Yes, we do work with schools, and schools often ask us to provide both teacher training and parenting workshops for their parent community. When parents ask us to help with the child’s behavior at school we start by reaching out to the school to see if they are open to working with us. Not all schools or teachers are open to receiving input from professionals outside the school setting. But when they are, we can help!
The families we work with include kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. This is partly based in our experience and partly due to the fact that the broader strategies that underlie our work are not age-dependent — they’re relevant to kids of any age. And we know how to apply these strategies regardless of age!
PCIT (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy) is intended to teach parents how to interact with their child in ways that both support the child and solve problem behavior. And this “education” is actually the goal of all parenting experts, because almost any solution to problematic or concerning behavior relies heavily on the right kinds of interactions with the kids. But PCIT is attractive because it’s so hands-on. No broad theories! Parents are shown EXACTLY what to do!
On the other hand – what, exactly, are parents being shown? In other words, hands-on, real-time content delivery feels great, but it’s the content itself that’s most important, right? And parents of strong-willed, oppositional and defiant kids tell us that PCIT hasn’t done so well at showing them the kinds of interactions that work with strong-willed kids. Here’s what our clients say about PCIT:
My issue with PCIT is that it was geared toward a certain type of kid, and they couldn’t adjust their recommendations to fit my kid. They wanted me to use Time Out, but he wouldn’t stay in Time Out. They wanted me to give rewards, but he didn’t care about those; he just wants to do what he wants to do. They kept telling me that Time Out and Rewards are evidence-based, but my evidence was that my kid still wouldn’t listen! And they never could give me any other strategy. –Wits’ End coaching client
PCIT advised us to put our daughter in Time Out, but she wouldn’t stay there – so they said to strap her into a booster seat so she couldn’t leave. She was supposed to stay there until she calmed down, but being strapped in made her hysterical, and it didn’t stop the hitting. –Wits’ End coaching client
I asked the psychologist who did the ADHD testing if I should go to PCIT. She said, “No, go to Wits’ End Parenting”! –Wits’ End coaching client
Like the therapists that practice PCIT, at Wits’ End we also focus very heavily on your interactions with your child – and because the Wits’ End Approach was designed specifically to fit with and address the needs of the strong-willed child, the interactions and communication we’ll teach you will work with strong-willed kids! We’re very practical in our approach, which means we’ll show you just what to do, what to say, and how to say it – and depending on the coaching program you choose, we can observe and give feedback on problem behaviors as they happen in your child’s real-world environment.
Yes, our practices are trauma-informed. Although our focus is on parent coaching and not psychotherapy, we also have clinical experience with kids and adults who have experienced significant trauma. Our own clinical training related to trauma allows us to work with survivors using a practical, here-and-now, solutions-focused approach, which an excellent addition to traditional talk therapy.
In our experience (we do have a psychologist on our team :)), and based on what our clients tell us, some main differences between therapy and Wits’ End Parenting are…
1. A difference in focus and strategies. Many if not most therapists focus on feelings and the client’s management of feelings. We focus much more on the communication patterns between the parents on the kids — and we also focus much more on setting things up so that difficult feelings decrease, so there is less need to manage them. We also take a good hard look at practical, physical realities, for example, schedules or family routines. Our approach tends to be very concrete and practical, which makes the material much easier to implement.
2. A difference in the helping professional’s view of the client and the problem. Psychology and psychotherapy have deep roots in a view of the client as “troubled,” emotionally off-balance, or otherwise deficient. Although some therapists resist pathology-oriented interpretations, a pathology orientation is an integral aspect of most therapists’ training.
3. A difference in focus on the parents vs. the kids. When a child’s behavior is the problem, although many therapists do work with the parents, they tend to work as much or more with the child. In contrast, our focus is less on teaching the child and more on teaching you how to teach your child. We think this if much more efficient. It’s way more effective for you to manage a negative behavior when and where it happens than it is for you to rely on a third-party to attempt to resolve the problem by talking about it a day or a week later in therapy.
We can honestly say that, when parents are committed to the process, we’ve never worked with a family whose child hasn’t responded favorably to our approach. And a big reason for this is that we apply proven principles in specific ways that fit with YOUR family’s situation and YOUR child’s unique temperament.
On the other hand, there is a learning curve! Most if not all of our clients experience at least a few instances where their child doesn’t respond as expected. This is absolutely normal – in fact, it’s inevitable. You and your child are in a process of new learning. But don’t worry — if you practice what we’ve shown you and your child doesn’t respond, we’ll show you how to tweak what you’re doing so that your child does respond. When kids don’t respond, it’s almost always a matter of adjusting the technique, or adjusting the way the parents are implementing it; it’s almost never a problem with the strategy per se. This is one reason we offer between-session support — so when things don’t go as planned, you can troubleshoot in the moment, and you don’t have to wait until your next session to fix it.
If your child does not want to participate in your coaching program, that’s OK. On the other hand, if your child is refusing to participate there’s a good chance they’re refusing to do other things, too! And did you know that these kind of compliance- and cooperation issues are actually best handled in conversations with just the parents? This is why we structure our programs so that our first coaching sessions take place without the kids.
In fact, you can solve all of the problems that bring you to us whether or not your child comes to your sessions — simply because that’s what we do — we teach YOU to solve these problems.
Our approach doesn’t depend on our convincing your child to do things differently. When a child participates, yes, we do help change their perspective, and that’s great. But the main focus of our work is on teaching you to work with your child in ways that get you the changes you’re wanting.
This is a significant difference between our approach and psychotherapy. When a child’s behavior is the problem, although many therapists do work with the parents, they tend to work as much or more with the child. In contrast, our focus is less on teaching the child and more on teaching you how to teach your child. We think this if much more efficient. It’s way more effective for you to manage a negative behavior when and where it happens than it is for you to rely on a third-party to attempt to resolve the problem by talking about it a day or a week later in the office.
Still worried that your program won’t be effective if your kid won’t participate? Check out the Yelp review from Pamela P!
Yes, you can.
But we recommend that clients enroll in a coaching program, because we’ve learned from experience that our coaching programs are much more effective.
Your commitment to a coaching program gives you regular, sustained practice in applying new habits and skills. It also provides you with ongoing support. Change doesn’t come simply from intellectual knowledge or understanding; if it were that easy, the thousands of parenting books out there would make coaching irrelevant! Real change means new habits, and new habits take a little time.
In fact, the simple act of conveying and learning new information takes a little longer than you’d think! For example, most of our clients see a much greater benefit when we refine and adjust their implementation of particular techniques over a period of weeks.
We encourage our clients to think of our programs as a commitment to a result. You’re not just getting more information — you’re also getting what you need to translate all that theory into a sustainable solution!
There are three main pieces to our parenting approach. We may or may not focus on each piece in our work with you – that depends on the coaching program(s) you choose. But we believe that for parents and kids to relate to each other in a harmonious way – and for that peace and harmony to continue long-term, three things are needed:
First, parents need to be the leaders of the family, and they need to hold kids accountable to follow their lead.
Second, parents should ask kids to contribute in a significant way to the operations of the household, because that position of responsibility helps kids to develop a real experience of “We’re all in this together.” And when kids really live that experience, they become more willing to cooperate, because they really do feel more like they’re a part of a team — a team they want to support.
And third, we teach parents and kids to make decisions and solve problems together in a real, genuine way. Especially with oppositional kids, if they have a genuine voice in decision-making, this meets their need for autonomy and control, and when this need is met, they don’t have to exercise control in inappropriate ways. We’ve developed our own unique process for teaching this third piece, because without the right structure, many of the most strong-willed kids won’t actually collaborate!
Yes, in addition to weekday hours, we also see clients from 9-5:30 on Saturdays and Sundays.
You do not have to pay for the program if you choose not to continue after our first session — we offer clients the opportunity to have one (paid) session before they commit to a program.
If you do enroll in a coaching program but choose to discontinue the program within the first half of the program,* we will refund your program fees minus the value of the sessions already attended;** minus an additional $150 administrative fee; and minus any third-party credit-card processing fees we may have paid when we took your payment.
We include this “halfway” piece to encourage you to engage with the program on a regular basis, and/or if you’re at all ambivalent about engagement, to develop clarity around this sooner rather than later, as this clarity is very helpful to you and us. For these reasons, we do not provide refunds to clients who discontinue their program after the halfway period. However, clients who discontinue after this period are welcome to continue their program at a later date, provided they re-enroll within three months of the discontinuation date.
*The “halfway” period = the number of weeks from the program start, not the number of sessions attended. This is consistent with the fact that, in order to optimize your results, our programs are designed to run in consecutive weeks.
** Individual coaching sessions are valued at a rate of $225/hour.