I first met Katie Malinski when she volunteered for a program I managed at the Girls Empowerment Network (GENaustin). Then she had a daughter, and I had a son, and we reconnected as moms. Katie provides therapy for children, adolescents and families; parent coaching; workshops; book groups (like this one I wrote a post about in an earlier post) and presentations. I recently had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her practice and philosophy.
What is the difference between therapy and parent coaching?
Parent coaching is short-term, solution-focused consultation with parents who want to improve specific areas of their family’s life, their child’s behavior, or their confidence as a parent.
In my parent coaching role, I am more of a consultant—someone with extensive training and experience in psychology, behavior, child development, attachment theory, parenting, and more—with whom you consult about a specific problem. You describe the problem, I ask you to collect data, then we examine & explore what’s going on and come up with an individualized, intuitive, thoughtful, loving, and effective response! Parents LOVE parent coaching because it leaves them in control, gives them tons of useful information, improves their confidence, and offers so much support.
Parent coaching is actually quite different from therapy—therapy is more process-oriented (meaning, that it moves slower, you talk & I listen, we’re not trying to get to an ‘answer,’ etc.) So, if you compare me to a traditional individual therapist, the experience is about as different as apples and giraffes!
When might parents want a coach?
The reasons that bring families in to see me vary, but the most popular is discipline and family harmony, particularly with younger children. To be more specific, parents talk with me about improving their effectiveness in getting their kids to behave appropriately, understanding why behavior problems arise, and overall in feeling more confident in their parenting. Parents also often come to me with questions about healthy childhood sexual development, parenting through divorce, and school problems.
Is parent coaching ongoing or one time?
Both! It completely depends on what you want to get out of it. If you have a focused, specific item to address, one session can cover that. But, if what you’re working on is, say, discipline—well, that’s likely to fit best with a series of sessions.
How would parent coaching be different from talking to other moms about challenges I’m facing with my child/ren?
It’s great to do both. Parents NEED a village—nothing can replace a supportive community of moms! And, I have a Master’s degree in clinical social work, ten plus years of professionally working with families and tons of continuing education on child development, parenting, attachment theory, etc. In addition to the training, I also have these conversations with parents all day every day—you’d be surprised how much you learn through the experience of helping other parents.
The other big difference is a bit of magic—when a parent commits to working with a professional, they take some major steps: they acknowledge that there’s an area they’d like to change, they open themselves up to hearing another point of view, they look at the ‘problem’ with new eyes, they pay more attention to their own thoughts/feelings/actions, they spend time and money, they agree to experiment with slightly new ways of parenting, and then come back and talk about how those changes worked. The time, focus, and energy commitment in working with a professional is so much greater than in talking with a friend—it can’t help but make a big difference!
Do you have any workshops happening in the next few months?
Yes. My Beyond Birds & Bees workshop for parents covers healthy childhood sexual development, sexual abuse and how to talk to your kids about sex. In the Mother-Daughter Puberty & More workshop, mothers and daughters participate together. That workshop covers the nuts and bolts of puberty, communication, and creating your own ‘coming of age’ ritual. Lastly, I am hosting a joint event with Well Styled, Looking Good, Feeling Good: Mother-Daughter Shopping Trip. Daughters work with Well Styled to find a stylish, flattering, age appropriate outfit, while Moms talk about parenting a pre-teen, clothes, body image and more. You can learn more about these workshops on my website.
What led you to develop a workshop focused on the “birds and the bees”?
Many, many conversations with parents. Parents kept telling me that they wished there was help out there in figuring out how, what, and when to talk to their children about sex. Practically no one in our generation had parents who talked easily with us about sex—but ALL of us want our children to be able to make good decisions about their sexuality. But, how to get there?! I realized that all parents needed to get started was a little basic information about what is important & appropriate, and support in believing that they COULD do it!
What do you like about being a therapist and parent coach?
You know, I really, really love my job, for many reasons. I love talking with parents about the really tough experiences—the big ugly moments, if you will—and helping them understand that we all feel that way, make big mistakes, feel hopeless sometimes. Parenting is so hard, and there just isn’t enough support, validation, and understanding out there for those of us doing it! I love getting to provide it.
My other favorite thing is watching my clients grow out of needing my services. No, really! It feels so good to see clients putting pieces together, realizing things on their own that we once had to work to see, feeling so much more confident and effective. Seeing a parent feel proud, effective, and confident in their parenting feels great! I absolutely LOVE that that’s my job.
What do you think parents can lose sight of?
The role that they play in their child’s behaviors. We are so much more powerful and influential than we realize. This is actually a GOOD thing, but when we forget it, we feel powerless and frustrated. I like helping parents reclaim that power in ways that help the whole family.
How did starting a family change the way you related to your clients?
I was a family therapist before I was a parent, and a lot of what I say now is what I said then. Two big things have changed, though: (a) I focus more on how much parents affect their children—and therefore how a parent can change what THEY do in order to bring about change in their child; and (b) on a non-verbal, gut level: I GET IT—parenting is so, so, so hard. I really, really understand why parents do the things they do-even the ugly stuff. I think it’s hard to GET that until you’ve made a few dozen of your own ugly parenting mistakes.
What do you like most about Austin?
Intelligent, thoughtful, unique people live here, of course! I also love that weird is a good thing here. Coming from rural Louisiana, *I* was weird there. Here I’m practically vanilla—I love it!
What do you like to do outside of work?
Go on adventures with my daughter. We love to take the bus downtown—kids make the bus fun. Our family loves to ride bikes, swim, take day trips around central Texas, work in our backyard—anything outdoors. Board games and talking with girlfriends. Reading really great fiction when I’m alone—yum. But lately, a lot of my time currently is spent at my daughter’s school—I’m on the PTA, and it’s like a part-time job!
What’s the best way to keep up with what you are doing?
Written by: Nicole Basham