Learning to mentalize: Exploring vulnerable parents’ experiences of change during video guidance in an infant mental health clinic
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Psychiatry. 2021, 21, 400. 10.1186/s12888-021-03398-6
Background: Interventions that promote infant mental health face challenges when applied for parents who struggle with psychosocial and psychological burdens. Video-based guidance using the Marte Meo method is used in specialized clinical settings with high-risk families to improve parent-child interaction, parental sensitivity and mentalizing. However, knowledge about the lifeworlds of these parents and their experiences of the therapeutic process during video guidance is limited. Aim: This qualitative study explores how parents in an infant mental health outpatient clinic who had difficulties mentalizing and maintaining an emotional connection with their infants experienced the change process during Marte Meo video guidance. Methods: We identified a strategic sample of parents with difficulties mentalizing and maintaining an emotional connection with their infants through the Parent Development Interview. Twelve parents received video guidance and were afterwards interviewed in-depth. The research interviews were qualitatively analysed via a team-based reflexive thematic analysis. Result: We identified four themes: a) feeling inadequate or disconnected as a parent; b) discovering the infant as a relating and intentional person; c) becoming more agentic and interconnected; and d) still feeling challenged by personal mental health issues. Conclusion: Parents described positive changes in their interactions, in mentalizing their infants, the relationship and themselves as parents, in their experiences of self-efficacy and on a representational level. They also described increased confidence and improved coping despite ongoing personal mental health challenges. The findings suggest that video guidance using the Marte Meo method can be a critical intervention for vulnerable parents but should be coordinated with parents’ primary treatments when complex parental mental health issues are involved.