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Parent Coaching Overview: 3 Different Approaches & 7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Parent Coach

Many families need support as they explore admission into a treatment program or as their teen or young adult transitions out of a program. As the private pay treatment programs evolve, specializations develop – and bold, insightful professionals have seen the need for and brought professional coaching directly to the parents of kids in treatment. After discussing the general characteristics that bind the Therapeutic Coaching world together as “parent coaches”, we’ll discuss how this profession continues to evolve into distinct, unique and valuable services and approaches. At the outset, it is important to note that many treatment centers have formal & informal relationships with various parent coaches that know their process and support their families in key ways. In this first of three blogs, we will discuss the similarities between all coaching formats, and the direct services they can offer your family.

Within the world of treatment, there are three different approaches that all self-define under “parent coaching”. The first are companies that operate either in the same city as the student or family or they work remotely (via Skype or telephone); these programs may provide targeted in-person meetings. These companies are: Vive, Second Nature 360, Homeward Bound ( and PRN for Families ( A difference even within this grouping is how they interact with the family or student which varies from a formal curriculum to goals that are set up before professionally engaging to evolving goals tied to the family or student’s customized needs. Many parent coaches will provide emergency support and assistance “after hours”. Importantly, with some of these programs, there is a mentor who works specifically with the student who has been in treatment. Generally, the mentor has worked either in wilderness therapy program or a residential treatment setting and works in tandem with the therapist towards the goals for the student and family. Often, the Mentor serves as an advocate and brings an “outside”, professional perspective to the student to assist the student through the challenges of transition.

The second type of coaching requires Professional Certification (International Coach Federation) and is focused on working solely with the parent. These coaches have completed a formal curriculum and certification test and must maintain current status to use the ICF credential. ICF coaches could have worked at a residential treatment program or two and could be associated with a particular program’s parental transition into or out of the program. The professional coaches also work with the parents before the teen is in treatment, using directive and open-ended questioning in order to help families define and achieve specific goals. Though they are not therapists, these ICF coaches have developed an expertise to help answer the questions a parent might have about making the transition, developing support networks and building the best structures possible for the next step in the family’s treatment.

A last branch of Parent Coaches are credentialed therapists who are skilled at helping families navigate and overcome the stressors and obstacles that occur during out-of-home treatment. The therapists in this group have worked at programs. This model begins with the acknowledgement that the only person you can change is yourself, and full focus on yourself is the fastest vector for transforming a family system. These Parent Coaches bring their therapeutic training and experiences into the coaching relationship, and often assist the parent in developing a more profound awareness to causes and unconscious connections within the generational family system. It is an exciting way for many former program therapists to work with families in a dynamic and specialized way.

So, you may be thinking “how is this broad group different from the therapists at a program, or even the referring professional who helped place my child?” Parent Coaches overlap with these other professionals in their dedication to your family and similarly, enter into the tender interpersonal conflicts in a family system, but parent coaching is not therapy. Instead, coaches are solution-oriented and skills-based, adapting a workable plan for the home and school performance. Through their interactions, they generate confidence and clarity. They are focused on clearing a path for you, your family and your child through the obstacles around transitioning and connecting your family with support professionals locally who understand the process your family has been through in treatment.


7 Questions To Think About When Hiring A Coach or Mentor 

1.  Does your teen need to be involved or does focus and support need to be directed on you modifying and honing your parenting skills?
2.  Do you want individual help, or is your child also ready for coaching?
3.  What is your budget?
4.  If you have other professionals involved with your family system, will this person work well with those professionals?
5.  What are your goals? What are you looking to achieve?
6.  How do you work best with professionals? Do you prefer face-to-face or can you benefit from telecommunication (via phone/Skype/FaceTime)?
7.  If your teen is in treatment, are there coaches at the treatment program?


About the Author

Jenney Wilder M.S.Ed launched All Kinds of Therapy in 2015, as the only independent online directory for the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry. With an impressive case of ADHD and her starter career in the 90’s in Silicon Valley, the dream for creating a website with features like side-by-side comparison and an integrated newsletter was born. Jenney stopped counting treatment centers and all types of schools that she has visited when she hit 500 many years ago. She was the sponsoring author of the only Economic Impact Study of the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry, which revealed the only true financial figures about this industry (in Utah). Jenney has a Masters in Special Education from Bank Street College (NY) and a Bachelors of Arts focused on History from Wheaton College (MA).