Including Parents in Child Mental Health Treatments: Clinician Practices and Decision Variables

Sonya Rosenwald Kurzweil, Ph.D.

Cambridge Health Alliance
Including Parents in Child Mental Health Treatments: Clinician Practices and Decision Variables

Scientific Abstract

Background: Child therapy outcome research has indicated that including parents in child mental health treatments is generally beneficial. This study explored clinicians’ differential day-to-day practice of parent inclusion (PI) with common childhood disorders and child, parent and clinician variables influencing PI decisions.

Methods: Data on decision making and reported use of PI by 40 therapists with 6 to 12 year olds were obtained from a self-report survey. The clinicians were largely psychologists, Caucasian, female, with a range of experience and in community based clinics. They reported using cognitive-behavioral and family system interventions considerably more than psychodynamic.

Results: There was broad variability in the amount of PI use reported with an average of 50% overall. The amount of clinician reported use of PI was significantly greater for Conduct/ODD than for ADHD, Depression, Anxiety and PTSD/Trauma.  Among variables important to clinician decision making, child age and diagnosis were endorsed by 100 %; parental level of stress by 85% and parent interest in working with clinician by 60%. 90% endorsed their belief in the effectiveness of parent work as influencing their PI decisions while only 25% endorsed their training.

Conclusions:  Clinicians’ reported use of significantly more PI with Conduct/ODD than other common childhood disorders is not surprising given the disruptiveness of the disorder and complexities involved in treatment. In keeping with this, they consider diagnosis an important variable in PI decisions. Clinicians’ endorsed belief in the effectiveness of PI in treating child mental health problems is in keeping with considerable child therapy outcome research. They highly endorsed age in PI decisions which is supported by some research. They often endorsed parent level of stress and interest in working with the clinician, reflecting the influence of lesser researched personal and interpersonal variables in PI decisions.

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Authors

Sonya Rosenwald Kurzweil, Ph.D.