For adults who were physically or verbally abused as children, psychotherapy is an important step in working through the difficult emotions these experiences have created. But what about children currently living with an abusive parent? Providing one-on-one therapy, parenting coaching, and emotional support to abusive mothers drastically improves their parenting skills and treatment of their children, a new Texas study has shown. Many programs like Project Support exist in states around the country, but little research has been done to document how such programs compare to traditional child welfare services. The study, which followed a small group of single mothers in similar financial situations, was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Project Support was established in 1996 and was designed to help children in violent families by altering the parents’ behavior. Traditional child welfare services in Texas tend to vary, but include pre-recorded parenting lessons, community parenting classes, individual counseling, family counseling, anger management work, GED classes, and contact with a social worker. Project Support goes a step further. With Project Support, mental health professionals visit a family’s home weekly for as long as six months. Parents are taught 12 specific parenting skills, including how to give positive attention and praise, how to play with and pay attention to their children, how to comfort and listen to their children, how to give appropriate commands or instructions, and how to handle bad behavior. Parents also worked with therapists on how to provide the best environment for their children through limited income and available local and state resources.
The results were highly successful. For families in the control group, receiving conventional child welfare services, 28 percent were again referred to social services for abuse, but for families participating in Project Support, that rate was just 5.9 percent, a 78% reduction. The study’s leaders hope that documenting the success of the program will lead to an increase in similar programs nationwide.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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