Taking Care of the Caregivers: The Moderating Role of Reflective Supervision in the Relationship Between COVID-19 Stress and the Mental and Professional Well-Being of the IECMH Workforce

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The present study examined the relationships between COVID-related stress, mental health and professional burnout in the infant and early child mental health (IECMH) workforce and examined reflective supervision and consultation (RSC) as a potential protective factor in the context of COVID-related stress. Participants included 123 adults (n = 121 female, modal age range 30-39 years) in the TN IECMH workforce (mean years of experience = 13.6 years) surveyed in June/July 2020. Sector representation was quite varied (home visiting, childcare, child welfare, early intervention). Results indicated the majority (63%) of the sample was caring for someone else (e.g., child or elderly person) while working at home, 46% of the sample had depression symptoms (18% in the moderate-severe range), and 75% of the sample had anxiety symptoms (33% in the moderate-severe range). Higher COVID stress was associated with higher internalizing symptoms and burnout levels and this relationship was mediated by self-care behaviors such that the more COVID stress one reported, the fewer self-care behaviors they engaged in, and the higher the risk for internalizing and burnout. Finally, the pathway from COVID stress to self-care behaviors was moderated by RSC. IECMH professionals who received less than 1 year (or no experience) of RSC showed a significant decrease in self-care behaviors during times of low, average and high levels of COVID stress compared to those who received 1 year or more of RSC. Implications for both policy and practice will be discussed.