What Is Online Parent Coaching, And How Can It Help Me?
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 or power struggles persisting beyond what seems age-appropriate, a combination of mental health and behavior challenges for older children, or fierce sibling rivalry.
If you feel tapped out, this might be the time to try individualized parent coaching sessions. However, as great as this sounds, we are sometimes limited by busy schedules and family life. This is where online parent coaching might be of help.
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 many services delivered via telehealth, 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
You may have heard of someone you want to work with outside of your region that specializes in a challenge you are facing (e.g., ODD, ADHD, other neurodivergent diagnoses)
You live in a remote area in which there are no in-person parent coaching services available
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 abd might benefit from a quick consult or just a few hours of service
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 Behavioral Assessment & Interventions
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 for behavioral assessments and interventions. Of these, 36 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 analysts or other behaviour specialists. These research studies mainly cover behavior analytic interventions so should not be interpreted to mean that any parent coaching delivered online will be as effective as in-person, but, it does demonstrate that with sound science and thoughtful mediation via telehealth, behavioral assessments and interventions can be just as effective as in-person services.
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 parenting coach. This is especially true if the coach is a behavior analyst (‘BA’ e.g., BCBA or IBA).
Assessment And Data Collection
Assessment will always be the focus at the beginning of service. The parent coach needs to know what skills the child already has, understand the family context and values, and what new skills and routines are needing to be developed.
This also includes gathering information about the child’s strengths and interests, and the family and child’s goals. The parent coach will 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 coach determines they need information about (e.g., sleep routines, school attendance, family routines)
Possible observation of routines via video conference (if relevant)
Data collection on the part of the family to send to the coach/behavior analyst, or video-based data collection by the BA when they either observe synchronously or watch a recording sent from the family asynchronously (data collection may not be part of the assessment process for all behavior coaches, depending on their training, credentails and ethical obligations. Behavior analysts will always collect data)
Planning And Training
The parent coach 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.
If working with a behavior analyst, you will always be asked 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.
A parent coach 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 analysis, which can be applied to a variety of young children with emerging challenging behavior.
A parent coach may 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 information.
After learning some new skills, you will begin to implement these changes in the routines you’ve decided to work on. Your parent coach may have you collect some sort of objective information between sessions (AKA data).
This may include taking some data yourself and sending it to your coach, having them observe you live through video conference while practicing the skill, or sending them a video to assess asynchronously. Decisions are made to either continue practicing a skill or move on to something else.
Not all parent coaches will ask for or use data to inform their decision making. If you are working with a behavior analyst as a parent coach, they will do so.
Progress towards goals is monitored by the parenting coach. 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.
Here are some important considerations when you’re thinking about hiring a behavior specialist for telehealth parent coaching:
Are they using a video teleconferencing 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.
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
What model of coaching will they use? Before signing a contract, find out if the model and ethos of the parent coach fits with your own personal style and personality. Ensure services are individualized to you, your family and most importantly, your child’s needs and preferences. For example, a behavior analyst will individualize programming to your family’s context, even if they are using a structured program such as Balance.
What training, experience and certification does the coach have? Are they a self-proclaimed ‘certified parent coach’ or are they a credentialed psychologist, clinical counsellor or behavior analyst (e.g., IBA or BCBA) with expertise in parent training? Some professionals might have a certification in a various parent training program like Triple P.
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 and feel like you’re spinning your wheels, consider contacting a parent coach to work with you directly.
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.