Emerging Minds

Practice strategies for formulation: Infants and toddlers

About the course

This course is part of our suite on practice skills and strategies that support collaborative engagements with infants and toddlers and their families. These skills and strategies are effective in providing early identification and prevention responses to children’s mental health issues.

In this course, you will consider skills that enable you to centre children’s relational and developmental needs in your existing case formulation practices, to support their mental health and wellbeing.


Foundations for case formulation

This module will explore formulation in the context of infant and toddler mental health.

Skills for infant and toddler mental health case formulations

In this module, you will learn to extend your formulation practices by integrating the ‘ally, advocate and awareness of relationship’ framework. You will be introduced to four practice strategies for case formulation that are pivotal to developing a shared understanding with parents of infants’ and toddlers’ relational and developmental health.

This course focuses on work with children aged 0–5 years. If you would like more information on working with children aged 5–12 years, check out the following courses:


This course deals with themes of family and domestic violence. You may find it useful to also review our courses The impact of family and domestic violence on the child and Family and domestic violence and child-aware practice.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed for practitioners who work with infants, toddlers and families, and who draw on case formulation processes to inform their practice. This may include the following practitioners:

  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • occupational therapists
  • child and family nurses
  • mental health nurses
  • child and family counsellors
  • speech therapists; and
  • mental health occupational therapists.

This course recognises that these practitioners:

  • work with children and families in a variety of settings
  • commonly have extensive experience with case formulation processes
  • have diverse theoretical perspectives; and
  • may be subject to agency or funder requirements when it comes to documenting case formulations.

Learning aims

This course aims to foster an interdisciplinary, reflective and relational approach to case formulation, to enhance your ability to conduct comprehensive infant and toddler mental health assessments and plan interventions.

By engaging with this course, you will be able to:

  • understand and apply ‘the Five P's’ in the context of infant and toddler mental health case formulation
  • apply reflective practice skills that promote infant and toddler mental health
  • explore with parents how nurturing safe relationships informs the foundation for infant mental health
  • develop a contextual and relational understanding of the presenting issue with families
  • explore the family’s barriers and opportunities for social connection within the child’s ‘village’
  • engage in a relational process with parents to develop a deeper understanding and meaning of infants’ and toddlers’ needs.


It is estimated that this course will take you approximately three hours to complete, including reading material and watching videos.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow these self-care tips and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course, and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on

13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or SANE Australia on 1800 187 263.


For the purposes of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.1

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

Social and emotional wellbeing is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy
  • establish and maintain relationships.4

Co-parenting is defined as two or more adults collaborating to raise a child. It recognises that children are parented by individuals but live in larger systems comprising several adults who care for them.5

Reflective functioning or mentalising refers to our capacity to understand ourselves and others in terms of intentional mental states, such as feelings, desires, wishes, goals and attitudes. Mentalising is a quintessential human capacity that is necessary to navigate the social world.6

Parallel process in relationship-based practice describes how certain relationships can impact other relationships.7

Rupture and repair is a concept drawn from Bowlby’s attachment theory. Rupture refers to disconnect or misattunement between parent and child. Repair refers to restoring an emotional connection that feels safe and soothing to the child, by being empathic, warm, loving, accepting, curious, and playful.8

The window of tolerance is described by Siegal (1999) as the optimal levels of both psychological and physiological arousal. The window represents the middle zone between hypoarousal and hyperarousal. In this zone we’re able to self-regulate and tolerate emotions, as well as be present and engaged with the world around us.9

Responsivity, in parenting and child development, is the dynamic interaction between a parent and child, involving sensitivity to the child's cues and needs. It includes active connection, accurate interpretation of signals, and timely responses. It fosters secure attachment, benefitting social and cognitive growth. Responsive parenting combines natural tendencies and learned skills, influenced by socioeconomic factors. Interventions target this interaction for enhanced parent-child relationships.10

Assumed knowledge

This course is part of a suite of products that examine practice strategies to support collaborative engagements with infants and toddlers and their families. These resources aim to improve your confidence in providing early identification and prevention responses to foster infants’ and children’s mental health.

Our course, Keeping the infant and toddler in mind provides foundational knowledge about infants' and toddlers’ development, while Practice strategies for infant and toddler assessment builds your knowledge and confidence in applying relational assessment strategies in your work. We recommend completing both courses before starting this one.


This course draws on the latest research, clinical insights, and the lived experience of our child and family partners. We’d like to thank the professionals and families who played an integral role in shaping this course, generously offering their time, wisdom and unique perspectives.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Ștefan, C. A., Dănilă, I., & Cristescu, D. (2022). Classroom-wide school interventions for preschoolers’ social-emotional learning: A systematic review of evidence-based programs. Educational Psychology Review, 34(4), 2971–3010. doi:10.1007/s10648-022-09680-7
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing.
  3. Everymind (n.d.). Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Everymind.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009, June 17). A picture of Australia’s children 2009: Summary. AIHW.
  5. McHale, J. P., & Irace, K. (2011). Coparenting in diverse family systems. In J.P. McHale & K.M. Lindahl (Eds.), Coparenting: A conceptual and clinical examination of family systems (pp. 15–37). American Psychological Society.
  6. Allen, J. G., Fonagy, P., & Bateman, A. W. (2008). Mentalizing in clinical practice. American Psychiatric Press.
  7. Hause, N. (2022). Reflective supervision and consultation [Webinar]. Zero to Three.
  8. Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39(5), 350–373.
  9. Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind. Guilford.
  10. Morris, S. S., Price, A., McKenzie, V., & Kemp, L. (2023). “You do need to do the interaction”: Mothers’ perceptions of responsive parenting following a home-based parenting intervention. Infant Mental Health Journal, 44(3), 422–436. doi:10.1002/imhj.22037

Ready to start learning?

Register today to access.