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.”
Who is this course designed for?
This course is designed for Licensed Marriage and Family Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, Licensed Educational Psychologists, medical professionals who work with parents, children, and families, early childhood educators and child care providers, clergy, community outreach workers, and others who work with parents and/or children in their professions.
What is the Hand in Hand Parenting approach all about? How is it different from other approaches?
At the heart of Hand in Hand Parenting is one very simple idea: children’s feelings play a deeply useful role in their lives. There are four fundamental principles behind Hand in Hand Parenting that are related to this simple concept:
1) Connection is absolutely vital to the well-being of children. Being in good connection with parents and caregivers who are tuned in to their emotional state allows children to learn well, build loving relationships, and adjust flexibly to the changes that life brings.
2) Children often go through challenging experiences they can’t fully comprehend, which can cause big upsets to arise. When this happens, they feel disconnected and aren’t always able to tell us how they’re feeling. Instead, they signal to us through off-track behavior (e.g. whining, inflexibility, impulsivity, aggression, etc.).
3) We can help children heal from this sense of broken connection by listening to them and understanding that their emotional expression is part of a natural recovery process. Listening is the cornerstone of this approach. Hand in Hand offers four listening tools that parents can use to listen to their children with love and attention so the children have a chance to cry, have a tantrum, or laugh when life becomes too overwhelming. These listening tools help children reconnect with their parents and heal from hurt. Our experience as well as current research tells us that having a chance to release tension in these ways allows children to once again engage flexibly and lovingly with the people around them.
4) Listening well to their children on a regular basis isn’t easy for parents! It helps greatly when a parent is listened to regularly themselves. Hand in Hand offers two listening tools that parents can use to build support for themselves so they can replenish their energies and do the important emotional work of parenting.
For more information about this approach, read the article Partnering with Your Child by Patty Wipfler.
How will I be able to use the Hand in Hand Parenting Listening Tools in my professional practice? What benefits can taking this class bring to my practice?
The Hand in Hand Parenting approach is both concrete and profound. The six Listening Tools we teach can provide immediate support and relief to an overwhelmed parent, and offer the possibility of long-term transformation, depending on what a parent is ready for and open to. You will feel confident in adding these tools alongside other approaches you may use to work with adult and child clients. Because the Hand in Hand Parenting approach is a non-judgmental, respectful, and strength-based approach to parenting, your clients will find themselves feeling deeply respected and accepted by you, which will in turn inspire them to make the changes necessary to move forward in their lives.
Are there any prerequisites for taking this course?
No. Although we do suggest that you take the Hand in Hand Parenting Starter Class in order to become familiar with our Listening Tools, we don’t require it. Our experience shows that the mentoring we give is useful regardless of the level of a person’s experience with Hand in Hand. If you are already experienced with using this approach in your family and want to hone these skills in your line of work, then the mentoring serves to help you go deeper into the approach and how best to share it well with your clients.
What are the requirements for taking this course?
You’ll want to have a work or family situation that gives you contact with parents and/or children, and bring a willingness to try our Listening Tools either at home or at work. You will also need:
- Access to a computer
- High-speed internet access
- A phone line (long distance call charges may apply, please check here for local numbers) or ability to join our conference call via web call. Using your desktop computer and headset are recommended for this option.
What is it like to be in the Professionals Intensive class? What kind of experience might I expect?
The classes will include a mixture of instruction, sharing of personal experience as each participant tries our Listening Tools, mentoring in the use of the approach, and group listening time that is grounded in the tenets of our approach.
Participants will learn from one another and from their own personal emotional work in the class. We will focus only lightly on the relationship of Hand in Hand Parenting theory to the professional training you have had, so there is time to emphasize the experiential learning you will do at work and at home with the Listening Tools.
Must I have a professional license before I can take this course?
No. However, we do ask that you have a clientele you are working with, as you will be applying these tools in your practice and sharing your experiences from week to week.
What happens if I miss a class or class call?
We suggest you make every effort to attend all the class calls. Being a part of the group is a big part of the learning process. Also, according to CAMFT guidelines, every call miss will cost you a continuing education unit. You can regain that hour of instruction time by requesting and listening to the audio recording of that call.
If I decide I want to do the Hand in Hand Parenting Starter Class first, will that be okay? How should I do that?
Yes, of course. You are welcome to take any one of our Starter Classes. If you are looking for an in-person class in your area, you can check the Local In-Person calendar page. If you are looking for an online Starter Class, please check the Online Parenting Classes calendar page.
Will I be able to teach the Hand in Hand Parenting listening skills to the parents I work with? If so, how would I go about doing that?
The Professionals Intensive course will certainly help you add these listening tools to your toolbox, and there are a couple of ways in which you can share these skills with the parents that you work with: You could lead a Parent Resource Group, which is a structured meeting of parents who listen and talk about the things that matter to them as parents. You can find more details about how to do this in our “Leading a Parent Resource Group” booklet, which is available in the Hand in Hand Store.
You could organize a Hand in Hand Parenting Study Group, which is a specific type of Parent Resource group, using the guidelines for Leading a Study Group to cover each of the six Hand in Hand listening tools over a period of several weeks, typically six to twelve. If your clients are interested in attending one of our classes, you can certainly encourage them to do so and offer them additional support and guidance through that period.
I am not a parent. Is it viable for me to both learn and teach these skills to my clients?
Yes. Practicing the listening tools is a lot easier when you have a child at home. However, if you have regular access to children through your practice, you’ll be able to practice these tools. Parents tend to trust those who are speaking from personal experience, so your ability to teach and work with parents using Hand in Hand will depend on the direct experience you can gather, as well as your ability to listen well to parents, and to use a listener yourself. This class will also establish a model for skillfully and sensitively supporting parents in either group settings or one-on-one.
Will there be opportunities for individual and group consultations after the Professionals Intensive class as I incorporate these tools into my practice?
Individual consultations are always available, and we would pair you with a consultant who is also a professional in the field. With sufficient interest, group consultations may be possible as well.
A participant in the Professionals Intensive earns a CEU for each hour of active and engaged participation in each of the eight conference calls scheduled. Missing part or all of one or more calls will result in a lower number of CEUs earned.
Missing Conference Calls
When a participant misses multiple calls, they are welcome to continue with the course, and encouraged to complete the video assignments, as they contain an important part of the instructional content of the course. Please report to your call leader when you have completed the video assignments connected with the call you missed. We will send you a brief test relating to each of the first six classes so we can verify that you have watched the videos for that week.
There is no fee discount or refund for missing a conference call, as we have engaged the instructor to teach the full number of participants.
Cancellation Before the Start of the Course
If a participant cancels their registration for the Professionals Intensive more than 14 days before the start of the course, their fee will be returned to them in full. A participant will be charged a cancellation fee of 1/9th the full class fee for notice received 14 days or fewer before the start of the course. A participant who wants to cancel should send an e-mail to with “Cancellation Requested” in the subject line. Their e-mail must contain:
- the participant’s name, address, and phone number
- the date of the start of the Professionals Intensive they registered for
Dropping the Course After it has Started
If a participant decides for any reason to discontinue their participation, they can request a partial refund for the classes they will not attend, with a 2-day notification requirement. This means that if we are notified of withdrawal three or more days before their next scheduled class, they will be refunded for that next scheduled class along with the other classes to follow.
A participant may download and keep the booklets and manual associated with the class, but will be removed from the online classroom on the date of the first class they drop.
Refunds will be calculated thus: The total fee paid will be divided by 9. 1/9th of their fee will be retained to cover administration costs. The participant will be refunded 1/9th of their fee for every class they will not attend after notification that is in accordance with our notification policy.
A request for a refund should be sent, with “Refund Requested” in the subject line, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should contain the following information:
- the name, address, and phone number of the participant making the request
- the date of the start of the Professionals Intensive they registered for,
- the dates of the classes attended so far,
- the date of the final class the participant plans to attend.
We at Hand in Hand guarantee customer satisfaction in the value of our services and products. We guarantee that we will teach our unique approach with warmth and respect toward parents and children, and we guarantee that our Instructors, though not able to address every issue, will endeavor to bring the parents they serve the benefit of our 30 years of experience with the Hand in Hand Parenting approach. However, because good people can disagree about aspects of any parenting approach, we cannot guarantee that every customer will agree with every aspect of our perspective and experience. And we cannot guarantee that none of our instructors will ever make a mistake in judgment or have a lapse in thoughtfulness.
This grievance policy is written to address the following kinds of grievances between a Professionals Intensive participant and Hand in Hand Parenting, the continuing education provider:
- Refund requests
- Complaints about course content
- Complaints about facilities and/or online platforms for distance learning
- Complaints about non-receipt of certificates
- Complaints about miscellaneous occurrences
- Filing a Complaint
Professionals Intensive participants should notify Hand in Hand Parenting as soon as possible about their complaint by sending an email to with the subject line, “Professionals Intensive Participant Complaint.” This email should include their name, the start date of the class they have taken, their address and phone number, and their complaint, including dates and names of the people involved
Upon receipt of a notice complaint from a participant, or notice of a complaint registered with BBS or CAMFT, Hand in Hand will do its own initial investigation of the circumstances and respond within five business days.
The Program Director will contact the aggrieved party, and work toward a resolution of their complaint. If no resolution is found, the Executive Director will work toward a resolution with the aggrieved party. When a resolution is reached, a statement will be written, for both the Hand in Hand staff member and the aggrieved party to sign.
Records and Reporting
A record of each complaint and the resolution will be kept at Hand in Hand, and will be reported to CAMFT in the initial and subsequent renewal applications.
This grievance policy is available to anyone upon request to , and is posted as a link in the description of the Professionals Intensive Course.