Psychologist Recognized for Pediatric Efforts

When Mona Delahooke was 13 years old, a bad case of pneumonia sent her to Huntington Hospital for what eventually became a two-week stay. As she lay in bed during a time before smartphones and computers, Delahooke passed the hours by reading books brought to her room on a rolling cart that an employee pushed through the halls each day. She soon immersed herself in a 1964 paperback called “Dibs in Search of Self,” which chronicles a series of therapy sessions with an emotionally challenged young boy.
“I read that book and told my mom that I wanted to work with kids who had differences like that,” said Delahooke. “It just caught my attention and it really grabbed me and made me feel like that’s what I want to do. It sounded so fun and so interesting. I pretty much stayed on that track.”
Today, the San Marino resident is a clinical and consulting pediatric psychologist who specializes in supporting young children and their parents as they traverse the unexpected path of early developmental challenges. Delahooke’s work in this field, which spans more than 20 years, will be acknowledged on Sept. 17 when she receives the 2016 Greenspan Humanitarian award at the Harvest Moon gala hosted by Professional Child Development Associates in Pasadena.
“It’s super-meaningful to me because, in this work, a lot of what we do is with one family at one time,” said Delahooke, who maintains a practice in Arcadia. “It’s kind of private and a little bit isolating. So to be recognized for the type of work I do is really very special.”
PCDA is a nonprofit organization composed of therapists, psychologists, pathologists and dieticians who provide developmental evaluation, consultation and intervention services for children and their families. Each year, PCDA presents the Greenspan Humanitarian award to members of the local community in recognition of their dedication to supporting children with developmental differences.
“Mona’s a very selfless person, a very generous person who devotes a lot of her time to teaching and training others — both through official conferences that she does as well as just mentoring people who come to her from many different disciplines and want to learn from her,” said PCDA Executive Director Diane Cullinane, who met Delahooke during a training program in Washington, D.C., more than 15 years ago. “This is why she so richly deserves to be recognized for all that she’s done for so many.”
Throughout her distinguished career, Delahooke has offered a wide variety of services for young children experiencing behavioral and emotional difficulties, including autism spectrum disorders, attachment issues, adoption concerns and the psychosocial aspects of medical conditions such as childhood cancer. The mother of three also serves on multidisciplinary treatment teams in California and across the country, helping parents coordinate their children’s therapies.
Delahooke graduated from Maranatha High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from USC, then master’s and doctoral degrees in the same discipline from the California School of Professional Psychology. She returned to Pasadena and began work at a private practice that focused on children ages 5 and up.
“But after about a decade of doing that, I was hearing from individuals and parents about struggles that they might have recognized their children had when they were toddlers or infants,” Delahooke said. “At that point, I realized I needed to learn more.”
In 1996, she traveled to San Francisco, where the renowned Dr. Stanley Greenspan was teaching courses on his “developmental, individual, relationship-based” model. The approach, which PCDA has adopted, encourages parents or caretakers to help young children by meeting them at their developmental level.
“His philosophy filled in the blanks of everything that I needed to know and wanted to know,” Delahooke said. “It was like a perfect fit. I had become really disillusioned with the field of psychology in that it didn’t provide all the answers on how we understood mental health. His philosophy really put all the pieces together because it’s cross-disciplinary. It’s across brain areas and it doesn’t just look at mental health as stand-alone. It looks at it in the context of the child’s whole life.”
Delahooke was determined to glean as much as possible about infant mental health as it pertained to early childhood development. A few years later, she joined a professional study group that fellow child development psychologist Connie Lillas was hosting at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“She really became very intentional about becoming an infant mental health and early childhood specialist,” said Lillas.
“Mona has an enormous amount of passion and empathy for parents. That passion and empathy is so attuned to parents who have been marginalized and unable to get their needs met.”
As a reflective practice mentor, Delahooke now holds California’s highest level of endorsement within the field of infant and toddler mental health. She and Lillas also co-chair the Profectum Foundation, a national nonprofit that aims to advance the development of neurodiverse children, adolescents and adults. Her blog, the Visible Parent, presents tips for parents and dispels myths regarding treatment practices for their children.
“I didn’t grow up with social media and I didn’t grow up thinking about getting information out through the internet,” said Delahooke, who established the blog in 2013. “But it has been a wonderful way to reach a large number of parents and professionals who also share the interest in improving treatment for children with differences.”
Delahooke hasn’t completely abandoned the print medium, though. She completed her first book this month. Focusing on relationships, early intervention and social-emotional development, the publication is set for release early next year. In the meantime, the accomplished clinician is looking forward to accepting the Greenspan Humanitarian award in a few weeks, and even more grateful for the organization bestowing it.
“I couldn’t do the work I do without PCDA because many of the children I see receive services there,” she said. “We’re so lucky to have a multidisciplinary organization like PCDA. What Diane has done through PCDA and the numbers of families they help every day is phenomenal.”

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