After many years working with families of struggling children, Dr Jenny Brown has developed an evidence-informed approach based on Bowen’s family systems theory. Her manuals for coaches and parents are informed by over 20 years’ experience in the sector as both a clinician and visiting supervisor.
After embarking on her doctoral research into parent’s experience of adolescent mental health treatment, Dr Brown discovered :
- a strong relationship between parents’ hope and sense of agency/self-efficacy.
Parents who remained more passive in expecting expert helpers to fix their child experience reduced hope months after finishing the program. Conversely, when parents positively changed their interaction with their child, they felt a more sustained hopefulness. These findings (Brown, 2018) support the theory that if parents are actively involved in changing themselves as part of their child’s treatment, they experience increased hope and effectiveness in contributing to their child’s recovery.
Hearing of the triumphs and challenges experienced by clinicians and families of struggling children, Dr Brown was inspired to translate Bowen’s Systems Theory into a practical and supportive program for parents.
In 2022, Dr Brown was the recipient of the Caskie Research Award for her research with families in a child-focused treatment system, culminating in the development of resources for parents and professionals with the Parent Hope Project.
- Brown J (2018) Parents’ experiences of their adolescent’s mental health treatment: Helplessness or agency-based hope, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 23:4, pp.644-662.
The timeline of program development
First iteration of a manualised 6 session parent program based on Bowen Systems Theory developed.
2009 – 2017
Dr Brown embarks on her doctoral research on parent’s experience of their adolescent’s mental health treatment. Insights gained from her research further informs the development of the program.
2016 – 2018
Manual trialled over an initial 18-month period with a clinician at a public adolescent mental health service. Content is edited along the way, testing of parent data collection.
Mid 2018 – 2019
the use of professionally developed manuals is piloted with eight clinicians in Sydney. Data is collected from coaches after each session and from parents (pre- and post-program). Course material and the training content and method further developed based on participant’s experience
May 2019 – March 2020
2nd pilot with six clinicians in Vancouver, Canada. Course material further refined.
Sept 2019 – May 2020
1st group of eight clinicians trained in manualised approach in Sydney. Training package filmed and edited with an online training workbook developed.
Parent Hope website launched and online learning platform goes live.
Early pilot data
While evidence of the effectiveness of the Parent Hope and Parent Confidence Programs is still emerging, early pilot data is showing positive outcomes for families. Since 2016, data has been gathered as part of several pilot programs. In one such trial, the experience of eight families was captured at the completion of the 6-week program. Trial participants reported an overall reduction in both parenting stress and their concern for their children after completing the program.
Fig. 1 – Level of concern before and after Parent Hope Project
Fig. 2 – Level of parenting stress before and after Parent Hope Project
After completion of the program, parents reported a reduction in their child’s reactivity and an improved sense of connection, maturity, and responsibility.
“My child has shown more responsibility and has made progress through the ups and downs. I’m so thrilled to see that standing back and stepping up has been a factor in how a situation can evolve from despair to hope.”
“More willing to talk”
“…decreased anger, anxiety, and increased independence, is talking and sharing more.”
“Less reactivity by them in our interactions. More self-regulation by children.”
“I think my child and I have become less fused – resulting in a stronger sense that my child has their own inner resources and the confidence to allow them freedom to navigate these.”
Similarly, parents also experienced improvements in their parenting, with many reporting an increased sense of calm and confidence; shifting focus from changing their child to what is in their control.
“I have learnt to stop before I speak and consider how to respond in a way that will ultimately not rob them of the chance the grow.”
“Less trying to change my son and less trying to manage my husband. Not perfect though!”
“More willing to reflect on self and control what I can and not control my child”
“I am calmer and less worried”
“More focus on managing my own responses rather than trying to manage the emotional responses of my children.”
“Acceptance that she may struggle for life, I can be committed to being a resource and I can change my patterns”
“My parenting is calmer and less reactive”
Additional data and research opportunities
If you are interested in accessing more program data or conducting further research on the Parent Hope Project or Parent Confidence Project program, please contact:
Professional Programs Coordinator