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Parent/Caregiver Coaching: What It Looks Like & Why You Should Use It

It takes a village, but it starts with YOU! Get the most out of therapy time with parent/caregiver coaching. Learn more about feeling empowered in your health care through therapy in this week's blog post!

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”. - Benjamin Franklin

After years of experience in the field of speech language pathology I have found this statement to ring true. This is why as a private practice owner I now incorporate parent/caregiver coaching into my care for patients.

  • The concept behind parent/caregiver coaching is that parents/caregivers are the experts on the patients. They know the daily activities, progress, strengths/weaknesses and are an essential part of a patient’s progress in therapy.

  • In the grand scheme it takes a village. We all have parts to play in helping our loved ones/patients along their journey to progressing with their communication skills.

  • While parents/caregivers are the experts on the patient, therapists are experts in the field of communication. We know that the professionals administering the services have been educated, trained and certified to carry out sessions using evidence based practices, strategies, and updated care through continuing education courses.

Parent/caregiver coaching is essentially taking the knowledge of the therapist and the expertise of the parent/caregiver and involvement from the patient to create a team approach to care.

  • Using this model, in conjunction with traditional therapy, is a way to not only teach the strategies and skills, but also to involve the invested parties in the care plan. This way parents/caregivers can learn and in turn have the understanding to carry the foundational concepts forward and help generalize the taught skills in various settings (not just in the therapy setting but at home and in the community) and along the continuum of life as is often needed with some communication disorders.

So we know who parent/caregiver coaching involves (the parent/caregiver, the patient and a therapist), we know why we should incorporate it (to involve experts both on the patient and the field of communication disorders), now let’s discuss what it may look like.

Parent/caregiver coaching may look different depending on the parties involved, the needs of the family and patient, whether services are in person or virtual or other contributing factors. However, what WILL look the same though is the transfer of knowledge between the team.

  • For example, the therapist will likely use modeling of how strategies can be used in the home, they may give examples/non-examples to help demonstrate how to carry over strategies from therapy sessions to the home environment, they may even incorporate educating parent/caregivers on the given disorder so they can understand the foundation of care.

  • In turn, parents/caregivers can provide feedback of present levels of achievement (on a daily/regular basis), ask questions, give insight into preferred activities or current struggles of the patient.

For patients, regardless of ability or age, this model promotes unity with a patient-centered approach. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that patient-centered care is “empowering people to take charge of their own health rather than being passive recipients of services”.

  • Incorporating families and caregivers into our patient’s plan of care as therapists is a way that we can empower our patients from being passive recipients of services to engaging, learning and taking charge of their health. Afterall, as a reader, chances are you have had care somewhere before. Given the choice would you rather be a passive recipient of services, or feel empowered in your health care?

To participate in parent/caregiver coaching, begin a meaningful discussion among your team members, share this blog and advocate for patient-centered care. Remember, it may take a village, but it starts with YOU!

Five tips for parent/caregiver coaching:

1. Cultivate a Team-Work Mindset:

  • Talk about having a team-work mindset with all parties involved. Having a team-work mindset means that everyone on the team has a voice that should be shared among the team and that other team members are open to listening to how each team member can offer insight and knowledge to the care plan. Make sure all parties are open to fostering this type of working relationship. If you find some parties are not on the same page then consider other options that best fit your desired style of care.

2. Encourage open discussions:

  • Talk about things that are on your mind. If you have questions, ask them. If you have concerns, express them. Advocate for the best patient care by being active and involved in the care discussions. If someone on the team does not know how to answer a question, chances are they can refer out or find the answers.

3. Develop a plan together:

  • It looks different for everyone. We talked about how this approach can look different in some ways. Decide among your team, what you want your coaching to look like. Will the coaching sessions be in addition to traditional therapy, or will it be in place of traditional therapy. Who will be involved? Will the same participants be involved in each session? If not, how often? How will the team stay on the same page (what platform(s) will you use? etc.)?

4. Touch Base About What Works and What Doesn’t:

  • Let team members know what strategies are working, what concepts are being generalized into new settings and what areas there are deficits in. Is there consistency in progress or regression? The same tools do not work for everyone. Talk about what works best for care in your situation. Afterall, it helps team members best support you!

5. Homework but the kind you’ll like:

  • Ask about how you can carry over skills learned by team members into the home, or social settings. You’ll notice the most results by using the skills learned by professionals in your everyday life! If they aren’t naturally giving ‘homework’ ask about how you can get tasks to work on in a functional/daily manner. Then share how that experience went with the team!

Stephanie Lane M.S. CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist and owner of Therapy Pathways. She lives in the Tampa, Florida area with her husband and fur baby, Gianna. She has been serving as an SLP for over 6 years in various school and private practice settings. Stephanie’s passion for communication studies came from having multiple family members impacted by various disorders that impaired their communication abilities. Stephanie has truly found that calling where, "If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.

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