fbpx What Is Parent Coaching and How Does It Work?
Authored by Dr. Michelle Murray on November 23, 2021

Dear Dr. Michelle:

I am a state human service employee, currently working with parents who I believe need one-on-one coaching. There are parenting classes offered through some of our state programs, but I think the parents need more one-on-one help on how to positively engage and encourage their children. The idea of coaching came to my mind. I didn’t know that such a profession existed until I started researching online. Can you explain more about this type of service, when to use it and how to access?

Thank you, Wanda


Dear Wanda:

Thank you for asking about this type of service. Parent coaching programs often include one-on-one coaching by a trained expert, or coach. In addition, parent coaching programs may offer classes where participants learn the basic skills of good parenting and how to effectively discipline children.

A parenting coach is like having a personal trainer and mentor. The coach works alongside a parent to address specific areas of concern and can help with action plans to create ongoing success.  The coach will mentor and guide the parent through real life parenting and family issues as they come up. The service can include face-to-face scheduled sessions but can also include access to online services or resources and on-call services during times of parenting emergencies.

Parent coaching is different from therapy. The latter is likely to assess history of family relationships and potential trauma and mental health issues. A parenting coach will focus on immediate behaviors, decision-making and problem-solving, and will work to develop specific parenting skills.

For parents who need to learn basic parenting skills, for new parents, and for parents who are struggling with a child who has mental or behavioral health issues, coaching can be an effective service. It can also support a parent who is at risk to losing custody of their child due to poor supervision and parenting techniques.

Coaching vs Therapy

There are situations when a coach might not be the right solution. Parents who are dealing with active drug and alcohol addiction issues will need to be sober and drug free before coaching will be effective. Families who are dealing with sexual abuse or domestic violence need a different level of family intervention, one that addresses the consistent safety of children as the priority. A parent who is experiencing high levels of mental health issues and not consistently taking appropriate psychotropic medications will also struggle to respond to coaching interventions.

In these situations, once safety is well established, parent coaching can be a good next step to reinforce progress and to further build on other forms of treatment success.

For parent coaching to be successful, the parent will need to be willing to practice and have a high tolerance for trial and error. Good candidates are those individuals who can handle receiving ongoing feedback and being challenged about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The parent will also need to be able and willing to implement and practice suggestions. The relationship developed between the coach and parent will be critical to success, as there must be trust and credibility felt by the parent about the coach and the process.

Each state varies in parent coaching models and regulations required for conducting such services. Some states may have state or county run programs that are made available to the community. Other parent coaching programs will be offered by private agencies. Coaches can be volunteers or parents in the community that have become trained as a coach. Some agencies hire and train coaches based on that agency’s specific coaching approaches. To find a parent coaching program google the terms “parent coaching in my area.”

Unless your state or county departments offer free services, most of these services will require out of pocket payments. Depending on the certification of the program and state insurance plans, some services might be billable to insurance or may be offered to Medicaid recipients. Individual agencies will be able to provide information about payments and fees.

Additional Resources  

Find a PCI Certified Parent Coach

International Parent Coaching

Parent Coaching

Dr. Michelle K. Murray, CEO of Nexus Family Healing and licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, answers questions about family relations or mental health. Submit Your Question.

Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature.  The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.

Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.

Dr. Michelle Murray