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Parent Consultation. The Future of School Psychology Task Force on Family-School Partnerships Susan Sheridan, Michelle Swanger-Gagne, Kathryn Woods, Kathryn Black, Jennifer Burt, S. Andrew Garbacz, Ashley Taylor University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Definition.

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parent consultation

Parent Consultation

The Future of School Psychology Task Force on Family-School PartnershipsSusan Sheridan, Michelle Swanger-Gagne, Kathryn Woods, Kathryn Black, Jennifer Burt, S. Andrew Garbacz, Ashley Taylor

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

  • Parent consultation within school psychology is defined as a structured, indirect, collaborative, problem-solving relationship between the psychologist (consultant) and one or more parent consultees (Sheridan, Kratochwill, & Bergan, 1996).
rationale for using parent consultation
Rationale for Using Parent Consultation
  • Federal initiatives such as IDEA and NCLB highlight importance of collaborating with families.
  • Learning occurs across many settings and contexts.
  • There are several systems that interact to support the child’s development.
  • Children spend more time out of school than they do in school (Usdan, 1991, cited in Ooms & Hara, 1991).
  • Maximizing the extent to which these systems work together on behalf of the child can close the achievement gap for students who are not succeeding in school.
rationale for using parent consultation cont
Rationale for Using Parent Consultation cont.
  • Attempts to provide comprehensive mental health services without support and follow-through by parents or significant others lead to:
    • Disjointed and fragmented services
    • Lack of follow-through (generalization)
    • Unreasonable case loads
    • Significant job stress
          • (Kratochwill, VanSomeren, & Sheridan, 1989)
key characteristics of parent consultation
Key Characteristics of Parent Consultation
  • Indirect service delivery (triadic model) carried out via a joint, problem-solving process.
  • Work-related focus (not therapeutic); consultation is NOT counseling!
  • Participants: Consultant, consultee, client.
  • Voluntary, collegial relationship that involves parity & interdependence.
    • Roles of participants are both defined and varied; each participant brings his or her own expertise to the process.
indirect service triadic model
Indirect Service (Triadic) Model




evidence based models and practices
Evidence-basedModels and Practices
  • Parent Behavioral Consultation
    • See PC Handout 1
  • Conjoint Behavioral Consultation
    • See PC Handout 2
parent behavioral consultation bc
Parent Behavioral Consultation (BC)
  • Parent consultation has been shown to foster family-school partnerships (Christenson & Cleary, 1990), and is a relatively easy, time-limited, and cost-effective method of service delivery (Sheridan, Kratochwill, & Bergan, 1996).
  • Parent consultation is an effective mode of treatment delivery for a variety of school-related behavioral concerns (Sheridan, Eagle, Cowan, & Mickelson, 2001).
  • Areas in which parent consultation has proven to be effective include:
      • Aggression, social skills, noncompliance, social withdrawal, homework completion, school phobia, language skills, tic disorder, and anxiety (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001).
parent bc
Parent BC
  • Most common model of parent consultation (Sheridan et al., 1996).
  • Structured model with four interview stages: Problem Identification, Problem Analysis, Treatment Implementation, and Treatment Evaluation.
  • Can address a variety of child behavioral problems:
          • Academic and Adjustment Problems
          • Social Withdrawal
          • Electively Mute Behavior
          • Tics
what is parent bc
What is Parent BC?
  • An indirect form of service delivery in which a child’s needs are met by a parent working with a consultant to develop, implement, and evaluate intervention strategies (Sheridan et al., 1996).
  • Developed within the principles of applied behavior analysis.
stages of parent bc
Stages of Parent BC
  • Problem Identification
  • Problem Analysis
  • Treatment (Plan) Implementation
  • Treatment (Plan) Evaluation

See detailed discussion of stages in CBCsection

parent bc1
Parent BC
  • Models using joint consultation with parents and teachers received the highest ratings of evidence for significant change and methodological rigor.
      • Conjoint Behavioral Consultation provides the strongest evidence for producing significant school-related outcomes based on information obtained from parents and teachers (Sheridan, et al., 2001).
  • Conclusions based on single-participant studies
      • Researchers recognize need for between group design studies to further knowledge base in parent behavioral consultation and conjoint behavioral consultation.
conjoint behavioral consultation
Conjoint Behavioral Consultation
  • A structured, indirect form of service delivery in which teachers and parents are brought together to collaboratively identify and address students’ needs (Sheridan et al., 1996; Sheridan & Kratochwill, 1992).
  • Extension of the traditional behavioral consultation model that serves parents and teachers at the same time.
  • Interview stages are the same as in that of behavioral consultation, except that stages are conducted in a simultaneous (rather than parallel) manner.
  • Parents and teachers collaborate to:
    • Address the academic, behavioral, and social concerns of a child
    • Monitor a child’s behavior
    • Design an intervention
  • Rated by parents and teachers as the most acceptable consultation approach for academic, behavioral, and social-emotional problems when compared with teacher consultation models (Freer & Watson, 1999).
process goals of cbc
Process Goals of CBC
  • Improve communication and knowledge about child and family.
  • Increase commitments to educational goals.
  • Address problems across, rather than within, settings.
  • Promote shared ownership for need identification and solution.
  • Promote greater conceptualization of a need.
  • Increase the diversity of expertise and resources available.
process goals of cbc continued
Process Goals of CBC (continued)
  • Establish and strengthen home-school partnerships; enhance the family-school relationship.
    • Refers to a mutual effort toward a shared goal.
    • Contains the philosophy, attitude, and belief that both families and educators are essential for children’s progress in school.
    • Working together to promote the academic and social development of students.
outcomes goals of cbc
Outcomes Goals of CBC
  • Obtain comprehensive and functional data over extended temporal and contextual bases.
  • Identify potential setting events that are temporally or contextually distal to target.
  • Improve skills and knowledge of all parties.
  • Establish consistent programming across settings.
  • Monitor behavioral contrast and side effects systematically via cross-setting treatment agents.
  • Develop skills and competencies for future conjoint problem solving.
  • Enhance generalization and maintenance of treatment effects.
stages of cbc
Stages of CBC
  • Conjoint Needs Identification
  • Conjoint Needs Analysis
  • Conjoint Plan Implementation
  • Conjoint Needs Evaluation

See PC Handout 3

conjoint needs identification
Conjoint Needs Identification
  • Behaviorally define the concern or problem as it is represented in the home and/or school environment.
  • Explore environmental conditions that may be contributing to or motivating problem behaviors (antecedent, consequent, and sequential conditions).
  • Provide a tentative strength of the behavior.
  • Determine a goal for consultation.
  • Establish a procedure for the collection of baseline data.

Goals Include:

conjoint need identification
Conjoint Need Identification


  • Priorities for need identification and resolution are identified conjointly, with emphasis on shared perspectives and decision making.
    • The primary concern may be identical across settings, or it may represent a unique emphasis based on system specific factors.
  • Careful specification and operational definitions of concern is essential to ensure shared understanding of the problem, direct focus of an intervention, and consistent progress monitoring. Write it down!
  • Clarify specific settings within systems that will be the focus for intervention.
    • Helps to focus and simplify intervention procedures.
conjoint needs identification1
Conjoint Needs Identification

Considerations continued:

  • Explore within and across setting environmental factors that may contribute to or “motivate” behaviors.
    • Setting events: Antecedent, consequent, or sequential variables that may occur in a time or place that is distal to the target behavior, but still influence its occurrence.
  • Discuss approximate strength of problem (e.g., frequency, severity, intensity) and shared goals for resolution.
conjoint needs identification2
Conjoint Needs Identification

Considerations continued:

  • Baseline data collection procedures are established to clarify the specific nature and severity of concerns, determine important environmental and setting events, and set the stage for careful, systematic, data-based decision making.
  • Parents and teachers should assist in determining the most feasible and meaningful way to collect data.
  • Make it easy by providing forms and/or using permanent or tangible evidence.
conjoint needs analysis
Conjoint Needs Analysis
  • Evaluate and obtain agreement on the sufficiency and adequacy of baseline data.
  • Identify setting events, ecological conditions, and cross-setting variables that may be impacting the target concern.
  • Collaboratively design an effective intervention plan that is sensitive to setting-specific variables.
  • Reaffirm record-keeping procedures.

Goals Include:

conjoint needs analysis1
Conjoint Needs Analysis


  • Baseline data collected across settings are explored.
  • Trends across settings (e.g. home and school) are investigated; cross setting conditions and setting events are highlighted when appropriate.
    • Are there common things that happen across settings that trigger or maintain a behavior?
    • Do events occurring in one setting trigger or contribute to a behavior in another setting?
conjoint needs analysis2
Conjoint Needs Analysis

Considerations continued:

  • Consultant should direct discussion around possible environmental conditions that may be contributing to the need, in a collaborative and supportive nature.
  • When eliciting parent’s and teacher’s perceptions about purpose or functions of the behavior, environmental explanations can then be identified.
  • Interpretation of the problem in terms of environmental contingencies provides an important link between assessment and intervention.
conjoint plan development
Conjoint Plan Development
  • Together, the consultant and parent establish general strategies and specific plan tactics that might be used in a treatment package.
  • Strategies should be related to the hypothesis/interpretation statement.
    • Example: If child acts out to avoid doing schoolwork at home (escape), what would and would not be appropriate intervention strategies??
  • Brainstorming techniques are often useful to generate ideas -- a nonjudgmental attitude is essential!
  • Summarize the plan, being clear about what is to be done, when, how, and by whom... Write it down!
conjoint plan implementation
Conjoint Plan Implementation
  • Monitor implementation of the intervention.
  • Provide training if necessary.
  • Assess behavioral side effects and contrast effects; is the treatment causing any unforeseen problems or effects?
  • Determine the need for immediate revisions of the plan.
  • Continue data collection procedures.

Goals Include:

conjoint plan evaluation
Conjoint Plan Evaluation
  • Determine if the shared goals of consultation have been attained.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the plan across settings.
  • Discuss strategies and tactics regarding the continuation, modification, or termination of the treatment plan across settings.
  • Schedule additional interviews if necessary.
  • Discuss ways to continue conjoint problem solving and shared decision making.

Goals Include:

considerations for effective consultation practices
Considerations for Effective Consultation Practices
  • Parents generally want what is best for their child, and to cooperate on his/her behalf.
  • Parents and other family members know a great deal about their child.
  • It is important to understand the distinction between what you know and what the parents know about the child.
  • Interventions must be modified to meet the unique needs of each child and family.
considerations for effective consultation practices1
Considerations for Effective Consultation Practices
  • There is a professional obligation to include families when possible in the decision making process.
  • Parents have a right to be fully aware of possible implications and responsibilities of interventions.
  • Each family has its own strengths.
  • There are many reasons, often unknown to professionals, why parents are or are not involved.
  • Parents generally want to be involved, but they do not necessarily know the best way they can help their child, or how to approach schools and professionals.
  • There are many ways that parents can help.
practical considerations
Practical Considerations
  • Process Variables
    • Strategies must be modified and adapted to work with various types of families.
    • Methods take time to develop and see results.
    • Facilitate effective communication:
      • Reflection
      • Clarification
      • Use of Silence
      • Summarization
      • Paraphrasing
      • Listening and attending
      • Effective questioning: Open ended questioning
    • Control conflict by reframing and rephrasing negative statements. Remain positive.
  • Cultural Considerations
    • More research has to be dedicated to investigating the effectiveness of parent consultation with diverse populations.
    • Replication studies needed across diverse cultural and ethnic groups.
  • Thinking about your role as a consultant within a consultation relationship involves:
    • Not interjecting your own opinion or personal agenda
    • Demonstrating an open-minded attitude
    • Communicating appropriately,
    • Managing group dynamics, and
    • Incorporating diversity
  • Being clear about one’s actions.
  • Providing open opportunities to talk.
  • The goal is to hear and understand the consultee, not to use questions in a rote and mechanical fashion.
  • Allows consultees to explore topics and come up with creative solutions to problems.
use of silence
Use of Silence
  • The definition of “silence” is relative to each conversation’s tempo and patterns of speech.
  • Alternatives to silence: interruptions, talkovers, reduced verbal spacing, thoughtless verbalizations to “fill silence”.
  • Try to develop a habit of protecting verbal space; avoid verbal crowding.
  • Use your own silence as an opportunity for collecting your thoughts and directing the interview.
  • A collection of two or more paraphrases or reflections based on critical dimensions of consultee’s statements.
  • Focuses interview by condensing and clarifying what was said.
  • Identifies common theme.
  • Moderates pace of interview and reviews progress.
  • Serves as transitional statement.
  • Restating in one’s own words the main points of consultee’s statements.
  • Conveys understanding.
  • Repeats essence of message (“You’re telling me that...”).
  • Promotes consultee decision-making.
  • Encourages elaboration.
  • The ability of consultants to capture and understand consultees’ messages.
  • The goal is understanding!
  • Another purpose of listening is to establish rapport.
    • Listening demonstrates concern and a desire to understand the person and situation.
    • Allows you to demonstrate understanding, which is important in relationship building.
  • The consultant is effectively within the interview, demonstrated by listening carefully and remaining attentive to the consultee.
  • The consultant follows what the consultee is saying and does not interrupt or jump from subject to subject (i.e., pursues issues when they arise, and stays with them for a sufficient and appropriate amount of time).
attending cont
Attending cont.

Strategies used to orient toward the consultee; suggests “presence.”

S: Sit squarely

H: Have an open posture

A: Acknowledge

R: Relax

E: Engage using Eye communication

effective questioning open ended questioning
Effective Questioning: Open Ended Questioning
  • The consultant uses open questions:
    • To elicit examples of specific behaviors resulting in a better understanding of what is being described by the consultee, and to
    • Carefully and selectively encourage consultee elaboration, thereby gaining additional pertinent information on specific points.
effective questioning open ended questioning cont
Effective Questioning: Open Ended Questioning cont.
  • Questions should be selected carefully to:
    • Encourage consultee expressiveness
    • Allow a clear and comprehensive picture of the situation
    • Increase the consultee’s active participation
    • Decrease resistance and defensiveness by trying to understand
effective questioning open ended questioning cont1
Effective Questioning: Open Ended Questioning cont.
  • Open questions:
    • Help begin an interview.
    • Encourage consultees to elaborate on a specific point.
    • Help elicit examples of specific behavior.
    • Allow consultant to better understand what is being described by consultee.
    • Allow consultant to retain “control” of the interview, but convey the fact that the relationship is also important.

See PC Handout 4

  • Lack of training in how to effectively consult with parents.
  • Structural barriers.
  • Narrow approach to roles for parents.
  • Limited time and resources for consultation.
  • Scheduling difficulties.
  • Misunderstanding between home and school systems.
  • Dealing with and managing conflict.
  • Separating the person from the issue.
  • Focusing on mutual interests.
  • Financial costs.
  • Exploring options prior to making decisions.
  • Basing decisions on objective information.

See also Overview of Family-School Partnerships Module

  • Educate schools systems about parent consultation. Explain that it is…
    • Evidence based
    • Cost-effective
    • Relatively easy
    • Time limited
  • Build the bridge between home and school systems.
  • School psychologist’s need to educate school systems about their role as psychological consultants.
solutions continued
Solutions (continued)
  • Allow consultants to have flex time in their schedules.
  • Establish a cooperative approach that promotes a “win/win” result.
  • Focus on positive educational outcomes for students.
  • Ensure that a reasonable amount of information is brought to the table.
  • Minimizes potential for emotionally laden decisions on both parts.
  • Focus on shared goals (e.g., the child’s success).
  • Be involved in policy. Join local, state, and federal committees.
  • Manage conflict.
  • Make positive phone-calls to parents to share good news.
  • Spend time on connecting families and educators.
future directions
Future Directions
  • Employ the use of between group designs to contribute to methodological rigor of literature.
  • Employ single-participant research designs with stronger internal validity (i.e., multiple baselines, control for within-subject variance).
  • Report effect size in research publications.
  • Increase the use of outcome measures with strong reliability and validity data.
  • Replication studies across consultants and participants.
  • Extend research findings to parents and teachers of middle and high school aged students.
  • Investigate effectiveness of parent consultation among diverse populations in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
future directions1
Future Directions
  • Encourage scientist-practitioners to conduct and publish evaluations of parent consultation services as a school-based intervention service.
  • Continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of parent consultation for a variety of needs and concerns.
case study jackie
Case Study: Jackie
  • 4-year-old female
  • Caucasian, African-American
  • First year in Headstart classroom
  • Past experiences in daycare setting
  • Background
  • School:
    • Headstart classroom with a total of 18 children
    • Class from 8am to 12:10pm
    • After school she goes to a daycare setting
  • Home:
    • Lives with single, working mother
  • Discuss Strengths
  • School:
    • Intelligent- ready for kindergarten
    • Liked by peers
    • Creative and imaginative
  • Home:
    • Great imagination
    • Smart-Verbalizes well
    • Fun-loving
  • Both the mother and teacher noted the same strengths and this led to bonding
cnii cont
CNII cont.
  • Discuss Needs
  • School:
    • Noncompliance
    • Running away
    • Dangerous behaviors (e.g. climbing on tables, out of sight)
  • Home:
    • Noncompliance
    • Bedtime schedule
cnii cont1
CNII cont.
  • Desires and Priorities
  • School desires:
    • Compliance
    • Decrease disruptive behavior
    • Teach child about safety
  • Home desires:
    • To increase positive experiences with child (i.e.,improve their relationship)
    • To go out in public without problems
    • Compliance and less temper tantrums
  • Priority= the shared desire, Compliance
cnii cont2
CNII cont.
  • Define Goals
  • School and Home:
    • Shared goals
    • Increase compliance at home and school to improve the safety and relationships
    • Improve home-school communication
    • Increase positive interactions between child and teacher and mother
cnii cont3
CNII cont.
  • What Has Been Tried?
  • School:
    • They tried talking with her about the problem by problem solving and giving her choices
    • Relaxation strategies
    • Chair away from the group
  • Home:
    • Time-out or take away privileges
    • Try to ignore behavior or repeat the request
  • Collaborative Plan
  • School:
    • The intervention: (a) beat the buzzer, (b) praise and a reinforcement program (star program), (c) consistent consequence, (d) group positive behavior game (tootling program)
    • Teacher wanted to expand off already existent strategies that were used in the class
  • Home:
    • The intervention: (a) praise and reward system for behavior at school, (b) active ignoring, (c) child’s game, and (d) self-coping card for the mother
  • Observe and Reflect
  • School:
    • Less improvement so everyone discussed possible modifications
    • Eventually after the last intervention improvement with compliance and tantrums occurred
  • Home:
    • Increased compliance at home
    • More positive interactions between the mother and child
  • School and Home:
    • Less tantrums at both home and school
    • School and Home environments are more aware of what is occurring in the other setting
cpei cont
CPEI cont.
  • Follow-up
  • Another meeting to see if modifications helped
  • Planned for kindergarten
  • Continue communication between home and school
  • Home-visit
  • Continue use of strategies at home and school
  • Exchange resources
views about process
Views About Process
  • Teacher:
    • She liked the problem solving process
    • She liked working with the parents and hearing their points of view and ideas for improving school
    • All the children improved from the group program
    • She said she could use this process on her own with parents in the future
  • Mother:
    • She said she felt like she learned many strategies for helping her child at home and school
    • She felt like her relationship with her child was positive
    • She said the process helped her feel comfortable talking to the teacher

See Case Study Handouts 1 & 2

discussion questions
Discussion Questions
  • See PC Handout 5 for questions for consideration or discussion

Christenson, S. L. & Cleary, M. (1990). Consultation and the parent-educator partnership: A perspective. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 1, 219-241.

Freer, P. & Watson, T. S. (1999). A comparison of parent and teacher acceptability ratings of behavioral and conjoint behavioral consultation. School Psychology Review, 28, 672-684.

Kratochwill, T.R., VanSomeren, K.R., & Sheridan, S.M. (1989). Training behavioral consultants: A competency-based model to teach interview skills. Professional School Psychology, 4, 41-58.

Ooms, T., & Hara, S. (1991). The family-school partnership: A critical component of school reform. The Family Impact Seminar. Washington, DC: American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Sheridan, S. M., Eagle, J. W., Cowan, R. J. & Mickelson, W. (2001). The effects of conjoint behavioral consultation: results of a 4-year investigation. Journal of School Psychology, 39, 361-385.

Sheridan, S. M. & Kratochwill, T. R. (1992). Behavioral parent teacher consultation: Conceptual and research considerations. Journal of School Psychology, 30, 117-139.

Sheridan, S. M., Kratochwill, T. R. & Bergen, J. R. (1996). Conjoint behavioral consultation: A procedural manual. New York: Plenum Press.