition of the importance and life-long implications of early social and emotional development. As a result, funding and opportunities to provide mental health services to young children and their families are steadily expanding. However, the supply of mental health professionals with expertise in working with very young children and their families is lagging behind the demand.

This shortage is especially acute for mental health professionals who are prepared to work with young children and families affected by poverty, mental illness and substance abuse, domestic violence, and other serious risk factors. Organizations with staff members who have expertise in early childhood mental health have an advantage in obtaining funding and developing and expanding programs for these children and families.

Required Courses

The program includes the following courses, all of which emphasize culturally relevant, strengths-based, and evidence-informed approaches to assessment and intervention. The program is designed so it can be completed in as little as one year of study.

Early Childhood Mental Health, Practice, Policy & Research Provides an overview of the field of Early Childhood Mental Health, its theoretical frameworks, research findings on best practice and other topics, consultation and supervision models, programs for young children and their families, and relevant policy issues. Spring
Child Development: The Early Years Provides a foundation for understanding theory and research on infants' and young children's physical, emotional, social, moral, and cognitive development. Summer Session
Risk and Resiliency in Infancy Assists participants in developing an understanding of the impact of risk conditions and the role of protective factors in infant development, with an emphasis on infants diagnosed with or at risk for developmental delays. Fall
Clinical Practice with Young Children and their Families Enables participants to develop advanced-level skills in engagement, assessment, service planning, and intervention with young children and their families, particularly those at high levels of risk.
(Prerequisite: Completion of the first two courses in the certificate program)

Why Wheelock?

Joint Master of Social Work (MSW) - Certificate Program Option: Students accepted into Wheelock's MSW program may obtain the Certificate in Early Child­hood Mental Health while completing the requirements for the MSW degree. Contact the Graduate Admissions Office for additional information about this exciting program option.

Wheelock College has led the way in promoting best practices for working with children and their families for 125 years. Wheelock is widely recognized for its outstanding early childhood education, social work, and human development and family studies programs. Faculty from these programs, along with staff from Wheelock's Connected Beginnings Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute, possess a wide range of expertise as well as a commitment to trans-disciplinary education and practice.

Participants in the Early Childhood Mental Health certificate program benefit from this diversity of knowledge and skill, as well as from Wheelock's commitment to human rights and social justice, embodied in its mission to improve the lives of children and their families.

Lenette Azzi-Lessing, MSW, PhD, As­sociate Professor of Social Work, is coordinator of the Graduate Certificate Program in Early Childhood Mental Health. Dr. Azzi-Lessing has more than 25 years experience in developing and operating programs for young children and their families and is a recognized expert in policy and practice with this population.

Certificate Requirements

Applicants to the program must hold a Masters in Social Work, Coun­seling, or related, mental-health field, or be matriculated as a student in Wheelock's Master of Social Work program.

Contact Us

To meet with an admissions counselor or to learn more, contact:
Office of Graduate Admissions

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