Parenthood—Lost and Found: Exploring Parents’ Experiences of Receiving a Program in Emotion Focused Skills Training
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionFrontiers in Psychology. 2021, 12, 559188. 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.559188
Background: Parents play a crucial role in the development, maintenance, and deterioration of child difficulties. Emotion focused skills training (EFST) targets parents’ capacity to provide their child with emotion-oriented skills in order to promote good child mental health. Few qualitative studies have specifically investigated parents’ experiences of receiving such programs. Objective: This study aimed to explore how parents experience working with their own and their child’s emotions undergoing a short-term program in EFST; in particular, changes in their experience of being a parent and in everyday life are reported. Method: Semi-structured in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 14 parents who had completed a short-term EFST program (2-day group training and 6 h of supervision). Interview transcripts were analyzed using a reflexive thematic analysis approach. Results: A total of 14 parents (40% men, four couples, Mage = 39.5, SD = 4.4) participated in the study. Our analysis resulted in the following three themes: (1) “Coming home” as a parent, with the following subthemes: (a) New ways of being with their child and (b) Parents’ painful inner world; (2) Reclaiming parenthood—applying new tools and learning in challenging situations; and (3) This is us—changing the heart of the story. The first theme was related to the descriptions of the changes that emerged in parents’ inner lives, the second revolved around the employment of their skills intuitively and creatively based on what was required by the challenging situations, and the third theme referred to new discoveries on family dynamics. Conclusion: Parents’ experiences of having wisdom and calmness inside them (being) and doing parenting differently, as well as the changed perspectives of the family (living), resonate with the theoretical ground of emotion-focused therapy (EFT). The findings also indicate that therapists should be aware of potential parental distress when working in view of changing unpleasant emotions in such skill-based programs.