“Parents’ Experiences of Their Adolescent’s Mental Health Treatment: Helplessness or agency – based hope.” 2018 Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Jenny Brown. PhD
In a matter of only ten to twelve weeks, parents experienced: starting at Redbank with its associated respite, relief and misgivings; ongoing involvement in regular family and parent sessions; and finally having to deal with their adolescent’s discharge. Discharge from a program which was initially viewed as the last chance to help their child, introduced a challenging adjustment for parents and their adolescent. It presented a significant juncture in the journey towards recovery as the intensive program support finishes and the adolescent and parents adjust to managing with increased reliance on their own capacities.
The data revealed an interesting variation of hope and helplessness as parents finished their involvement at Redbank. By the end of the program, and 6 months after discharge, a continuum emerged from very low hope with continued helplessness, to solid hope that the program had made a difference to parents and their adolescent. There were parents who reported navigating the transition of discharge with increased hope and confidence while others expressed the opposite experience of helplessness and despair. Parents who were most hopeful had increased confidence in their ability to parent, had set goals for themselves, and had initiated changes in their parenting. As such their hope was based in the development of parent agency. Parents, who remained invested largely in an external, medical solution for their child had lower levels of hope. The development of parent agency through the course of their treatment involvement emerged as a key factor in sustained hope following discharge.
Parents were divided into 3 groups as a way to thoroughly interrogate the emergent variations in hope as part of data analysis. The levels of hope groupings are: High (4 sets of parents); Moderate (5 sets of parents) and Low (5 sets of parents). Parents organized into the high group expressed a predominance of optimism about the changes they had made as parents and the helpful impact this has on their child’s recovery. Parents organized into the moderate group expressed an equal combination of optimism about what they had learned at Redbank as well as caution and fear about their child’s symptoms regressing. The low hope group of parents conveyed a dominant narrative of disappointment in the outcomes of treatment and pessimism about the future.
- Professional Resource
In this edition of Family Matters, I talk with Dr. Jenny Brown about how she helps parents think about children with mental health challenges. We’ll explore how parents’ work on themselves can help foster maturity and resilience in their children. Dr. Brown is the founder and director of The Family Systems Institute in Sydney, Australia.
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The reciprocity between parents and their child’s mental health treatment systems, Family Systems: A Journal of Natural Systems Thinking in Psychiatry and the Sciences, 14:2, 2020 Jenny Brown. PhD Excerpts Any treatment may achieve some symptom relief for a child even if it does not address the underlying parental process. This can occur through anxiety…