Redesigned spaces for perinatal and infant health were created through a unique collaboration with the Children’s Museum and established through a philanthropic gift.
Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Women’s Behavioral Health (WBH) program today unveiled a new therapy space in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, designed for integrated perinatal and infant mental health treatment.
The coordinated model, based on emerging science in the behavioral health field, is meant to improve maternal mental health outcomes as well as the parent-infant relationship.
“We often see health care systems set up to treat the mental health of the child or the parent, viewing each as separate patients,” said Courtney Utz, LPC, Director for Maternal Infant Health at AHN. “Our integrative approach with the Maternal Infant Health program focuses on strengthening the relationship between mother and child, addressing both of their needs at the same time.”
The new therapy space – at AHN Behavioral Health Associates, 5140 Liberty Avenue – is a key component of the WBH integrative model of care. Through that model, mother and baby can receive comprehensive access to perinatal and behavioral health care in a safe, symbiotic treatment setting.
Studies have shown that maternal postpartum mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, can impact the relationship between mother and child. An integrated approach that addresses both issues simultaneously can lead to improved outcomes for both parents and young children.
The new space includes an observation booth with a one-way mirror for the clinician, and equipment including a microphone and earpiece that allow for live coaching from the clinician to the parent during the therapy session. Clinicians can work with parents and caregivers to help them understand and read their child’s emotional needs, support their child’s ability to manage emotions, enhance their child’s self-esteem, and develop secure parent-child interaction.
The therapy space was designed to accommodate various outpatient therapeutic techniques, including Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). PCIT is an evidence-based, early intervention program – providers coach parents during real-time interactions with their children, using therapeutic parenting practices proven to decrease problematic behaviors, improve children's language, and encourage children to follow directions. Funding for the therapists’ PCIT training was awarded to the Women’s Behavioral Health program by the Jewish Women’s Foundation in 2022.
The new therapy room, Utz said, will complement the comprehensive care that is being provided just a few blocks away at the nationally recognized Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Perinatal Mental Health.
At the Alexis Joy D’Achille Center at West Penn Hospital, a second space was also recently redesigned to offer engaging, therapeutic childcare programming and developmental activities for young children whose mothers are receiving perinatal mental health treatment at the center.
That childcare space, like the therapy space at AHN Behavioral Health Associates, reinforces the critical bond between mother and child, and underscores AHN’s commitment to provide care to the mother and child simultaneously.
For design guidance, clinicians from AHN teamed up with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to ensure that both rooms were developmentally appropriate and engaging for children and parents alike.
“The Children’s Museum appreciates the opportunity to work with the Women’s Behavioral Health team to refresh the spaces, focusing on specific ways we can support social-emotional learning by adding beautiful and playful elements that everyone can enjoy,” said Anne Fullenkamp, senior director of creative experiences for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Renovations of both the therapy room and the childcare space were made possible by a personal donation from David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark Health, and his wife, Kim.
"The work of the Women's Behavioral Health team is vitally important to the health and happiness of both mothers and their babies," shared Kim Holmberg. "Perinatal mental health is near and dear to our hearts, and we're proud to support such a great program offered at AHN."
“The generosity of the Holmbergs opened the door for us to design state-of-the-art therapy and childcare spaces that will provide tremendous benefit to the patients of the Maternal Infant Health program,” said Allie Quick, Chief Philanthropy Officer for AHN. “We can’t thank the Holmbergs enough for allowing us to enhance this unique program, allowing it to become a model of care that can be adopted by other health care systems nationwide to address perinatal and infant mental health.”
For more information on the AHN Women’s Behavioral Health Institute, visit their website at https://www.ahn.org/services/womens-health/behavioral-health/perinatal-depression-symptoms.html.
About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, multiple employed physician organizations, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more. AHN employs approximately 22,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.