In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!
From the information presented in this chapter, it is clear that counselors perform many jobs and roles. Counselors will work with the children, their families, and the agencies that address child welfare. One of the growing roles (jobs, functions, duties, etc.) for counselors is parent training. Parent training is scarcely a new concept for counselors. From the profession’s inception in the early 1950s, counselors have worked to assist parents, grandparents, and guardians in becoming more functional parents. In many cases, counselors taught psychoeducational classes in which single parents (many of them teenagers) learned how to cope with the weighty responsibility of new parenting. Specific information on parent effectiveness trainers (PET) is given below.
Issues to Understand
There are many issues to be aware of when training parents on how to be more effective in raising children. First, many parents may be mandated to attend training, and they may be resentful at being there. Another factor is that counselors will have many teenage parents and other single parents who are struggling to meet the emotional, behavioral, and financial responsibilities of parenting. Physical abuse and neglect will likely be common among the parents in the class, and you may discover yourself struggling to “like” your students. It is fair to say, however, that many people who come to counseling, mandated or voluntary, are people struggling with the demands of their lives. Your role as the counselor is to help them manage those demands and to learn new skills that will lessen their stress level.
Parent effectiveness training usually occurs in public and private agencies as opposed to counselors in private practice. Some high schools will offer parent training to teen parents or even to high school students interested in learning about the demands of future parenting. Counselors offering PET will work from a teaching framework, with role plays, much discussion, utilizing DVDs, and open discussion with the facilitator or co-facilitators. Many couples and family counselors provide parent effectiveness training to parents as it is clearly related to their background and training as marriage and family counselors. That being said, numerous other professionals, such as social workers, ministers, school counselors, mental health counselors, caseworkers, and teachers, also teach parenting classes. The advantage of counselors (or any other mental health professionals) teaching the class is that they will better recognize anxiety and depression and can make referrals for individual counseling.
Most counseling programs will not provide parent effectiveness training as part of the curriculum, though it may be touched on in a family counseling class or on an internship. Parent effectiveness training is offered throughout all regions of the United States, and counselors can earn a certificate in parent effectiveness training, as well as in continuing education, for licensure and certification.
Best Aspects of the Job
Probably one of the most rewarding parts of the job is the knowledge that you acquire while assisting parents and their children in establishing a healthier relationship. Many counselors also enjoy teaching as it is very different from individual counseling. Counselors who enjoy the challenge of teaching parents who may be oppositional are the optimal candidates to run parent effectiveness training.
Challenging Aspects of the Job
Many counselors offering parent effectiveness training are themselves parents, and having children will give them far more credibility than counselors who are childless. The students in the program are likely to challenge the counselors who are teaching the class, and the counselors must be able to manage class resistance without getting into power struggles with the students and without losing control of the class. Counselors will also hear painful stories of neglect and abuse when teaching this population, and few participants in PET trainings may thank the counselors for her or his efforts.
Occupational Outlook and Salary
Though the BOLS did not report statistics for this particular counseling related job, the occupational outlook is likely to be high, because people will continue to have children at an early age, and because of the reality that some parents are not ready for parenting or are poorly suited for the multiple demands parenting requires. In most cases, mental health counselors, marriage and family counselors, and even school counselors will provide parenting trainings as a part of their overall role in their clinic or school counseling office.