Family Consultant plays a crucial role in supporting families facing various challenges. Since family consultant primarily work with parents, you are looking for someone who you feel you “click” with, their information delivery is accessible and digestible and you feel safe being vulnerable about your limitations and capacity.  Check in with your intuition. A family consultant should:

  • Take time to listen and gain an in-depth understanding of your family culture and values.
  • Take time to know your and your child’s uniqueness and preferences.
  • Teach you how to navigate and explain all the major and nuanced concepts.
  • Approach you with compassion, and respect, and adjust their approach to meet you where you are without judgement or passive-aggressive pressuring.
  • Bring awareness to important tasks or considerations that you may not know about and proactively help you prepare for the future.
  • Work themselves out of a job: give you all the insight and tools so you can eventually learn and problem-solve independently without relying on a consultant.
  • Make proactive attempts to maintain strong therapeutic relationships with both spouses if applicable.

⚠️ When there are discrepancies between awareness and skills between parents, it can negatively impact family dynamics. Neurodivergent children often have neurodivergent parents who grew up without any of this awareness or support. Often, the spouse who struggles with parenting the most is the one who is absent from the meetings or is unable to fully engage in the sessions. The consultant should take time to fully know each parent and get feedback from both.

⚠️ It is also common for parents’ anxiety, desperation, or past experiences to influence their decision-making.  For example, a parent may choose to prioritize academics over other types of wellness because of the fear of “falling behind” or prioritize social skills because of fear of social ostracism. It is also important for the consultant to compassionately confront you and push back when they feel your request is not in the best interest of the child.

Training and licensing

  • There are no specific licensing or government regulations to be a family consultant.
  • Consultants can have backgrounds as Board Certified Behavioural Consultants, some can be registered counsellors, and some are veteran parents who have walked the same difficult path before you.
  • Unlike other therapy professions, licensing and formal training are not the most crucial quality of a family consultant because you are accessing them for their lived experience and day-to-day wisdoms.
  • However, in order to offer more psychodynamic intervention or mental health counselling, the family consultant should also be a registered counsellor.  The family consultant should be able to explain to you the scope of their practice.

Consultation Style and Contents

Every family has unique preferences and needs at different phases of their life, and a good family consultant would dynamically adapt their approach to the family’s needs at the time. It is important to ask in advance about the consultant’s scope of practice and how the consultant will be interacting with the family. In the behavioural pathway, a behavioural consultant (BCBA) would fulfill this role. Consultants can be from various fields of practice.

This is a visualized example of what a family consultant’s style may be.  Differen consultants would have different focus and scope.

Psychoeducation

This is the core component of any family consultation: knowledge, advice, strategies, and problem-solving. Some only work supports ADHD and some specialize in autism. Some will go to your house and some would not actually meet your child. Some consultants are heavy on information dumping and some are more hands-on.  Overall, it should never feel like a lecture and the information provided should always sound relevant and understandable to the family. The consultant should provide an environment where you can feel comfortable giving feedback about your performance and your experience.

💡 Psychoeducation matters on applicability, not quantity. It is not useful to know a lot without knowing what to do about it. Nor is it helpful to use the same set of tricks for everything.


Case Management

Provide monitoring and tracking for the child’s developmental needs proactively. For example, they would inform the parents well in advance and begin preparing the family for the school transition well before the first day of school. Or, they would proactively recommend other resources such as speech-language pathology and explain the reason behind the recommendation specific to the child. Some consultant can put a team together for you and manage on your behalf.

🚩 If the family consultant or agency claims to a newly diagnosed family that the child does not need any services outside their consultation, this is a red flag, and this consultant would also likely be less dynamic and flexible about their approaches.

Human Connection & Spoon Giving

What are “spoons”?

Spoon theory is a metaphor used to explain the limited amount of physical and mental energy or capacity a person with a chronic illness or disability has for daily activities.

Sometimes, the parents are just so overwhelmed and isolated that psychoeducation and advice just add to the overwhelm. For some sessions, they just need a human who cares, understands, and empathizes with their experience or a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, they just need someone to assure them that they are good enough parents and that they are on the right path. Sometimes, the parent just needs an hour of a nap while the consultant takes the kids out for ice cream and playground.

“I can consult parents all day long, but sometimes what the parents need is someone to go in there and put out the fire and give them some space to breath.” – Christine

Cost-saving strategy: the community often have veteran parents who act as a mentor or guide. If you are lucky enough to find one of these, treat them well and please do not overwhelm them with your overwhelm. That is the job of a paid consultant or counsellor.
There are also online support groups with serving similar functions but they may not be able to support you in more nuanced issues.

Family Counselling

Sometimes, the problem is within the family dynamic. A parent with anxious attachment is going to have different parenting challenges than a parent with avoidant attachment. Sometimes, the “problem” with the kid is facilitated by the parents. If the consultant has a counselling background, they may spend a bigger proportion of their service focusing on this component which is often the most efficacious, if the parents are receptive.

Recommendations

Cherish Clinic offers a multidisciplinary approach to help parents understand the landscape of their journey and give them some direction, a road map, and some navigational skills. We have highly specialized consultants in different areas of neurodivergence and areas of needs.