The Phoenix Center offers a program on child mental health and parent-child bonding

The Phoenix Center of Marble Falls is now offering FirstPlay to help new parents bond strongly with their children and break through intergenerational trauma. The center provides high-quality, research-based mental health services to youth and their families from Highland Lakes.

Led by Sarah Garrett, a Licensed Therapist and Registered Play Therapist, FirstPlay is available in person or via Zoom (Telehealth).

Benefits include:

  • increased attachment and parent-child attachment
  • infant relaxation
  • deeper and more sound sleep
  • increased flow of oxygen and nutrients to the cells
  • improved digestion
  • increased positive support for parents and caregivers

Childhood is an important time to start play therapy, Garrett said, especially when it comes to trauma or cross-generational trauma.

“Infant brains are malleable and extremely responsive to external conditions – whether positive or negative,” she said. “The earlier a child experiences trauma and adversity, the greater the impact on the child’s physical, motor, and cognitive development throughout their life.”

It also works the other way around.

“In the same vein, the earlier a child receives interventions — such as infant mental health care — the greater the impact of the treatment,” Garrett added. “Early intervention is key, starting at birth.”

FirstPlay is as much about helping the parent as it is the child. Many new parents may have had traumatic life experiences themselves and lack opportunities to learn better parenting skills.

“By working with parents and/or caregivers, we can provide positive therapeutic support to new parents who may not have had secure attachments to their parents in their own childhood,” said Garrett. “It’s a challenge to be a parent in a loving and caring way if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Through our infant mental health program, the Phoenix Center will teach parents how to form a safe and loving bond with their child and provide guidance on reading a baby’s signals and responding appropriately to their needs.”

The Phoenix Center has a particular focus on working with teenage and at-risk parents to teach them parenting skills that may prevent child protective services from intervening in the future.

The infant mental health program could be a game changer for families who need it, said Teresa Greenberg, a CPS supervisor for Burnet, Blanco and Llano counties.

“Here in our rural area, the availability of services that meet the special needs of children and families who accept Medicaid or have a contract with our department is extremely limited,” she said. “As such, we are excited and grateful that the Phoenix Center is bringing this opportunity to the Hill Country and anticipate the positive impact it will have on our community and future generations.”

The program is available to all parents seeking a stronger bond with their child, including those struggling with feelings of isolation or postpartum depression.

With the addition of FirstPlay, the Phoenix Center can now support children from birth through 18 and their families.

“As an organization actively working to end generational and childhood trauma, it is imperative to expand our model of care to include infant mental health — and begin our services at birth,” said Garrett. “The sooner we can intervene, the greater the impact we can have on their lives.”

For more information on the center’s infant mental health program, contact Garrett at or 830-637-7848.

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