• Vibe Hotel Melbourne, 1 Queen St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000
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TrainerDr Jenny Brown (AUS)
CPD Hrs14
IncludesCatering, handbook, manuals & CPD Cert

Clinical intervention program for working with children, parents and families with complex mental health presentations

Do you help families with complex mental health issues where relational processes fuel the maintenance of problems?

Do you encounter parents/carers who say “We don't need your help, just fix our child".

When families access mental health support they are seeking expert advice during periods of heightened emotions and concerning behaviours. Many complex factors contribute to symptom development including genetics and their broader family and social environment. However, parents can contribute to sustainable improvements in their child’s mental health and wellbeing by adjusting how they interact with their child. Yet even when young people, parent/carers and other family members are agreeing to attend sessions, it is often difficult to shift the focus from discussing how to “fix” the problems of one child versus expanding the parent/carers view to consider their possible part in the child’s symptoms without risking them dropping out of therapy. On one side of the dilemma, the parents may feel relieved that a professional is willing to join them in their efforts to fix their child. On the flip side, the attention to the child’s difficulties may lay a heavy burden on the child for taking on the responsibility for change. It may also leave uncovered the underlying relational process that fuels the maintenance of problems; so that symptom relief is either short lived or the problem focus shifts to another member of the family or system/context (ie school).

"This program helped the parents I work with be involved and engaged with their kids but not experience the intensity of emotions alongside them. They developed an understanding that being a functional, deliberate and less reactive parent is important to help their kids mental health."


The Parent Hope Project is a research-based manualised parent/systems clinical intervention program – to improve treatment outcomes for children & young people with complex mental health presentations. The manual includes a 6 session, individualised coaching program for parents who have a child who is struggling with mental health and/or social/behavioural issues. An optional introduction and review session can be included. The program is designed to provide parents with fresh awareness and guiding principles to optimise the way they support their child’s wellbeing. It is not a parent education program where the clinician/coach instructs the parent about how to manage their child. Instead it aims to facilitate parent awareness and develop internal agency – to discover their own solutions. It is not directed at fixing the child, nor is it mental health psycho-education. Rather it focuses on the parent awareness of their interactions with their child and on the parent changing what is in their control. The clinician/coach shares ideas and principles rather than prescribing what the parent should do. Parents are supported to manage their feelings and reactions towards their struggling child and to consider their role in encouraging their children’s potential for healthy development. A repeated idea in this program is that when parents shift their energies away from trying to fix or change their child and invest in what is in their control as parents, new hopeful pathways open up. 

The manualised program is the outcome of research and subsequent use with many parents in Australian Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) settings. The research focused on how a parents’ involvement in their child/adolescent’s treatment influenced their perception of how they can be helpful in their child’s recovery? The strongly emergent theme was the relationship between parents’ hope and agency/self-efficacy. Parents who remained more passive in expecting expert helpers to fix their child, experienced reduced hope months after finishing the program. When parents positively changed their interaction with their child, they felt a more sustained hopefulness. Parents actively involved in changing themselves as part of their child’s treatment, experience increased hope and effectiveness in contributing to their child’s recovery.

Workshop outline:

  • Introducing Parent Coach Training
    • Research and the Development of the Parent Hope Project
  • Parents developing agency Vs dependency on experts
    • Family Systems Understanding of Symptom Development in Children
  • The manuals and a family systems treatment approach
    • Recruiting parents
    • Stage 1(sessions 1 -3) Stepping Back: Observations and awareness
      • Session 1 - Promoting dependence or independence?
      • Session 2 - Where is your energy directed?
      • Session 3 - Considering parents levels of reaction/self-regulation
    • Stage 2 (sessions 4 - 6) Stepping Up
      • Session 4 - What is in my control? What is my "I" position?
      • Session 5 - Stepping up in connection 
      • Session 6 - Big-picture change requires patience
    • Extra sessions
      • The introductory session and optional surveys
      • Extension questions

Workshop inclusions:

  • Clinician manual valued at $35
  • Parent manual valued at $35
  • Access to reading resources and links to online support materials – podcasts, You Tube videos.

Manual Example 

Presented by: Dr Jenny Brown has been working in the field of child and family mental health and family therapy since the 1980’s. She has been a trainer and supervisor in the field in Australia and internationally for over 20 years. Her formal family systems training began in the 1980’s in Australia and overseas (Tavistock in London, Family Institute and Salvador Minuchin in New York). Jenny is Emeritus Executive Director of the Family Systems Institute Sydney, which she co-founded in 2004. She currently directs the Family Systems Practice and the Parent Hope Project (manualized interventions in child mental health). She is a clinical member and supervisor for the Australian Association of Family Therapy and, in 2018, received the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy award for distinguished contribution to family therapy in Australia. In 2022 she received the annual research award from Bowen Centre for the Study of the Family in Washington DC based on her PhD research (Social Science UNSW) exploring parents’ experience of their child’s mental health treatment

Audience: for Mental Health (and Education) Professionals at All Levels & Any Professional that applies Behavioural & Developmental Science to their Practice. Along with those wishes to grow their systemic practice. Services providing support and therapy to children, young people and parents/carers.

Mental Health Professionals: All mental health professionals including, but not limited to Clinical Counsellors, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Psychiatrists, Social Workers, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Youth Workers, Mental Health Workers, Addiction Specialists, Marital & Family Therapists, Child Protection and Disability Workers, Guidance Officers, Speech and Language Therapists, Residential Care Workers and Foster Support Workers, and all other mental health professionals looking to enhance their therapeutic skills.  

Education Professionals: An adapted workshop can be presented to educational professionals who work with children or youth including, but not limited to K–12 School Counsellors, School Paraprofessionals and all other professionals who support behavioural challenges and complex learning needs. For further details email us here.


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