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Gerard Costa

Professor, Family Science and Human Development, Family Science and Human Development

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Gerard Costa, Ph.D., DIR-C®-Training Leader, IMH-E-IV ®Mentor-Clinical
(June 2016)
Brief Biographical Description
Dr. Gerard Costa is the founding director of the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health and Professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education, in the College of Education and Human Services at Montclair State University. The Center offers:

Clinical services with developmental and relational models of assessment and intervention for children with autism and other developmental disabilities, and

Infant, infant-parent (dyadic) and early childhood mental health services,

Professional development and consultation programs including:

A Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Developmental Models of Intervention, (15 graduate credits)

A Post Master’s Certificate in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health(15 graduate credits)

Consultation and training services for schools and programs seeking increased competencies in developmental and multidisciplinary interventions for children with autism and other developmental disabilities,

Consultation and training services integrating mental health in infancy, childhood and school-based programs, including a mental health promotion curriculum, Zippy’s Friends, and

The Center was awarded a 5 year, $3+ million award by the NJ Department of Health, Governor’s Council for Medical Treatment and Research of Autism, and designated as the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) Coordinating Center, overseeing nine clinical research sites in the state,

Development and delivery of the 21-hour Infant Mental Health curriculum, Keeping Babies and Children in Mind, funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families,

Designation as a Brazelton Touchpoints Center training site,

Registered Parent Educators of the Circle of Security-Parenting program,

Trainer in Qigong Sensory Protocol for parents of children with autism and other neurosensory difficulties,

Provider of certified Lamaze Childbirth Education, and

Planning professional development program for clergy formation, in infant, child and family development

Dr. Costa was the founding director of the YCS Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health, a training and consultation, clinical service and research program concerned with the optimal development of infants and children, birth to six years, within the context of their relationships.

He is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Rutgers University – New Jersey Medical School. He served as the first project director of the Child Development-Community Policing Project of Newark, a mental health-police partnership affiliated with Yale University, aimed at reducing the impact of violence in child victims and witnesses. He served as a Clinical Instructor at Yale University’s Child Study Center where he worked with the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence. He served as a consultant to the Violence Institute of New Jersey at UMDNJ, developing the training curriculum for the Safe Start Program – one of 11 federally funded programs working on establishing multi-agency collaborative responses to children exposed to violence. He is a trainer of Safe Havens – a training program for early childhood program staff to work with children and families exposed to violence. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the ICDL (Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders, ) and serves on the DIR Institute and ICDL Graduate School Faculty, founded by the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Dr. Serena Wieder. He was among the first 16 faculty members issued a Certificate in the DIR Approach by ICDL. He has served as a consultant to ZERO TO THREE and the Early Head Start –National Resource Center, serving as one of 22 national consultants for the Pathways to Prevention project, an infant mental health initiative for selected Early Head Start programs, and was a trainer in the ZTT response to child care consultants serving children and families affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He served as a national and trainer for a ZTT initiative, Coming Together Around Military Families (CTAMF) where he worked with staff providing services to children and families of deployed military personnel from military installations throughout America. He is a certified faculty member of the Brazelton Touchpoints model (BT) and served on the adjunct faculties of Fairleigh Dickinson, Rutgers and Seton Hall Universities. He served on the planning team and headed New Jersey’s delegations to the 2005 and 2007 Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Systems’ Development Summits. He has been an invited presenter on infant mental health by ZERO TO THREE, the federal Head Start Bureau, Save the Children, and other national organizations. He also serves on the advisory board and as a consultant/trainer to the New York Center for Child Development.

Dr. Costa currently serves on the Advisory Board of the New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (NJCAP) Program and is a Member and Past President of the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health (NJ-AIMH). He served on the BUILD NJ Committee, addressing public-private initiatives for early learning, birth to five years of age, the NJDHSS Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) Committee, and the New Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative (SFI) Task Force.

Dr. Costa received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Temple University. He received specialized training in Infant Mental Health from Michael Trout and Thea Brea, and has conducted trainings and workshops in Infant Mental Health throughout the United States. As head of the YCS Institute, he led a 4-year Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health systems development project in partnership with Child Development Services of Wyoming and the Wyoming Developmental Disabilities Division. He is the principal author of a 15 module Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health training curriculum. In 2009-2010, he led a yearlong training and consultation project with 25 Infant Mental Health mentors with South Dakota Voices for Children. He has presented his work on an Infant Mental Health consultation model for infant and early childhood programs at the ZTT National Training Institutes. He is a former Head Start Director and has worked in early intervention programs since 1984. He chaired the New Jersey School Boards Association's Early Childhood Education Ad Hoc Study Committee (1989-1990), which resulted in publication of the NJSBA book, Early Childhood Education: An Agenda for Young Children. (By Patricia Patracco).

His recent publications include:

Stronger than the storm: Keeping infants and young children in mind during the response to superstorm Sandy, (2013), co-written with Kathleen Mulrooney and Nicci Spinazzola. Zero to Three, November 2013, 42-49.

What Staff Development Activities Can Be Used to Build Reflective Capacity? (Chapter 9) (2009), co-written with Lorri Sullivan, in S.S. Heller and L. Gilkerson (Eds.), A Practical Guide to Reflective Supervision. Washington, D.C: ZERO TO THREE Press.

Pervasive developmental disorders (Chapter 4)(2009), co-written with Molly Romer Witten, in B. Mowder, F. Robinson and A. Yasik (Eds.), Evidence Based Practice in Infant and Early Childhood Psychology, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Son, Publishers.

Better treatment for Candace: How trained psychotherapists would have approached this case (Chapter 6), in Attachment Therapy on Trial: The Torture and Death of Candace Newmaker (2003), by Mercer, J. Sarner, L and Rosa, L. (Praeger Publishing: Connecticut)

The wizard of echolalia. In R. Naseef and C.N. Ariel, (Eds.) Voices from the Spectrum.(2006) New York: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Mental Health Principles, Practices, Strategies and Dynamics Pertinent to Early Intervention Practitioners (Chapter 5), In G.M. Foley and J.D. Hochman, (Eds.), Mental Health in Early Intervention: Achieving Unity in Principles and Practice (2006), Paul T. Brookes Publishers

A Model for Integrating Infant Mental Health Principles and Practices in Early Intervention Services (Chapter 22), in B. Williams (Ed.), Direction in Early Intervention and Assessment (2004), Spokane, Washington: The Guild’s School

He has a special interest in relationship-based approaches to autistic-spectrum disorders. He has practiced as a psychotherapist for over 30 years, and is a licensed psychologist residing in Bergen County, New Jersey where he has a small private practice specializing in program trainings and consultations. He holds certificates in DIR-C®, the Brazelton Touchpoints Model and is one of the first three clinicians in New Jersey to be awarded the IMH-E-IV ®– Mentor-Clinical endorsement in infant mental health through the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, a member of the 17 “League of States” under the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health Competency Guidelines and Endorsement System. He has appeared as an expert in several professional training videotapes, including serving as a content and script consultant, and appearing in a 2005, 2-part videotape series, Identifying Signs of Stress in Young Children, developed by New Jersey based organization, Programs for Parents, Inc., to assist infant and early child care providers understand socio-emotional development in infants, toddlers and preschool aged children, and early signs of emotional delays and maltreatment.

In April 1994, he was awarded the biennial Distinguished Service Award by the New Jersey Early Intervention Coalition in recognition of his work as a consultant to programs throughout the state. In April 2003, the New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (CAP) Program selected him as a recipient of their 2003 Annual Award as a Mental Health professional for outstanding work in the prevention of child abuse. In October 2007, Dr. Costa was awarded the Christian Kjeldsen Champion for Children Award by the Child Care Advisory Council of the Department of Human Services of the State of New Jersey. In January 2010, Governor Jon Corzine appointed Dr. Costa as one of 25 representatives and experts to the newly established New Jersey Council for Young Children, an early learning council addressing birth to 8 year olds, federally mandated for all 50 states. In June 2010, the Mental Health Association in New Jersey awarded a Golden Bell Leadership Award to Dr. Costa for his vision in creating the YCS Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health. In May 2013, Dr. Costa was awarded the annual Commissioner’s Teamwork/Partnership Award by Dr. Allison Blake, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. In October 2013, Dr. Costa was awarded the annual Lucille Weistuch Early Childhood Special Education Award from the New Jersey Division for Early Childhood (NJDEC). In April 2014, Montclair State University issued the first ever Provost’s 2014 Grant Recognition Award to Dr. Costa for being awarded the highest external funding for the prior fiscal year. In May 2014, Dr. Costa was one of two recipients to receive the inaugural Todd Ouida Children’s Hero Award, by the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation, in recognition of his contribution to infant and early childhood mental health.

Gerard Costa, Ph.D.
Director and Professor, ECELE
Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health
Montclair State University
College of Education and Human Services
14 Normal Avenue
Montclair, New Jersey 07043
973-655-6675; Email:
Fax: 973-655-5376

New Jersey Licensed Psychologist- Number SIO-03095