Parent coaching is when one or both parents (or any primary caregiver) meet with a professional coach in an effort to foster goal achievement related to parenting. In this non-judgmental setting, the coach can use psychoeducation and evidence-based strategy to navigate familial issues related to children. It is beneficial to parents who need assistance to increase family functioning and improve communication.1,2,3,4
What Is Parent Coaching?
Parent coaching is useful for any parent, step-parent, or caregiver who needs support to navigate their child’s specialized mental health and developmental needs.5 It can occur in-person, online, or over the phone, including one or both parents (separately or together). During a session, the professional coach provides psychoeducation about the child’s needs and/or diagnosis, offers strategies and support, and fosters communication and coping skills.4,5
Parent coaching is directive and brief with mutually agreed upon goals. In some cases, the coach can connect parents with support groups or resources for long-term assistance. In general, this form of coaching carries an implicit larger goal of re-establishing positive family relationships achieved through the application of smaller goals like improving communication, providing psychoeducation, improving parenting strategies, fostering confidence and self-efficacy, developing solution-focused thinking, and improving metacognitive skills.6
What Can Parent Coaching Help With?
Parent coaching can help with a multitude of issues including transitions and changes. If support is being offered in a therapy setting as part of the child’s treatment plan, it will be more of a consultation—brief and diagnosis oriented. If paid for privately, goals can be broad, more person-centered, and slightly more long-term.4,5,6,7
Parent coaching can help with:
- Transition issues (marriage, death, adoption, etc.) or familial changes
- General behavioral issues
- Learning issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct problems
- Reactive attachment disorder (RAD)
- Suicidal ideation, attempt, or recent hospitalization for a mental health event
- Eating disorders
- Adolescent substance abuse
- Parent in recovery
- LGBTQ support
- Trauma, survivors of abuse/domestic violence
- Acculturation stress
- Facilitating difficult conversations with your child, like adoption, sex, etc.
- New parents
- Screen time issues
- Adaptive communication
When families are dealing with systemic issues it is important to seek a more appropriate therapeutic approach such as family systems therapy. Similarly, if couples are having issues navigating their marriage or parallel parenting, it is important that they seek a family mediator or couples counselor depending on their goals.
Parent Coaching Techniques & Models
Some of the most well-known models of parent coaching include the Hanen Centre model, the Gestalt parent coaching model, and the Parent Coaching Institute model (PCI).7,13,14 Other models include parent management training (PMT), parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), positive parenting program (PPP), and behavioral and emotional skill training (BEST).15 Any parent interested in learning more should consult a field professional.
Hanen Centre Model
The Hanen centre model is clinically-based and places an emphasis on the importance of familial and parental engagement in efforts of perpetuating ultimate success. It has identified the most effective components of parent coaching and compiled them into a four step model.14
These four steps include:
- Prepare the parent to learn: The professional introduces new material to the parent and may provide additional resources for preliminary familiarization.14
- Show and describe the new strategy: The professional introduces the intervention or strategy to the parent. They will also discuss and model the benefits.14
- Support the parent: The professional offers positive encouragement, feedback, and support to promote optimal engagement and success.
- Collaborate with the parent to plan next steps: The professional works with the family to devise a plan for generalization of the strategies in their everyday life.
Gestalt Parent Coaching (GPC) Model
The Gestalt parent coaching (GPC) model is rooted in Gestalt therapy, an approach developed in the 1940s – 1950s. It relies on the principals of the client’s current experience, the therapeutic alliance, and social and environmental factors that influence the individual’s behavior and ability to self-regulate. The GPC model helps parents become major influencers of positive change, providing a safe space to explore and change maladaptive behaviors and improve the overall function of the family.13
Parent Coaching Institute (PCI) Model
The Parent Coaching Institute (PCI) was founded in 2000 by Gloria DeGaetano whose mission is to empower parents to make decisions in support of their children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. She devised a 4-component model as part of her educational curriculum for parent coaches.7
This four-part model includes:
- Parenting as a living system: Parents and children are viewed as changing and growing beings with different strengths and capacities that shape their relationships. Understanding these relationships within the living system is the key to positive change.7
- The functional ecology of parenting: Understanding parental decision-making within their socio-economic and ecological system.7
- Brain-compatible parenting: Coaching with the understanding that each individual develops with unique needs and on their own timeline.7
- Appreciative inquiry: Utilizing strengths-based language and instilling hope and positivity in parents and families.7
Parent Coaching Examples
Parent coaching is particularly effective when working with neurodevelopmental disorders (autism, ADD, ADHD), eating disorders, and behavioral issues, including ODD and conduct problems.4,5,6,7,11,14 In general, it’s a valuable tool for parents who “don’t know where to begin.”
Parent coaching helps parents identify support groups and navigate school accommodations or individualized education plans (IEPs). Coaches can also answer questions about psychoeducation and how neurodevelopmental differences impact learning, relationship-building, and problem-solving. Parents gain knowledge about dealing with the symptoms associated with these conditions such as sensory preferences, overstimulation, lack of focus, hyperactivity, hyperfixation, and social-emotional issues.4,5,6,7,14
Parent coaching is considered an essential part of eating disorder treatment among youth and adolescents as it provides psychoeducation about the origin of the behavior.16 Additionally, training parents to adopt appropriate emotional understanding of comorbid factors such as emotional imbalance, low self-esteem, self image issues, and maladaptive coping is helpful to promote an adaptive response.16
Cost of a Parenting Coach
The average price for a parent coaching session is $100.00, but it can go as low as $50.00 or as high as $300.00 when paying out of pocket.17 Because it can be performed by a variety of providers, cost varies. Many individuals don’t identify parent coaching as part of the therapeutic process; therefore, they can’t consider it “‘therapy,” which raises costs.2,17 Depending on insurance, other providers will offer parent coaching under the umbrella of parent consultation.1,3
How to Find a Parent Coach
Any parent interested in parent coaching should do research online, consult with their providers, and contact their insurance company to assess their options based on needs. You can also use an online directory like Choosing Therapy to find a parent coach, just like you would a therapist, and look for references to the models listed above in their profile.
What to Expect at Your First Session
Depending on insurance, parent coaching sessions can last anywhere between 15-60 minutes. Typically, you will discuss parent strategies, adaptive communication, psychoeducation, intervention, and support.1 Parents who choose to hire a specific parent coach will spend the initial session gathering information and goal-setting based on family needs.2,4,5
Additional providers such as parent partners and parent aids are considered supplemental clinical services and require the clinician to create a goal in the existing treatment plan.1 Initial sessions with these types of providers will be based around making a plan to achieve the identified goal.1
Is Parent Coaching Effective?
Multiple studies determine that parent coaching has a positive influence in the efficacy of treatment outcomes for children, especially in relation to autism spectrum diagnosis, eating disorders, and conduct issues.2,4,5,6,8,11,16,18 From a systemic lens, any parent who wishes to learn helpful strategies to support their child could benefit from parent coaching.13
How Is Parent Coaching Different Than Other Counseling Options?
Parent coaching is streamlined to focus on one specific goal within the treatment plan. As a stand-alone service, it is generally a strengths-based approach to parental education and empowerment.2,3,4,7,17 When utilized adjunct to family therapy, it has a clinical focus on improving the overall system through fostering adaptive strategies, resources, and support.6,8,9,10,11,12,13
Final Thoughts On Parent Coaching
Parent coaching fosters support, understanding, and growth to decrease child issues and improve overall family function. Parent coaches most commonly work with developmental disorders, behavioral issues, eating disorders, and children at high risk. If you’re dealing with parental issues, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there is a broad spectrum of accommodating providers.