NICU Professionals: Frequently Asked Questions

NICU professionals Hand to Hold FAQs

I’m a NICU professional (social worker, case manager, nurse, etc.) that would like to learn more about your services in order to recommend them to the families I work with at my hospital. Where do I start?

Learn more about the free services we have available to NICU families and the resources we have for bereaved NICU families. For specific information geared towards professionals, visit our NICU professionals page.

Do you have services in Spanish?

Yes! Visit to learn more.

What is a Family Support Specialist?

A Family Support Specialist is a Hand to Hold employee that is a NICU-graduate parent who has been trained to work with other NICU parents in providing support during the challenging course of their child’s NICU stay. Areas of professional development include, but are not limited to:

  • maternal mental health and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders
  • cultural considerations and racial equity
  • ethics, confidentiality and HIPAA compliance
  • best practices in peer support

Family Support Specialists are certified by the state of Texas as mental health peer specialists. Peer support workers are people who have been successful in their own healing journey and who help others experiencing similar situations. They do this through shared understanding from lived experience, respect, and mutual empowerment.

I’m curious about your Virtual Support Groups. How do they work?

Our Virtual Support Groups are for current NICU parents, NICU-graduate parents, high-risk pregnancies and bereaved parents. All groups are hosted on Zoom. Each support group is facilitated by a Hand to Hold Family Support Specialist that is also a NICU or bereaved parent. Parents can view all Virtual Support Groups and register for the group that fits their schedule.

The Family Support Specialist establishes confidentiality guidelines at the start of each group.

Virtual support groups are a safe place for people to share and support one another as everyone involved understands what it feels like to have a NICU journey. Parents are welcome to ask questions of Family Support Specialists and of each other. Family Support Specialists sometimes use themes to drive discussion but always encourage organic conversation and sharing.

Want to learn more? Join us in our monthly Virtual Support Group Q & A for NICU Professionals. Our Family Support Specialists will be on hand to answer all your questions.

Who can participate in the Virtual Support Groups?

Virtual Support Groups are open to parents of current NICU babies and parents of NICU graduates (no matter their age).

We also have support groups specifically for Spanish-speaking families, Black families, and bereaved families.

View all Virtual Support Groups.

Can I attend your virtual support groups or in-person monthly meet ups?

Thank you for your interest in wanting to learn more about how to work with NICU families. However, having professionals in a peer support group changes the dynamics and impact for the parents involved, as observers cannot participate from a place of lived experience. With that in mind, we kindly ask that you please respect the privacy of the families who join our groups by not registering for, or joining, a session.

If you would like further information, please email Christine Tester, Program Manager, at

I want to start my own group to support NICU families. How can I do that?

Hand to Hold plans to offer a support group curriculum, including information on how to facilitate a support group, available for purchase in 2021. Please check back with us in our online store or sign up here to learn when this curriculum is launched. 

What is a Peer Mentor?

Peer mentors are trained NICU graduate parents who have had a premature child, have had a child with a special health care need or have experienced a loss and who are willing and able to assist other new parents facing similar circumstances. Peer mentors provide emotional support and resources to fellow NICU families as the voice of someone who has been there.

How can I refer someone to Hand to Hold to get a Peer Mentor?

If you are working with a parent that you think may benefit from peer support, you may direct them to request a Peer Mentor

Can I fill out a request on behalf of a NICU parent?

While we appreciate referrals, we have found that the peer mentor request must come from the person wanting a mentor.

Our experience has shown that when professionals, family or friends refer a parent to us for a mentor, the parent referred often does not follow through to complete the matching process. They may be:

  • Uncertain about what the program is.
  • Not ready to receive support.
  • Not ready to forge a new relationship.
  • Juggling too many things at the moment.

Whatever the reason, parents must show they are willing and ready for a peer mentor on their own.

Having our informational rack card or other print materials from our NICU Professionals Store on hand will ensure parents have the information they need to reach out for support when they are ready.

If you have additional questions about the Peer Mentor Program, contact our Peer Mentor Program Coordinator, Jenny Landry, at

Tell me more about Hand to Hold’s counseling services for NICU families.

Hand to Hold offers free counseling services for parents and/or couples in Texas looking to process their birth experience or seek treatment for possible perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

The program offers free, time limited treatment (8-12 sessions), to be discussed with the counselor during the first session.

View eligibility requirements.

How can I refer someone to your counseling services?

If a family is interested in receiving counsling and meets all of the eligibility requirements, they can fill out our counseling evaluation.

Similar to our Peer Mentor Program, it is important that a parent or family request the counseling services themselves. Our experience shows that when professionals, family or friends refer people to us for counseling, the person referred often does not follow through with the intake process. The person must be willing and ready for therapy, which is shown by a self-request.

If you have additional questions, contact our Programs Director, Rachel Astorga-McCain.

Why do you only offer counseling in Texas?

Clinicians such as therapists must apply for a license to practice after meeting certain criteria and passing examinations set by individuals states. Typically, therapists only hold a license for the state in which they live and work. To date, Hand to Hold’s counselors are only licensed in Texas.

Does Hand to Hold charge for services provided to parents and their families?

No. Hand to Hold is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and fundraises from individuals and organizations to cover these services and education for the benefit of Hand to Hold families.

Does Hand to Hold staff and volunteers ever give medical advice?

No. Hand to Hold is designed to help families before, during, and after NICU a stay and infant loss by providing powerful resources for the whole family, and most importantly, one-on-one mentoring from someone who has been there. Our resources are by no means a substitute or replacement for care by a physician or therapist (with the exception of our counseling services). Volunteers and staff are specifically instructed not to offer medical advice.

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This page was last modified on Sep 16, 2021 @ 1:23 pm. If you see any information that needs to be updated or corrected, please contact