Adalinda Sanchez, M.A., LMFT, is a therapist with Change Inc., and is trained in reflective consultation. Adalinda graduated from Argosy University in 2014 with a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and became fully licensed in April 2018. She has been working with Change Inc. since 2014. Adalinda is also bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English. In practice, she places her focus on the neurobiology of trauma. She provides clients with an opportunity to explore the roots of some of the problematic patterns in their lives, find compassion and gentleness even with wounded or undesirable parts, and appreciates the complexity of the choices we make as humans so that they can move forward in treatment from a place of strength, rather than a place of shame.
She applies this same method to those she facilitates reflective consultation for as well. Adalinda started training in reflective consultation in August of 2021 and has been practicing ever since. In order to practice reflective consultation, she went through trainings including those on the topics of cultural awareness and early childhood brain development. Adalinda specifically focuses on early childhood mental health, but shared that the general training for reflective consultation focuses on the FAN (Facilitating Attuned Interactions) approach.
Reflective Consultation and Its’ Importance in Early Childhood Mental Health
Mental health is crucial to the developing brain of infants and children. From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life, meaning that the experiences in the beginning of their life, both positive and negative, greatly impact how their brain develops. A child’s relationships with their adult caretakers can be the most prominent influence on their brain development. And this essential brain development is why it is so important for caretakers of children zero to five to have support in how they’re caring for them.
As Adalinda describes, reflective consultation in early childhood mental health can be defined as “a facilitator working with a caretaker and holding space for that person. The facilitator is trained in certain techniques to support and offer reflective capacities so that the caretaker participant can look at how situations are being impacted by themself and other factors, and finding solutions.” She also notes that “We believe that through reflective consultation, providers can grow and examine emotions and situations through psychoeducation and exploration.” She says that reflective consultation can look different for everyone and that there is no one right way for a session to play out.
Caretakers of infants and children could include early childhood educators and staff, daycare workers, social workers, speech and occupational therapists, or Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) childcare providers, among others. Family, Friend, and Neighbor childcare providers offer legal, unlicensed child care to families across the state and nation. FFN providers are a common type of care for parents of infants and toddlers, parents in diverse ethnic and cultural communities, and parents working non-standard hour jobs. Family, Friend, and Neighbor caregiving is a community-based format of childcare that many rely on, and at Change Inc., we work to provide support to these caregivers.
While it may not always appear in an obvious way, trauma plays a major role in the developing brain of infants and children zero to five. In general, however, most children don’t start therapy until much later in their life, if at all. It’s strange to think, if brain development and mental wellness practices are most actively occurring at a very young age, that we don’t invest more into mental health services during this period in a child’s life. Caretakers are extremely important in a child’s development and young life, so it’s important that time and help is invested into the support of caretakers. Reflective consultation aims to do just that.
Another topic in early childhood mental health that is important to highlight is that children of color are almost always at a disadvantage in infant and early childhood development and are more likely to experience trauma at a young age. Adalinda says this is extremely important to take into consideration and that caretakers of these children are almost like second parents who are essential to supporting their mental health and wellness. This is just another reason why reflective consultation is so valuable to caretakers, even more so to those who provide care or teach children of color.
An important aspect of the work Change Inc. is doing through reflective consultation includes providing consultation sessions to Spanish and Hmong-speaking caretakers. Adalinda provides reflective consultation to caretakers such as those in Spanish-immersion daycare centers or schools. In addition, Change Clinic therapist, Mai Yia Her, is also being trained in reflective consultation to be able to provide sessions to Hmong-speaking caretakers.
More than anything, Adalinda says that reflective consultation is about holding space for the caretaker and making them feel seen so that change can be welcomed and feel less threatening to everyone involved, especially the children. She plans to carry on with her training in reflective consultation to continue helping caretakers that have the most impact in early childhood mental health.