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Phoenix Center offers infant mental health, parent-child bonding program


The Phoenix Center of Marble Falls is now offering FirstPlay to help new parents create a strong bond with their infants and disrupt intergenerational trauma. The center provides high-quality, research-based mental health services to Highland Lakes youths and their families.

Led by Sarah Garrett, a licensed therapist and registered play therapist, FirstPlay is available in person or via Zoom (telehealth).

Benefits include:

  • increased bonding and parent-child attachment
  • infant relaxation
  • deeper and more sound sleep
  • increased oxygen and nutrient flow to the cells
  • improved digestion
  • increased positive support for parents and caregivers

Infancy is an important time to begin play therapy, Garrett said, especially when trauma or intergenerational trauma are involved.

“Infant brains are malleable and extremely responsive to external conditions — whether positive or negative,” she said. “The earlier a child experiences trauma and adversity, the greater the impact it has on the child’s physical, motor, and cognitive development throughout their life.”

It also works the other way.

“In the same regard, the earlier a child receives interventions — such as infant mental health care — the greater the impact of the treatment,” Garrett added. “Early intervention is the key, and as early as birth.”

FirstPlay is as much about helping the parent as the child. Many new parents might have had traumatic life experiences of their own and lack opportunities to learn better ways to parent. 

“By working with parents and/or caregivers, we can provide positive therapeutic support to new parents who may have not had a secure attachment bond with their parents during their own childhood,” Garrett said. “It is challenging to parent in a loving, nurturing manner if you did not experience it yourself. Through our infant mental health program, Phoenix Center will teach parents how to create a secure and loving attachment with their child and provide guidance on how to read a baby’s cues and respond appropriately to their needs.”

The Phoenix Center is especially focused on working with teen and at-risk parents to provide them with parenting skills that could prevent Child Protective Services intervention in the future. 

The infant mental health program could be a game changer for families that need it, said Teresa Greenberg, a CPS supervisor for Burnet, Blanco, and Llano counties.

“Here in our rural area, availability of services that meet the unique need of the children and families that accept Medicaid or have a contract with our department are extremely limited,” she said. “As such, we are delighted and thankful for Phoenix Center bringing this opportunity to the Hill Country and anticipate the positive impact it will have on our community and future generations to come.”

The program is available to any parent seeking a stronger bond with their infant, including those struggling with the feeling of isolation or postpartum depression. 

With the addition of FirstPlay, the Phoenix Center can now provide support to children from birth through 18 years and their families. 

“As an organization actively working to end generational and childhood trauma, adding infant mental health to our model of care — and beginning our services at birth — is imperative,” Garrett said. “The earlier that we can intervene, the greater the impact we can have on their life.”

For more information on the center’s infant mental health program, contact Garrett at sarah@phoenixtx.org or 830-637-7848.

daniel@thepicayune.com



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