PARENT & FAMILY COACHING
Parents whose children (of any age) show signs of intense emotion or emotional dysregulation find themselves facing situations that they feel totally unprepared to manage. They may have a child whose behaviors include suicide attempts or self-harm, verbal or physical aggression, stealing, abusing substances or who may feel so anxious or depressed that he/she is unable to go to school, or work or leave the house. Parents may feel a range of feelings including sadness, anger, disappointment, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness, grief or despair. Pat provides a safe, non-blaming and validating place for parents to express their concerns while she also provides concrete and practical guidance and strategies for managing these difficult and painful situations.
Individualized coaching means that Pat meets with parents to discuss the specific behaviors that are so problematic for their child and themselves. While providing support and validation for the experiences of the parent, Pat provides ways that parents can understand the pain and suffering that lead their child to behave as they do. A focus on behaviors, which can be changed, helps parents to feel more hopeful. Pat teaches skills to parents that they can use to lessen their own emotional reactivity so that they can parent more effectively, in ways that will help their child reach the goal of having a more fulfilling life. Parents learn how to respond in ways that de-escalate difficult situations and that allow their child to feel more accepted and therefore, more willing to listen and change. While parents learn that they are not able to actually change the behaviors of their children, they learn that they can create an environment that supports and reinforces healthy behaviors, that lessen responses to unhealthy behaviors and that helps their child feel more understood. This environment provides a space in which communication and interactions with their child improve and their child is able to change.
From her many years of working with, and listening to, parents, Pat is sensitive to how painful life is for the parent of a child who has emotional challenges. Her emphasis on both parenting and the life experience of the parent creates a unique environment for parents in which their own feelings, perspectives and experiences are as important to the process as those of their child. While the goal is to help the parent create an environment in which their child can become healthier, a secondary goal is also that the parent learn to take care of him/herself and create a life that is also fulfilling, despite the issues that are effecting their whole family.
Based largely on a Dialectical Behavior Therapy framework, Pat teaches parents skills that they can use to enhance their own life while also using them to support and help their child and create a more accepting and peaceful home environment. Parents who learn to balance their needs with their child’s, to understand their own emotions and those of their child, who can find a balanced approach to their parenting, who know how to manage stressful situations and take care of their own emotional health and well being and who can use skills to calm their own emotions in difficult circumstances, find that they are able to parent more effectively and live their own lives more fully. Pat uses handouts and practices new skills with parents so that they can use them when difficult situations arise. Pat is also available during crisis or difficult times, for parents who are working with her, to coach via text, e-mail or phone so that these skills can be used in real time.
Pat tailors her sessions to the needs of the parents she is working with. Since every member of a family, and sometimes the members of the extended family, are impacted by an individual who has intense emotions or emotional challenges, at times discussions may revolve around how to meet the needs of siblings or explain to other family members. Periodically a sibling may attend a session (with or without his/her parent) to receive validation for his/her own feelings while also learning how to understand the difficulties their sibling is experiencing. Most importantly, parents and siblings find out that they are not alone in their experiences or their feelings.
Pat’s goal as she teaches “parenting from the perspective of the parent” is to help parents feel more hopeful, more empowered and better equipped to help their child. With the ultimate goal of a safer and healthier life for a child who has intense emotions, it is Pat’s hope that she helps every family member be able to live a calmer, more peaceful and fulfilling life.
Family coaching for siblings and spouses/partners
At times, older siblings or spouses/partners may also find that their lives, loving someone who has intense emotions, are significantly impacted by their family member. Siblings and spouses also experience a variety of emotions, including anger, frustration and hopelessness, and may be looking for support and guidance. Where other family members are also involved, such as older parents or the children of someone who has intense emotions, support, understanding and concrete guidance may help all family members to help themselves and their loved one. Pat has provided this validation and acceptance to siblings and spouses for many years in an environment where each family member’s experience is understood and becomes the basis of setting limits, maintaining boundaries and providing help to their loved one in a less emotionally reactive and more effective way. This support and guidance helps to empower all family members to take care of their own needs while also, when possible, helping his/her family member.
PHONE COACHING & INTERNATIONAL COACHING
Pat is also willing to do "Phone Coaching" if you are unable to get to her office in Rockville, Maryland. Pat can teach the skills and talk about strategies that can be used with your loved one in sessions that take place by phone. Pat provides international coaching and consultation. Contact Pat through this website to set up an appointment so that you can receive phone guidance and support.
INITIAL COACHING CALL
PARENT SKILLS TRAINING GROUPS
Pat facilitates Parent DBT Skills training groups which are based on the DBT skills training that is a fundamental part of DBT treatment for individuals who have emotional challenges. These groups are teaching/psychoeducational in nature meaning that there is no discussion of what is happening in individual families or what might have happened during the week; instead Pat teaches new skills, the participants practice the skills in the group and then they use the skills at home by completing guided homework practices. Parents learn how to do mindful practice, learning how to focus their thoughts and stay present in the moment, important skills for parents who benefit from staying present and calm in difficult situations brought on by behaviors of their children.
The group participants learn skills related to:
Mindfulness: focusing awareness in the present moment nonjudgmentally, learning how to make wise and effective choices.
Distress tolerance: managing stress in healthy ways, learning to accept what cannot be changed.
Finding a middle path: balanced and dialectical thinking and parenting, accepting different points of view: learning how to validate and use behavioral principles.
Emotion regulation: understanding and managing emotions.
Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to get their needs met while maintaining relationships and their own self-esteem.
Change takes place by learning and practicing these skills in a nonjudgmental and accepting environment and practicing them outside of the group.
Pat has been facilitating these groups for over 16 years and the skills are taught to parents in ways that help them manage their own emotions while also learning how to parent more effectively, finding ways to enhance their own lives while helping their kids to be healthier, safer and more skillful as well. These skills will help parents (1) lessen their emotional reactivity to their child’s emotional storms, (2) manage their own stress through calming and soothing activities, (3) find ways to increase pleasure in their own lives AND (4) learn ways to accept and validate their child while reinforcing healthy and safe behaviors in their home.
The group consists of 12 sessions that are 1 ½ hour each. Each participant makes a commitment to the whole group and the same parents complete all 12 sessions together. Over the 12 sessions, the skills become clearer as they build on each other and participants become more proficient at using them. At the end of the group, parents report that they feel less alone and that there is great support in knowing that others understand and share what they are experiencing, Parents also report that they are more balanced and less reactive and better able to help their child. Lastly, they acknowledge that using these skills helps them respond more effectively and less judgmentally to their child which creates opportunities for calmer communication and more consistent parenting, improving the environment for everyone in the family.
In the words of group participants
"The classes provided us many new tools to communicate and connect with our consumer son. One of the main objectives of the course is to enable participants to reduce or avoid conflict in relationships and thus enable more productive communications. Also we find we can apply the same tools and techniques to other relationship in our lives. There is some homework, though not enough to be a time burden for most people. Tho not required at all, I would recommend couples take it together when possible. That way you will both be on the same level and be able to talk more easily about and experiment with the concepts in between classes – not to mention help each other with homework. You have a “sounding board.”
"Pat is an excellent teacher with consummate command of her material. She will both lead the class and also follow when productive work is going on. Finally, the class brought together a group of people with similar experiences and problems which was a continual source of inspiration, information, anxiety relief, creative ideas, and most of all, friendship."
"...I just wanted to say your lessons have remained with me and I continue to review them and find them useful...Among the most important lessons that have stuck with me: Do not presume to know what is going on in the mind of your child (or any other person for that matter). Please keep up the good work."
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