Parent Coaching

Occupational Therapy Parent Coaching

By Ani Oganesyan OTR/L

How can you make the most out of your occupational therapy sessions?

Simple, get involved in sessions! Parent involvement leads to even greater progress. Therapists can work with the parent and/or caregiver by using the parent coaching model.

Occupational therapists are trained in using evidence-based therapeutic techniques, and providing interventions that develop specific skills to assist children in being as independent as possible in their activities of daily living. Parents on the other hand spend the most time with their children. Parents are experts on their children. Although they know their children best, they do not always have the tools to make changes. This is where the therapist comes in. Therapists provide coaching and support to guide interactions with parent and child, and to best assist with a child’s development.

What will coaching consist of?

Coaching will consist of 5 steps:

  1. Joint plan: This is where the parent will collaborate with the therapist and discuss both the family’s and child’s needs. Then, the therapist and parent will collaborate on goals that are important to the child and family.
  2. Observation: Parents will observe the therapist as they model different strategies. Other times, the therapist will observe the parent interacting with the child.
  3. Action: This is when parents practice the strategies the therapist modeled or educated the parent on. It can either be during session or any time between sessions.
  4. Reflection: Time to reflect on what happened. Did the kiddo respond positively to some of the strategies, or should the parent try a different technique? Is the suggestion something that is difficult to implement at home? Does the therapist need to modify some of the strategies? Maybe the parent tried some things and saw that they need a bit more information or more practice.
  5. Feedback: This is where the therapist and caregiver share additional information. The therapist can give a variety of feedback based on their observation or reflection shared by the parent.

Parent carryover is vital in leading to success and independence. A therapist may see a child once or twice a week for an hour, which is just a small portion of their week. For therapy to be effective, there has to be carryover, where the kids transfer skills learned from session to a natural setting. Parent coaching will make this possible.

What are additional benefits of coaching?

  • Increased competence and self-efficacy
  • Increased caregiver knowledge and problem-solving skills
  • Increased engagement and awareness of child’s needs
  • Improved reflection and insight
  • Improved relationship between caregiver, therapist, and client
  • Increased attachment between caregiver and child
  • Increased progress due to parent education and carryover
  • Increased generalization of skills

Rush, D. D., & Shelden, M. L. (2005). Evidence-based definition of coaching practices. CASEInPoint, 1 (6), 1-6.


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