What Is Parent Coaching?

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By Rachel Morris, OTR/L, Director of Therapy

Just as athletes seek out a coach to help improve and refine their performance, many parents are also engaging a coach to make a positive impact on their parenting skills, improve their child(ren)’s performance in daily activities, and address the needs of their family. Research supports coaching as a family-centered, evidence-based practice. So, what is parent coaching?

In traditional therapy services, the therapists use their skills and knowledge to develop and implement therapy plans with input from the family. The therapist typically plans what is done within a session, working on underlying skill development as well as functional activities with the child directly. Parent training is provided but the parents/caregivers may or may not be involved in each therapy session.

What is Parent Coaching?

In contrast, parent coaching services are fully collaborative with both the parent/caregiver and therapist developing and planning the therapy interventions within each session. The parent brings an expert understanding of their child, family, and home situation. The therapist has the expertise in child development and therapy interventions/strategies. Both of these perspectives work together in a supportive relationship to address the family’s needs in practical ways.

The parent and therapist work through a structured process each session using observation, reflection, questioning, feedback, and joint planning to address identified needs. For example, the parent/caregiver and therapist may reflect on the question, “What is the one skill or activity that you think would make the biggest impact for your child, you, and your family?” Based on the response and further probing, the parent/caregiver and therapist will explore the child’s current functioning, decide on goals that are most beneficial for the child and family, explore options, and develop a joint action plan.

What happens at a session?

Coaching session structure typically follows this pattern:

  1. Review of activities, successes, and concerns raised since the last session.

  2. Jointly establish the focus (what is most important to the parent/caregiver) and goal for the session.

  3. Observe how the activity or task is currently done by the parent and/or child and probe strengths and barriers through reflection, feedback, and thought-provoking questions.

  4. Discuss possible strategies and solutions together. The therapist will provide guidance but the parent will determine what would work best for their family.

  5. Provide instruction and demonstration of any new strategies or techniques.

  6. Reflect on the new versus the previous way of doing the activity and make adjustments as needed.

  7. At the end of the session, jointly plan for further practice and/or integration of strategies into daily routines between sessions.

Enablr’s Role

At Enablr Therapy, our speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists can address a variety of activities or routines that are challenging for the child and family. The chart below shows some examples.

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Parent coaching can be done for just a few sessions or over a longer period of time, depending on the needs of the child and family. Additionally, parent coaching can be effectively done in-person as well as online.

Due to their everyday interactions, parents and caregivers have a much greater impact on their child(ren)’s development than any therapist. One of the most effective ways to develop a child’s skills is by working strategies and supports into daily routines. This leads to improvements and promotes the regular practice of those skills. Additionally, caregiver burden can be decreased by reducing extra exercises and activities outside of everyday routines. Parent coaching allows this to happen in a supportive, encouraging, and engaging relationship that prioritizes the child’s and family’s goals and needs.

We are honored to partner with families through parent coaching or traditional therapy services.

To learn more about our therapy services, or schedule an appointment, click here.  

Kraversky, D. (2019, Nov.). Occupational Performance Coaching as an Ultimate Facilitator. American Occupational Therapy Association.  Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Publications/CE-Articles/CE_Article_November_2019.pdf

Contact us to learn more or browse our roster of therapists to book directly!

About Enablr Therapy
Enablr Therapy offers speech, occupational, and physical therapy to people of all ages and abilities through our school-based therapy services as well as cash-based services for individual clients. Individual clients can be seen through convenient online sessions in many states across the country.