Therapeutic parenting: Is effective

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Written By NewtonPatterson

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Objective Therapeutic parenting 

This study evaluated the effectiveness and implementation of a therapeutic parenting program for parents of children 6-11 years old who have been identified with emotional and behavioral difficulties. Two parts of the intervention were delivered in sequence: a 10-week program that is group-based for all parents and one-on-one sessions lasting up to 12 weeks for selected parents who are part of the group-based component.

Methods/Design Therapeutic parenting

Inspiring Futures was a randomized controlled trial in which 264 participants were randomly assigned to either the intervention (Inspiring Futures program) or services as normal (control) arms. Follow-up assessments were conducted at 16 (post group program) and 32 (12 post-one-on-one sessions) weeks. Primary outcome was the total difficulty score of 32 weeks from the Parent-rated Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were the parent-rated SDQ subscales and parent coping strategies.

Results Therapeutic parenting

All 264 participants were included into the outcome analyses. SDQ Total Difficulties had no statistically significant effect (standardized mean difference was -0.07; 95%CI: -0.30– 0.16; p = 0.54). There were no subgroup effects. Statistics at the 5% level showed that only 1 of 40 trials arms compared secondary outcomes between both follow-ups. Only 1 in 20 intervention-arm participants received one-on-one support, and the mean number of intervention arm participants attended group sessions was 6.1. Independent observation showed that there was potential to increase fidelity in terms quality, adherence and participant responsiveness.

Therapeutic parenting: How to do it yourself and the benefits

Parents and carers are familiar with different parenting styles, including attachment, helicopter, disciplinarian, permissive, and helicopter. Therapeutic, a more nurturing approach to parenting, is less well-known. What is therapeutic parenting? Who does it benefit and how can it be used to help others?

Rosie Jefferies, a Fostering Attachments training coordinator, says that therapeutic parenting “doesn’t mean parents are practising psychotherapy on their child.” Jefferies, who is an adopted daughter of Sarah Naish (a prominent figure in the field), was therapeutically parented at home by her mother.

Jefferies explains that children who have suffered trauma during their first three years of existence, often in the form neglect or abuse when parents are unable to provide for their needs, are insecurely attached.

Many of these children develop emotional and behavioural problems later in life. They need to be treated differently or therapeutically so that they can meet their needs.

Jefferies says, “It’s a high-nurturing way of parenting that aims at making a child feel safe again. Usually, it’s around adults.” The developmental pathway of a child’s brain between 0 and 3 is still being formed. If a child is crying or doesn’t get enough food, this developmental pathway is shut off. It can’t tell if it is hungry or not.

“See it as if their brain is in a wheelchair.” The child appears normal, but performs badly.

Therapeutic parenting is often thought to be only for traumatised children who are fostered, adopted or in foster care. This is not always true.

Jefferies says that therapeutic is also effective for children who are securely attached. In fact, it can often work better. Even if a child has been raised by loving parents, it is possible that they have been exposed to trauma from a young age.

Jefferies explains that these children may be born with high levels of cortisol and can become hyperalert and fractious. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be damaged, but they will likely have a tendency not to use higher thinking.

Even if this doesn’t work for your child, therapeutic techniques may still be helpful to parents and children with specific issues.

Jefferies stresses that parenting is effective for all children. “Not just those who have experienced trauma. It works faster for children who are securely attached.

What is therapeutic parenting?

“There are many kinds of therapeutic,” says Dr Dan Hughes, a US-based specialist in treating children with emotional and behavioral problems. Hughes created Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, (DDP).

DDP, also known as Attachment-Focused family therapy, supports the relationship between parents, children, and adults with developmental trauma. It aims to heal past trauma and enable the child feel safe.

Hughes explains that most of these principles are built on the principle of building strong, safe relationships that include affection, comforting, and clear behavioural expectations. Therapeutic parenting is designed for children with special needs. It can be used to help them cope with stressful or traumatic life events, or other constitutional factors.

What is the best way for parents to follow this procedure?

Traditional parenting skills are different in that therapeutic parenting skills do not include corporal punishment or time outs. Jefferies states that therapeutic parenting doesn’t shame children, use reward charts or expect them to self-regulate. It also does not require the child feel empathy or remorse. Jefferies says that parents need to recognize that behavior is communication. This is often based on fear. Therefore, they should respond to the child’s emotional age, not chronologically, using empathy and connection as a guide.

What support is available for parents?

Jefferies says there are many excellent resources and training in therapeutic parenting. The National Association of Therapeutic Parents (NATP), whose founder Sarah Naish is CEO, can help you if you’re looking after children who’ve suffered trauma from early childhood neglect or abuse.