A Psychotherapist’s Review of the Professionals Intensive in Hand in Hand Parenting
by Beth Ohanneson, M.S. M.F.T.
“Non-clinical language: This intelligent, comprehensive parenting approach is stripped of clinical jargon. The vernacular is connecting, rather than distancing. At the same time, psychotherapists will quickly notice similarities to relationally-oriented clinical concepts from D.W. Winnicott, Wilfred Bion, John Bowlby, Stanley Greenspan, Jane Ayers, Bessel Van der Kolk, Allan Schore, Heinz Kohut, and others. Hand in Hand’s Parenting by Connection operationalizes psychodynamic theory for parents who want greater emotional connection with their children, in addition to children who are better behaved. It greatly enhanced my ability to connect with parents in my practice, and provided me with relationally oriented tools to offer them.
“Group Format: I learned a well–structured format for facilitating parent groups within my practice. Prior to this class, I was not particularly interested in mastering the therapeutic elements of group process. This group format beautifully balances the delivery of didactic content with the delivery of noninvasive, emotional support. By the end of the class, I felt very well cared for, as well as very well informed.
“Emotional release is valued: Perhaps the most distinctive element of this parenting approach is the value it places on emotional release in the presence of a caring person who is receptive and emotionally present. Listening well to children, even during tantrums or aggressive outbursts, is at the heart of this approach and signals a powerful paradigm shift in contemporary thinking about the work of parenting. This class challenged my thinking about what an appropriate consequence is. It gives alternatives to behavioral strategies aimed at extinguishing, shaping, or distracting children away from their feelings via rewards, punishments, and the punitive use of time-outs. It also offers an alternative to educational strategies, which often rush children towards “thinking” and “using words” too soon. It details how to safely and respectfully listen to children’s emotions, while setting clear limits and maintaining high behavioral expectations. All this is congruent with contemporary thinking in the fields of both trauma recovery and the neuroscience of secure attachment formation. This ‘time in’ approach is also distinctively anchored in the understanding that parents too, need more support and opportunities for emotional release in order to provide secure attachment figures for their children.
“Greater respect for the work of parenting: This strategy doesn’t just instruct parents to find more support, while subtly implying, ‘You can pay me or another professional for that support, or you’re on your own.’ Instead, Hand in Hand Parenting offers a detailed framework for increasing support, which parents can take away and implement for FREE. Fostering this kind of agency and leadership is a very respectful way to conduct business with hardworking parents. Paradoxically, when parents are supported with fresh ideas to build more support into their lives, I found that they tended to remain in group or individual treatment for longer.
“Parenting in the Context of Culture: Where D.W. Winnicott said, “There is no baby without a mother,” we might go on to say, “There is no mother without a community.” I appreciated the opportunity to lean out from the comfort of my professional specialty, and consider how common cultural attitudes often leave parents feeling inadequate and isolated. This provocative topic is addressed thoughtfully, without being heavy-handed. Hand in Hand Parenting offers intelligent thinking about the work of parenting, as intentional counterpoints to subtle, negative messages that are culturally conveyed.
“It has been tremendously gratifying to weave this parenting strategy into my clinical work with parents, and into my home life with my own children.”