The Mothers' and Toddlers' Program (MTP) broadens the focus of substance abuse treatment to encompass parent-child relationships. The MTP aids mothers to recognize their own, and subsequently their child's, emotional cues aiming to improve the emotional quality of the mother-child relationship and decrease the mother's preoccupation with drugs.

Many abused substances, such as cocaine and heroin, have been shown to affect pathways in the brain associated with the initiation of behaviour, hedonic reward, and motivation – pathways also thought to be critically involved in an adult's capacity to invest in the care of children. Continued drug abuse can "hijack" this value system and may create competition between caring for children and using drugs.

The authors believe that as the caregiver's capacity to recognize and respond sensitively to children's emotional cues improves, the caregiver's emotional investment in the relationship will increase and the preoccupation with drug use may decrease. "We expect that, if this intervention helps mothers become more emotionally 'in sync' with their children, it will improve the emotional quality of their relationship and possibly 'reset' the focus of the reward system" they state.

The MTP has been in development for the last five years. The aforementioned pilot study consisted of twenty-five mothers caring for children from birth to 16 years of age in New Haven, Connecticut. In the pilot study, MTP demonstrated preliminary promise in helping substance abusing mothers recognize their own and their children's emotional states. The pilot project, part of a second four-year NIH-funded pilot study for mothers of children ages 12 to 72 months, is currently in its second year.

MEDICA.de; Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.