About Us

Deborrah A. Bremond PhD, MPH
Donna R. Weston PhD

Our Story

Our professional journey in the field of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health began in 1985 as intern trainees at the Infant Parent Program at San Francisco General Hospital. Over the years we both have discovered that the academic learning process is firmly anchored in direct experiences trying to help young children and their families with their struggles. It’s a humbling feeling to discover that gaining all that academic learning is only a prelude to developing the ability to use that knowledge effectively to help a particular young child and a caregiver solve their shared interaction problems.

We want you to close your eyes and remember when you finished your training program and started your first job working with young children and families. Did you feel like you knew what to do, what to say, how to connect with your families and how to interpret your observations of parent-child interactions? Or did you find yourself sometimes feeling a bit like an imposter, a charlatan who had little to offer? Maybe you are still completing your pre-service training but already wonder if you will feel prepared for the challenges of your work. We have all been there experiencing self-doubt, feeling not quite up to the task, needing support and reflection on what we do.

Out of these early experiences, we were motivated to think about approaches to the professional development needs of practitioners entering the Infant/family/early childhood field. We developed The Learning Curve as a means to empower professionals working with young children and their families to explore and reflect on their own understanding of what it takes to continue growing in their professional development. This self-assessment is about You, the practitioner. We want to help all practitioners gage where they are in their knowledge, comprehension and application of an agreed upon knowledge base that fuels their work.

Learn About Donna & Deborrah

Donna R. Weston PhD

Dr. Weston is a Developmental Psychologist and Licensed Psychologist with over 35 years of experience in teaching, training, research, and clinical work with young children and their families. She has worked in pediatric outpatient settings, children’s mental health services, developmental disabilities services, intervention research settings, and private practice. Most recently, Dr. Weston was with Early Childhood Mental Health services at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland where she was director of the interdisciplinary clinical assessment team that provided assessment services for the birth to five age range. Dr. Weston directed the Graduate Certificate Program in Infant Mental Health at the University of Washington from 2001 to 2006 and developed interdisciplinary Infant Mental Health training programs for staff members of community based service programs in the Seattle area. Until her retirement from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland in December, 2016, Dr. Weston was a member of the ZERO TO THREE Training Group for the Diagnostic Classification 0-3 and provided numerous training events for practitioners on infant/child psychopathology, assessment, and diagnostic thinking. Dr. Weston’s training includes a PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, clinical internship at the Infant-Parent Program at the University of California, San Francisco, and child analytic training at the Hanna Perkins Center, Cleveland OH.

Deborrah A. Bremond PhD, MPH​

Dr. Bremond has worked as a clinician, administrator, and policy wonk in the field of infant and early childhood mental health for the past 35 years. She has a broad range of experience conceptualizing, developing and implementing integrated service delivery models for the birth to 5 populations. In her work she sought to integrate the importance of early social and emotional development into infant/toddler special education sites, neonatal follow-up programs, and pediatric primary care settings. For 11 years Dr. Bremond was the Director of Family Support Services at First 5 Alameda County. In that position she was responsible for designing and implementing family support services programming by coordinating access and linkages to early childhood services for children at home, in early care and education, and in community-based organizations serving babies and their families. Dr. Bremond’s training includes a doctorate from the Wright Institute in Clinical (child) Psychology, clinical internship at the Infant-Parent Program at the University of California, San Francisco, and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley, in Maternal and Child Health. ​

Our Logo Design

We acknowledge with delight and gratitude the time and effort of Caroline Pilkington (Pilkington Advertising Design) for her work developing our TLC logo.  With her skills as a graphic artist and a fine-tuned ability to listen to us describe our vision for this website, Caroline captured the meanings we hoped to convey in a logo.

Pilkington advertising and design

Professional Engagement - Being comfortable with ones’ own self in order to be with families and young children.

We each must endeavor to recognize our own beliefs and knowledge and recognize that the other person’s sense of meaningfulness is equally as strongly embraced.  Our ability to be respectful of difference or sameness is terribly powerful; it leaves us able to be curious and to understand.

Maintaining a clear sense of comfort with our roles is the essence of sustaining a sense of boundaries and flexibility in these boundaries “as they may need to shift.” More important, it is the sense of true mutual responsibility, the sense of working with a person rather than doing something to that person that is the crucial attitude that protects everyone.

Clinical Formulation – Organizing and re-organizing the problematic situation

Formulation is the process of developing hypotheses about “what is going on” for this child and family at this time.  Formulation involves knitting assessment data together into an understanding of the factors predisposing (history) to the current problematic situation and identifying precipitating (current triggers), perpetuating (ongoing contributing factors), and protective factors (resources and strengths) in order to develop treatment objectives and a treatment plan. (This process may or may not require applying classification system diagnostic labels, depending on funding sources.)

Assessment Approaches - Sit alongside of and observe

Assessment activities are based on the capacity to observe young children and caregivers organized by a general approach to assessment. This general approach is inclusive of family context, parent-child interaction, caregiver representations of self and child, and caregiver behaviors that contribute to adaptive/maladaptive relational health.  The assessment involves compilation of data on familial and child health, functional developmental status, behavioral presentation, and cultural impact on the child and family system. Assessment supports “problem-setting”, the process of naming and framing the problematic situation impacting the child and family.

Developmental Skill Areas – identify the make-up of functional developmental capacities

How able is the practitioner to use knowledge about age-related skill levels to characterize the child’s capacity to effectively employ developmental skills to solve the array of problems that the child encounters in the context of daily activities.  Through observation and interaction based activities, the practitioner determines whether a child demonstrates age level functional competencies across the routines and settings of daily life and in interactions with all caregivers? Or are there difficulties with specific developmental skills that undermine functional competency and limit the child’s capacity to adapt successfully to solve the problems of his/her daily life

Social-Emotional Developmental Processes - The foundation of all relational health

Social and emotional developmental processes contribute to the child’s successes and challenges in social interaction and social “problem-solving”. How able is the practitioner to use understanding of age expected presentations of symbolic play, representational capacities,  social communication cues to engage peers or caregivers, dynamics of individuation, and emerging sense of self, as windows into powerful motivators of a child’s behaviors and reactions. These motivations underlie both normative presentations of challenging behaviors and also support the practitioner’s capacity to identify maladaptive motivational organizations that undermine the child’s developmental trajectory.

Assess your Current Understanding and Knowledge

Completing The Learning Curve will help you to determine your Learning Levels in five knowledge domains that are the foundation of infant/family practice. You will receive information about areas of strength and areas where additional support will enhance your capacity to apply these concepts in daily practice.

Get Instant Feedback To Help Further Your Skills

The Learning Curve will provide you with immediate feedback summarizing your responses in the five Knowledge Domains: Knowledge of Assessment Approaches, Developmental Skill Areas, Social and Emotional Developmental Processes, Professional Engagement and Clinical Formulation. Learn more about the Knowledge Domains here. Feedback will identify your Learning Zones along the continuum from New Concept to Application. Feedback will also identify some Resources (above) for some suggested reading to support your learning process.

See Your Skills Build

Return to The Learning Curve over time as you use the resources to strengthen your ability to apply the concepts. Revisit The Learning Curve to evaluate the impact of your recommended learning activities. Find out about changes in your knowledge base. Strengthening your knowledge base will help you to apply these concepts in work with each individual child who needs the support of your intervention capacities/abilities.