Book review: A New Resource from the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health

A review by Deborah Weatherston, PhD, Michigan, USA.

Reflections from the Field: Celebrating 40 Years, Volume 1 (2017) Editor: Joan J. Shirilla, LMSW, MA, IMH-E®
201 pages, including beautiful, color illustrations of infants, toddlers, and families.
Available to order from: at this link:

Joan Shirilla is a distinguished leader of the Infant Mental Health community in Michigan, where she has been the editor of The Infant Crier for over 10 years. She has had extensive experience as an IMH home visiting therapist, supervisor, and reflective consultant to infant and early childhood programs across disciplines and in multiple service settings. She received the prestigious Selma Fraiberg Award for her years of service with and on behalf of vulnerable infants and their families.

This publication is a celebration of the field of infant mental health. The contributors include Michigan practitioners, policy makers, and research faculty whose work and writing have had a powerful impact on the development of infant mental health professionals in Michigan and the growth of the infant mental health community at large. The book is intended for those interested in exploring infant mental health principles and practice. Written by those in the field, each article is deeply rooted in experiences with or on behalf of vulnerable infants and their families.

Part I focuses on relationship centered service and basic principles in observation, listening, and the power of holding others in mind. This approach is eloquently described by Barry Wright, “Evolution of a Model,” as well as specific work with all too familiar but challenging situations, e.g. work with substance abusing mothers and their babies, explored by William Schafer.

Part II introduces the reader to attachment, through Kate Rosenblum’s chapters, “Ambivalent-Resistant Attachment: Dancing with Strong Emotions” and “Together, yet Alone: Avoidant Attachment and the Minimization of feeling.” Case material brings the work of attachment into sharp focus as in “Disorganized Attachment: The Search for the Light Between the Cracks of Pain and Hope,” by Danielle Davey. Doug Davies and Michael Trout offer opportunities to consider the impact of trauma on very young children as well as the benevolent influences on the lives of babies. Julie Ribaudo challenges us to think in new ways in her reflections, “Beyond Mothers: Beyond Singular Relationships.”

Part III zeros in on relationship-based work and includes sensitive writings by Jan Ulrich, “Connecting through Love to Overcome Fear;” Patricia Jedrzejek, “Trauma and Immigration: A Clinical Example”; and Lisa Garcia, “Planting Seeds in the Garden of Infant Mental Health.” Authors bring the theoretical underpinnings of of infant mental health practice alive.

Part IV offers in-depth discussions of Reflective Supervision by those well-known for the art, including, Sheryl Goldberg, “Reflective Supervision/Consultation: What is it and Why Does it Matter?”; Barry Wright; “Reflecting on Training; The Centrality of Relationships”; and Bonnie Daligga, “Joy in the Supervision Experience.” The titles reflect each author’s wisdom and passion for the field.

Part V centers on our capacity for reflection, creativity and contemplation. Selections include: “My Grandfather’s Chair,” by Michael Trout; “Remembering and Never forgetting Erna Furman,” by Kathleen Baltman; “Cubs are for Holding,” by Greg Proulx; and “Waiting,” by Deborah Weatherston.

Part VI presents the practice of saying good-bye in “Pieces of the Bye: The Importance of Preparing to Say Goodbye to Children and their Families,” by Janice Fialka.

In sum, if you are looking for a book that captures the art and heart of Infant Mental Health principles and practice, this is it. The language is clear and elegant, appropriate for an individual who wants to learn a little bit more, as well as for a university or non-degree training program for infant and early childhood mental health practitioners.



Deborah Weatherston, PhD, Michigan, USA