Irving Harris Program in Child Development and Infant Mental Health

Infants enjoying a meal

The Irving Harris Program in Child Development and Infant Mental Health provides clinical training, consultation, advocacy, and research in infant and early childhood mental health. Postdoctoral and community fellowships are offered to qualified professionals seeking advanced training in infant and early childhood mental health. 

Program Beginnings

Over 30 years ago, the concept of infant mental health training in Colorado flourished from a friendship developed through a fortunate alphabetical seating arrangement. During a Zero to Three board members' meeting, Robert J. Harmon happened to sit next to Irving Harris, retired executive and founder of the Irving Harris Foundation. The more Bob learned about Irving, the more he was impressed with his passion for and awareness of young children and their developmental needs. Years later, Irving asked Bob about creating an infant mental health program in Colorado. This conversation led to the establishment of the Irving Harris Program in Child Development and Infant Mental Health at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Since its founding in 1996, the program has expanded tremendously. We created a several intensive training programs, as well as research, clinical service, and advocacy programs in infant and early childhood mental health that serve Colorado and beyond. Program faculty provide consultation, supervision, and training to academic programs and community agencies in Colorado as well as across the nation. Additionally, Harris Faculty have developed and/or disseminated numerous early childhood mental health clinical programs including Project CLIMB, Healthy Expectations, Warm Connections, and HealthySteps.

FounderProgram Founder

The Harris Program began in 1996 under the directorship of Robert J. Harmon, MD (in memoriam, 1946-2006), an infant and child psychiatrist and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, with the funding from The Irving Harris Foundation.( https://www.irvingharrisfdn.org/)

Dr. Harmon was a graduate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine (UCSOM) where he also received his post-graduate training in General and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. After spending three years at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD, Dr. Harmon returned to Colorado, joining the faculty of the School of Medicine in 1978 as an Assistant Professor and later becoming Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics in 1992.

Below are some of his many appointments/recognitions during his accomplished career:

  • Certified in General, Child and Adolescent, and Addiction Psychiatry
  • Medical Director of the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) at the University of Colorado Hospital/University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Psychiatric Director of the Women’s and Children’s Residential Services at The Haven, a substance abuse treatment therapeutic community
  • Board member of Zero to Three/National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families
  • Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (APA)
  • Deputy Editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
  • The Kempe Children’s Foundation Professional Honoree for contributions to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in April 2003
  • Author of more than 150 publications on infant psychiatry, infant and family development, and the effects of the death of an infant on the family

Training Philosophy & Goals

  • Highly trained infant and early childhood mental health specialists play an important role in providing services to programs that serve pregnant parents, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families
  • Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) training is crucial for advanced practitioners in mental health and related early childhood fields in order to effectively serve this population
  • IECMH training and practices must be rooted in a commitment to and enactment of social justice with a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and cultural humility (see, Diversity Informed Tenets for Work with Infants, Children and Families https://diversityinformedtenets.org/)
  • IECMH training and practices includes education regarding perinatal and maternal mental health, as well as family and community contextual factors
  • Effective IECMH training includes intensive clinical experience with infants and young children, extensive didactic seminars on core issues of infant mental health, and reflective supervision in groups and individually
  • Trainings incorporate a family-centered and family-strengths perspective and contextualize the psychosocial factors, adversity, challenges, and disorders that impact infants, young children, and their families within systems of care and cultural context
  • Trainings support fellows in becoming critical consumers of clinical and developmental research, and integrate and apply research to interventions and clinical thinking about young children and their families
  • The Harris Program is committed to training a diverse workforce of perinatal, infant, and early childhood professionals to mirror the families served by the field

FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMS

Robert J. Harmon Fellowship in Advanced Clinical Infant Mental Health Training

The Irving Harris Program in Child Development and Infant Mental Health trains postdoctoral psychology fellows and advanced community professionals intending to work in infancy and early childhood systems. The year-long clinical fellowship focuses on training in clinical, research, and systems factors related to pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood. The training involves clinical work in early childhood, didactics, reflective supervision, and professional development. The didactics cover content on development, attachment theory, treatment approaches, diagnostic classifications, perinatal mental health, diversity-informed practice and cultural humility, and socio-cultural influences. The Harmon Fellowship accepts two types of fellows: University-based Fellows and Advanced Community-based Fellows.

University-based Fellows are employed by the University of Colorado School of Medicine at a postdoctoral level, with degrees in psychology (PhD, PsyD) or psychiatry (MD, DO). Fellows work in university-based clinical settings including traditional outpatient services, consultation in pediatric primary care and other medical clinics, early care and education centers, and home-based services (some being bilingual) within UC-AMC programs and community agencies.

Advanced Community-based Fellows are sponsored by the agency where they work and are released to attend the fellowship in-person one day per week for a year. The agency pays for the fellow’s training. Advanced Community-based Fellows hold a masters or doctoral degree in mental health, occupational therapy, speech therapy, early childhood education and allied fields and have a minimum of 3 years experience working with young children and their families. This fellowship is intended for professionals who have the potential to impact service delivery, policy, or education in their agency and community.

Harris Expansion Community (HEC) Fellowship

The Irving Harris Program in Child Development and Infant Mental Health Expansion Community Fellowship offers qualified professionals scholarship-supported access to advanced training in perinatal, infant and early childhood mental health, regardless of their location within Colorado. The HEC Fellowships are generously funded by Caring for Colorado, the Community First Foundation, the Piton Foundation, the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation and the Zoma Foundation. Using remote learning technology, fellows will participate one day per week in a yearlong training program, while continuing to serve young children and families in their community. HEC fellowship positions are available for masters or doctoral level psychology, social work, counseling, and marriage and family mental health providers who are licensed or license eligible with agency supervision. Community fellows are individuals seeking expert training in infant and early childhood mental health, while continuing their current jobs. HEC fellows working at community or private agencies are required to secure release time from their agency in order to participate in the program (for additional details, please see Application).

The seminars cover a variety of topics, including normal infant and early childhood development, temperament, normal pregnancy and pregnancy loss, high-risk infants and parents, developmental psychopathology (including attachment disorders, failure to thrive, and behavior problems), the impact of child abuse and neglect, developmentally appropriate assessment, diagnosis and treatment of infants and toddlers, the treatment of infant-parent psychopathology, and mental health consultation in early childhood settings.

Survey of Infant and Early Childhood Assessment

A 4-week training that provides a background on developmental assessment, how to approach the consultative process, and training on the Mullen Scales of Early Development with ongoing supervision.

Clinical Case Conference

Weekly supervision attended by Harris fellows to share clinical experiences from their primary training sites as well as to present and discuss difficult cases with faculty supervision.

Perinatal Seminar

Focuses on bonding, attachment, high-risk perinatal status, developmental care, pregnancy loss, and consultation to the NICU.

Core Reading Seminar

​Provides an overview of child development, diagnosis and disorders, and clinical treatment issues in the first 5 years of life.

Mental Health Consultation and Supervision in Early Childhood Seminar

Provides an introduction to the concepts of mental health consultation for early childhood settings (i.e., childcare, primary care, developmental early intervention programs and early childhood education settings). Includes training and readings on reflective supervision.

Survey of Dyadic Assessment and Treatment Tools

​Provides information on different assessment and intervention techniques to use with parents of young children. 

Diagnostic Case Review

Discussion of clinical cases from trainees’ clinical sites, focusing on diagnostic and treatment issues and using the Diagnostic Classification system (DC: 0-5) to develop diagnostic formulations.

Infant Mental Health Topics

​Provides more in-depth information on certain infant mental health topics that were briefly covered in the other seminars and exposes fellows to local resources that offer specialized services to parents and young children.

Diversity-Informed Practice in Infant Mental Health

Topics include religious diversity, LGBT families, poverty, discrimination, babies with special health care needs, fatherhood, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, and  transcultural issues with attachment, childbirth, feeding, sleeping, and crying.  

Training Committee

​Monthly meetings between Harris Program directors and fellows to discuss various issues related to the training program and the fellows' experiences.

Contact Us

Stacey L’hommedieu

Program Manager

13001 E. 17th Place

Building 500, Level 4

Aurora, CO 80045

Phone: 303-724-9758

Email: harrisprogram@ucdenver.edu