What Is Online Parent Coaching, And How Can It Help Me?

parent on a laptop for online parent coaching

You might be experiencing some challenges with your child and wondering where to turn to for help. You may have tried making some positive changes to your parenting style based on blogs or books. Perhaps you’ve even taken a standardized parenting class. 

However, you find you’re still experiencing some challenging behavior such as intense or frequent tantrums, power struggles persisting beyond what seems age-appropriate, a combination of mental health and behavior challenges for older children, or intense sibling rivalry. 

If you feel tapped out, this might be the time to try individualized parent coaching sessions. As beneficial as this sounds, we are sometimes limited by busy schedules and family life. This is where online parent coaching might be of help! 

In this article you will find:

What Is Online Parent Coaching?

As the name suggests, online parent coaching is when coaching sessions occur virtually. This can be referred to as using a telehealth model. One outcome from the coronavirus pandemic is that we have learned that telehealth services, including parent coaching, can be just as effective as face-to-face coaching. This means you can access professionals outside of your region for synchronous or even asynchronous coaching sessions. We cover some common FAQs about online parent coaching versus working with someone face-to-face.

Why Would I Want To Hire An Online Parent Coach?

There are a number of reasons online parent coaching might work for your family, rather than meeting with someone in person:

  • You want to save time on travelling to an office visit
  • For whatever reason, you’d rather the behavior specialist/BCBA not come into your home
  • You may have heard of someone you want to work with outside of your region
  • Although you’ve read and tried a lot of different positive parenting strategies, you want someone to help you figure out what is evidence-based and likely to be effective for your family’s context
  • You have considered, or have even tried, an online class or webinar but would rather an individualized program with someone that can support the whole family
  • You would like the convenience of blended synchronous and asynchronous meetings (i.e. some live online sessions but then other aspects of the coaching done when you have time via pre-recorded video from your coach or send them a video you’ve taken)
  • There is sufficient evidence that parent coaching delivered via telehealth (i.e., online), can be just as effective as face-to-face coaching.

Summary Of Evidence On Telehealth For Parent Coaching

At the time of writing, there have been at least 99 quality research studies, published in a variety of academic journals, on the efficacy of telehealth. Of these, 64 were in 2020 in response to the pandemic. 

We now know that parent coaching via telehealth can be just as effective as in-person. This benefits busy families, those living in remote areas or even cross-culturally around the globe where there are few behavior specialists (i.e., Behavior Analysts).

What Might Parent Coaching Via Telehealth Look Like?

While each parent coach is different, and their service should be tailored to meet your needs, you can expect these general steps when working with a Behavior Analyst as your parenting coach.

Assessment And Data Collection

Assessment will always be the focus at the beginning of service. The behavior specialist or BCBA needs to know what skills the child already has, the family context, and what new skills and routines are needing to be developed. 

This also includes gathering information about the child’s strengths and interests, and also the family and child’s goals. BCBAs seek to make objective clinical judgements based on data, while factoring in family context and information gathered through conversation with the family. This process may include any of the following:

  • General intake interview to get to know the family
  • Interviews specific to various topics the BCBA determines they need information about
  • Observation of routines via video conference
  • Data collection on the part of the family to send to the BCBA, or video-based data collection by the BCBA when they either observe synchronously or watch a recording sent from the family asynchronously.

Planning And Training

A Behavior Analyst will use the information gathered in the assessment process to formulate a plan. This will involve how to meet the goals that have been set out in the assessment process, using evidence-based practices.

You will always be asked by a BCBA for your informed consent before starting any intervention or skills training. Often, the initial skills training or intervention will target a specific routine or area in the family’s life, rather than try to change everything all at once. 

The BCBA may use a structured program such as Balance, which is designed to empower parents with the skills they need to prevent emerging challenging behavior in young children. 

The benefit of this program is that it also can be run on the Hi Rasmus platform which has video models, instructions and data collection embedded into a user-friendly app. It’s the ideal platform for synchronous and asynchronous parent-coaching for young children.

While it was studied on children with autism, it is based on principles and practices from behavior science, which can be applied to a variety of young children with emerging challenging behavior.

A BCBA working with you as a parent coach will often use a behavioral skills training model. This is an evidence-based way to teach new skills. Initially they will provide a description of what skill you’ll be working on, model it for you or provide a video model, allow you to practice it on video, and then provide feedback for you. Using this format allows parents to practice the skills they are learning rather than passively listening to a webinar. 

Data Collection

After learning some new skills, you will begin to implement these changes in the routines you’ve decided to work on. Your parent coach/BCBA will have you collect some sort of objective information between sessions. 

This may include taking some data yourself and sending it to your coach, having them observe you live through video conference practicing the skill, or sending them a video to assess. Decisions are made to either continue practicing a skill or move on to something else. 

Monitoring

Progress towards goals is monitored by the parenting coach/Behavior Analyst. As goals are met, you may choose to work on a new one, taper off to less frequent virtual meetings to check in on how goals maintain over time, or wrap up services if you think your needs have been met. 

This process will look different for each family and Behavior Analyst as it depends on the contract you have laid out, and how many goals you have. 

How Do I Find A Virtual Parenting Coach?

The Behavioral Health Collective has a directory of behavior specialists who are certified Behavior Analysts that advertise their services. Similar to finding a psychologist or counsellor from an online directory, you can find behavior specialists here. You can search for practitioners who are specifically taking clients for telehealth or online coaching by using the search function. 

Due to the limited funding to access professional behavioral health services, many practitioners in the BHC Directory offer a sliding scale to at least one client at a time. If you require this accommodation, simply search for practitioners taking on clients with a sliding scale. 

Another benefit of the directory is that you can search by specialization or your specific need. For example: preschool children, adolescents, ODD, ADHD, autism, sibling relationships, social skills development or trauma, to name a few.

You can also simply do some googling to find a BCBA that might be taking clients for online coaching.

Related Podcast: Counseling And Behavior Analysis (with Dr. Katie Saint, BCBA)

Consumer Protection For Caregivers

Here are some important considerations when you’re thinking about hiring a behavior specialist (BCBA) for telehealth parent coaching: 

  1. Are they using a platform that is compliant with your local privacy laws? If you’re concerned about your privacy, consider asking that you use a platform that is secure and has servers in your home country. 
  2. Is there a written contract in place? Ensure it includes clear expectations about fees, services offered, format of coaching sessions, how to terminate the contract if needed and a timeline for services?
  3. What model of coaching will they use? A Behavior Analyst will individualize programming to your family’s context, even if they are using a structured program such as Balance. Before signing a contract, find out if their model and ethos fits with your own personal style and personality.  
  4. What training, experience and certification does the coach have? Are they a self-proclaimed ‘certified parent coach’ or are they a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with expertise in parent training. Some professionals might have a certification in a various parent training program like Triple P.

Bottom Line

There is plenty of evidence to show that parent coaching delivered via telehealth, using a model with the right components, is a great way to access individualized parenting support without leaving the comfort of your home. It provides you access to services from professionals outside of your region, and allows for flexible scheduling if using an asynchronous model. 

No referral is needed for parent coaching. If you are finding yourself facing some parenting challenges, consider contacting a BCBA to work with you as a parent coach. 

In the future, you will be able to use the search function in the BHC directory to find someone who specializes in your specific needs, or simply do a Google search. 

Working with a parenting expert who will individualize their recommendations and strategies for you and your family dynamics can make all the difference not only for you as a parent, but for the whole family.

For even more help, give one of our podcasts a listen today. Here’s one you might find helpful: Providing Behavioral Health Services On A Multidisciplinary Team (with Michele Shilvock, Behavior Analyst at Paramount Pediatrics)

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