Session 4–Integrating interpersonal and neurobiological processes with tiered interventions: relationships, brains and behavior

Join this session that will promote understanding of how we can continue to cultivate the various ways of “knowing, doing and being with” young children as we work to support their healthy social and emotional development. Beginning with the critical importance of “wondering” and exploring the implicit and explicit models of human development that undergird our work, we will consider paired frameworks for growth. Human frailty in the practitioner and in the family will be examined, including how implicit bias and confirmation errors frequently operate “below the radar” and influence our behavior. This session will focus on how two practice approaches – tiered promotion, prevention, and intervention (e.g., the Pyramid Model) and Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, also known as social and emotional development – are inherently complementary when promoting skill development in both the professional and the child. Amplifying this “both/and” approach is the added consideration of interpersonal neurobiology. Research confirms that affective and interpersonal forces are always operating within human beings. When behavioral interventions also attend to the lack of clear intention or choice with respect to these forces, we are better able to reduce interventions’ ineffectiveness.

This session will offer a practice framework that braids IECMH practices and neurobiology into a tiered intervention approach, leading to the goal of improved outcomes. Practices that enhance our capacities for “presence”, “attunement” and self-discovery will be discussed, and the need for a reflective posture will be affirmed. In the end, modesty, humility, connectedness and “wonder” in our work will be seen as important as knowledge and skill in supporting professionals and families in search of well-being.

The following learning domains of the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIPs) (as reimagined for the adult learner) are reflected in this plan:

  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Approaches to Learning
  • Social Systems
  • Scientific Thinking

This plan adheres to every principle articulated in the Minnesota Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) principles.

As a further resource, view this YouTube video: Special Advocacy with Dr. Gerard Costa (relevant section: 13:59 to 15:52).

Session objectives

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the influence of underlying models and beliefs about human development that often guide their interpretations and actions without awareness.
  • Learn about interpersonal neurobiology and the critical importance of attunement and co-regulation in the development of infant and early childhood mental health.
  • Learn and understand six “guiding principles” in infant mental health.
  • Understand “confirmation bias” and be able to describe the ways in which implicit bias operates “below the radar”.
  • Understand and integrate interventions that focus on behavior and skills (“back end”), with approaches that honor individual differences, developmental capacities, emotional, interpersonal and neurobiological processes (“front end”).
  • Be able to describe a framework for “Professional Formation” that entails three interrelated “ways” of development: knowing, doing and being-with.
  • Understand the power of presence and the non-verbal aspects of therapeutics.

MN CoE innovations supported

Pyramid model

Intended audience

Multidisciplinary Professionals in the 0-5 work

Each session requires a minimum of 10 attendees to be held. If there are fewer than 10 registered for a specific session, you will be contacted and asked to select another session.


Gerard CostaGerard Costa, PhD, IMH-E®

Gerard Costa served as the founding director of the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, and a Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Montclair State University. He is a member of the faculty of the Infant and Early Childhood Development (IECD) Ph.D. program at Fielding University (formerly the ICDL Graduate School). He serves as a trustee and President of the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning, founded by Drs. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, and has served as a consultant to ZERO TO THREE for the past 20+ years. He is one of the first 16 “Expert Faculty” selected by ZERO TO THREE in the new DC: 0-5 (2016) Classification system. He sits on several state and non-profit boards and was appointed by two New Jersey Governors to serve on the New Jersey Council for Young Children, where he headed the Infancy and Early Childhood Mental Health committee.

He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Temple University and was one of the first 16 recipients of the DIR certificate by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena Wieder. He is a trained faculty member in the Brazelton Touchpoints Model and holds a “Self-Reg” Certificate from the MEHRIT Center in Canada, led by Dr. Stuart Shanker. He holds an endorsement as an Infant Mental Health Clinical Mentor, through the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health and Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health. He led a 4-year Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health systems development project in partnership with Child Development Services of Wyoming and the Wyoming Developmental Disabilities Division and is the principal author of a 15 module Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health training curriculum. He led a multi-year training and consultation project with 25 Infant Mental Health mentors with South Dakota Voices for Children, and he led a strategic planning initiative with the Missouri Association for Infant Mental Health-Early Childhood. He has presented keynotes, workshops and trainings at hundreds of events and programs. Since 2018, he serves as the Coordinator of the Northeast Regional Terrorism and Disaster Coalition. He served as the Principal Investigator of the New Jersey Inclusive Education Technical Assistance (NJIETA) project, an $8 Million, 5 ½ year project advancing full inclusion in New Jersey Public Schools. He is past president of the NJ Association for Infant Mental Health, and is President of the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning (ICDL).

Dr. Costa has been honored with numerous awards including the Christian Kjeldsen Champion for Children Award by the NJ Child Care Advisory Council, the Lucille Weistuch Early Childhood Special Education Award, by the New Jersey Division for Early Childhood (NJDEC), and the Golden Bell Leadership Award, by the New Jersey Mental Health Association. He has conducted presentations and trainings in 31 states and 11 countries, and he is the recipient of numerous awards. He is a NJ licensed psychologist and is the author of articles and book chapters on autism, infant mental health and professional formation. He is the 2021 recipient of the Weatherston Leadership in Infant Mental Health Award, from the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health.