Recommendations for mental health professionals in the NICU

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This article describes recommended activities of social workers, psychologists and psychiatric staff within the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). NICU mental health professionals (NMHPs) should interact with all NICU parents in providing emotional support, screening, education, psychotherapy and teleservices for families. NMHPs should also offer educational and emotional support for the NICU health-care staff. NMHPs should function at all levels of layered care delivered to NICU parents. Methods of screening for emotional distress are described, as well as evidence for the benefits of peer-to-peer support and psychotherapy delivered in the NICU. In the ideal NICU, care for the emotional and educational needs of NICU parents are outcomes equal in importance to the health and development of their babies. Whenever possible, NMHPs should be involved with parents from the antepartum period through after discharge.

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