Parent Coaching vs Therapy: What therapists need to know & Why parent coaching is on the rise

Whereas therapists care for your mental health and often explore past events, coaches strengthen mental fitness and focus predominantly on the future. Although coaches can certainly offer a therapeutic relationship, coaching is not the same as therapy, and a professional coach will not directly treat mental health conditions in a coaching session. Depending on the needs, a parent may be better suited for either therapy or parent coaching, however, both offer valuable support and can work well together provided that both the coach and the therapist are in alignment on the treatment plan.

While coaching and therapy are two different services, more and more Child Therapists are beginning to offer parent coaching services to diversify their service offerings and cater to the unique needs of the families within their niche. 

Therapist vs coaching accreditation 

Parenting has its ups, downs, and all-arounds, and at some point or another, many parents will find themselves exploring a variety of parenting resources. Different seasons of life sometimes need different forms of support, and it can sometimes be a challenge for parents to determine which resource would benefit them the most. As licensed Child Therapists and professional child development experts, this is where we can shine. We are in a unique position to offer a diverse range of supportive services and guidance to parents in need.  

Of the parenting support options available, therapy for parenting and coaching for parents are two of the most popular parenting resources a primary caregiver might pursue – but what is parent coaching? What’s the difference between therapy and coaching? And when would a parent benefit more from therapy versus parent coaching or vice versa? 

Parent coaching is a creative way for Child Therapists to offer additional value to families they may support, and in this article, we will explore the difference between a therapist for parents and a parent coach. 

Let’s start at the beginning… 

What is the difference between coaching and therapy? 

In a nutshell, therapists (also known as counselors and psychotherapists) are mental health practitioners who have been professionally educated, trained, and licensed to treat mental illnesses and psychological issues. Coaches are subject matter experts who provide collaborative, solution-focused, topically relevant guidance to clients. 

Therapy vs coaching

All licensed therapists undergo extensive education, and accreditation, and generally have boards/exams to pass. Therapists are also subject to the governing laws of the state or jurisdiction they practice. Coaches on the other hand are not required to have any specific education, accreditation, or licensing, but many coaches seek some form of professional coaching certification. As a licensed Child Therapist, you are a professional child development expert, and parent coaching is a service you are already well-suited, trained, and equipped to offer should you so choose. 

What is parent coaching?

Parent coaching is an informative process where a client and a child development and/or parenting expert will collaborate to develop and achieve specific parenting goals. The primary objective of parent coaching is for the parent to become the confident and effective parent-leader their family needs. The parent coach accomplishes this goal by educating and training the parent on effective parenting techniques relevant to the developmental stage of their child(ren). 

Because parent coaching is not therapy, coaching does not include any diagnosing or treating of any mental illnesses the parent might have. Instead, parent coaching is a goal driven process where solution-focused support is provided for present-day parenting issues. In a parent coaching session, parent coaches will help parents identify and overcome parenting obstacles, create an action plan for a desired parenting outcome, and explore ways to optimize present parenting situations with future parenting goals in mind. 

While parent coaching can and does contribute to a parent’s wellbeing and the overall health of the family, it is important to distinguish the difference between issues therapy can treat and issues parent coaching can support. 

Issues therapy can treat: 

  • Psychological issues
  • Personality disorders
  • Mental illnesses 
  • Neurological disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Relational issues
  • Behavioral issues
  • Behavioral addictions
  • Substance addictions
  • Depression
  • Divorce mediation
  • Etc.

Issues parent coaching can support:

  • Parenting style education 
  • Education regarding special needs, learning disorders, physical disabilities, adoption services, etc. 
  • Child development education
  • Parenting technique training
  • General relational issues within the family system
  • Confident parental decision making
  • Parental motivation
  • Parental stress management
  • Family boundaries implementation
  • Training on how to approach difficult parenting moments
  • Support with replacing unhealthy parenting habits with healthier ones 
  • Developing a personalized, action-oriented success plan for family and parenting goals
  • Etc. 

Benefits of parent coaching 

As licensed Child Therapists, you are professional child development experts, and if you choose to diversify your services by offering parent coaching, it is important to understand exactly how this service can benefit all parties involved.  

Benefits of parent coaching for providers

Parent coaching is a lucrative way for Child Therapists to expand their practice and ethically and responsibly diversify their service offerings. While children may be your primary niche, parents are the other side to that same coin, and as a Child Therapist, you are in an ideal position to offer parent coaching services. Offering parent coaching allows you to serve families in a more comprehensive, holistic way, and it opens more doors of opportunity for you and your private practice. 

Additional parent coaching benefits for providers can include:

  1. Grow your practice and caseload.
  2. Develop your niche.
  3. Expand your scope of practice.
  4. Attract additional opportunities. 
  5. Diversify revenue streams.
  6. Provide more comprehensive family care.
  7. Increase your geographical reach. (Since coaching does not require licensing, parent coaching services can be offered to out of state clients.)

Benefits of parent coaching for parents

Parent coaching benefits parents (and their families) in many ways. Parenting is not easy, and especially for first time parents, a parent coach can offer invaluable guidance to parents as they step into the role of parent-leader for their family. Additionally, the countless macro and micro choices parents face can lead to decision anxiety and decision fatigue. Sometimes parents need to talk a situation out with a knowledgeable expert, and they value collaborative help in how to make important parental decisions. 

15 ways parent coaching can benefit parents:

  1. Parents receive helpful insight into how to become a parent-leader and make important parental decisions with confidence. 
  2. Parents learn effective parenting techniques and optimal methods for raising healthy children. 
  3. Parents receive helpful insights and learn effective ways to overcome developmental challenges with children. 
  4. Parents discover positive parenting approaches on how to parent through family transitions and behavioral challenges. 
  5. Parents find a safe and therapeutic outlet for de-stressing and releasing parenting frustrations. 
  6. Parents gain access to important information regarding child development.
  7. Parents explore practical strategies for mitigating family conflict and improving family dynamics.
  8. Parents learn healthy and effective ways to strengthen their relationship with their child. 
  9. Parents experience an increase in positive regard towards their parenting journey. 
  10. Parents gain clarity on how to identify and establish family values in the home. 
  11. Parents receive reflective opportunities to re-parent themselves and work through complex emotions surrounding present-day parenting moments.
  12. Parents grow in mindfulness. 
  13. Parents learn effective ways to raise resilient children and set their children up for good mental health in the future. 
  14. Parents gain access to you – a knowledgeable professional – regarding occupational resources for children with unique needs such as special needs, learning disorders, physical disabilities, etc. 
  15. Parents receive hope. With your helpful guidance and supportive compassion, they don’t feel as alone.  

The Bottom Line

At Hopscotch, our mission is to connect families with the supportive providers they need, and that includes helping our providers connect with families in the way that they need. With the growing interest in parent coaching, now may be an advantageous time for the providers in our network to consider offering parent coaching services. As families continue to prioritize mental health, we as providers have a unique opportunity to use our subject matter expertise in creative ways and meet the rising needs of families in a significantly supportive way.