Journal of Perinatology (2015) 35, S14–S18. doi:10.1038/jp.2015.144

Recommendations for mental health professionals in the NICU

M T Hynan1, Z Steinberg2, L Baker3, R Cicco4, P A Geller5,6, S Lassen7, C Milford8, K O Mounts9, C Patterson10, S Saxton11, L Segre12 and A Stuebe13

  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI, USA
  2. 2Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  3. 3Department of Social Work, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
  4. 4Department of Neonatology, West Penn Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  5. 5Department of Psychology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  6. 6Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  7. 7Department of Pediatrics, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA
  8. 8Cheryl Milford Consulting, Huntington Beach, CA, USA
  9. 9Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care/Perinatal Foundation, Madison, WI, USA
  10. 10Division of Neonatology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  11. 11Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology, Health and Science University, Portland, OR, USA
  12. 12College of Nursing, and Department of Psychological and Brain Science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
  13. 13Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Correspondence: Dr MT Hynan, 9836 Leeward Avenue, Key Largo, FL 33037, USA. E-mail:

Received 1 September 2015; Accepted 18 September 2015



This article describes recommended activities of social workers, psychologists and psychiatric staff within the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). NICU mental health professionals (NMHPs) should interact with all NICU parents in providing emotional support, screening, education, psychotherapy and teleservices for families. NMHPs should also offer educational and emotional support for the NICU health-care staff. NMHPs should function at all levels of layered care delivered to NICU parents. Methods of screening for emotional distress are described, as well as evidence for the benefits of peer-to-peer support and psychotherapy delivered in the NICU. In the ideal NICU, care for the emotional and educational needs of NICU parents are outcomes equal in importance to the health and development of their babies. Whenever possible, NMHPs should be involved with parents from the antepartum period through after discharge.