Northwestern Announces New Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Minor

May 31, 2023

Northwestern Oklahoma State University officials have announced that a new interdisciplinary minor will be offered to start in the fall 2023 semester. The infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) minor emphasizes the importance of supporting the developing parent-infant relationship and promoting secure attachments.

The minor will consist of 20 credit hours in the fields of education, psychology and social work, and will be administered through the Department of Social Work. The minor is designed for students in a helping profession with an interest in integrating knowledge of infant and childhood mental health into their professional practice. The coursework guides professionals in understanding the complexities of infant and early childhood mental health for practical application in their major disciplines.

“This minor will support our social service agencies in the region by providing professionals ready to address the wide range of mental health needs of children and families,” Dr. Kylene Rehder, social work department chair, said. “It provides us the ability to prepare students to enter the workforce with key specialized knowledge and elevate the services and resources offered in northwest Oklahoma.”

A specialized IECMH course will be taught by Carol Stocking, MSW, LCSW, program director for the infant and early childhood mental health consultation program at Western Plains Youth and Family Services.  The course will focus on the foundation of theories and assumptions underlying infant and early childhood mental health, ethical and legal practices, and system expertise. Students in this course will learn direct practice skills with infants, toddlers and families, and the identification of appropriate interventions. The course will highlight the importance of working with others, effective communication, complex critical thinking and self-reflective practices.

“Infant and early childhood mental health is about creating and sometimes restoring positive relationships in the infant or young child’s life,” Stocking said. “The secure relationship an infant or young child has with a caregiver is the primary focus of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. Attachment is a fundamental issue that educators, medical providers, child welfare specialists, child care workers, and mental health providers must understand and how insecure attachments impact learning, physical health, and/or mental health.”

Dr. Jen Oswald, Division of Education chair, said, “When polled, students responded with 87 percent interest in participating in the new minor. Students in the survey included psychology, social work and early childhood education majors. We see the interest and are excited to fill this gap.”

For more information on the IECMH minor, contact Rehder at (580) 327-8135 or Oswald can be reached at (580) 327-8451 or at


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