- by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D., Developer of Incredible YearsⓇ Programs
How it took a pandemic to force the IY developer to explore the use of on-line Incredible Years video tele-session training
Up until 6 months ago I was resistant to the idea of on-line IY video tele-session training and had never used Zoom or any other platform to provide parent intervention. I believed strongly in the importance of face-to-face training interactions and the value of experiential and reflective learning with others through collaborative problem solving, role plays, and practices. I found the group trainings the most satisfying aspect of both my own clinical group work as well as the preferred method for training new group leaders. My early research with several randomized control group trials (Webster-Stratton, 1984; Webster-Stratton, Kolpacoff, Hollingsorth, 1988) showed better parent and child outcome effect sizes when parents were trained via group interventions using video modeling with trained group leaders, versus group only without video methods, or self-administered video-based programs, or individualized one-on-one approaches using “bug in the ear” methods. The power of group support and building parent relationships was a critical element in parents’ ability to change behaviors. Parents in most IY parent groups were reluctant to have their trainings end despite the fact they were 18+ 2-hour weekly sessions. Many parents made plans to continue to see and support each other afterwards. I couldn’t imagine on-line delivery being a substitute for the in-person group experience where parents could build strong and supportive interpersonal relationships. It seemed to me that on-line training, even in groups, was more impersonal and that it would be difficult to establish trust and meaningful connections between group leaders and parents and to carry out successful practices with each other.
So, my foray into IY video tele-sessions was, to large extent, forced because of the coronavirus preventing travel and the inability to have groups of people together in one room. Initially the technology seemed intimidating and frustrating and likely affected my enthusiasm and effectiveness at using this method of program delivery. However, I have now reached the point of actually enjoying aspects of this approach and exploring how I can increase the similarities between IY in-person and on-line sessions and promoting genuine connections. Perhaps it is not the platform that makes one training method more effective than the other, rather it is the group leader who is able to make the individual or group feel safe and engaging on-line. One of the tricks is for group leaders to allow themselves to experiment with technology methods to bring fun, meaning and collaboration into the training, to reduce expectations for covering as much content in one session as for in-person sessions and to staying flexible with technology challenges. I was not an easy convert and still find this approach more fatiguing than face-to-face intervention and look forward to returning to the in-person approach when it is safe again. However, I can envision a silver lining to this on-line training method for the future, especially for parents who can’t travel to groups because of lack of transportation, or incompatible work schedules or sickness, or some other family conflict. It even appears from early data that parent dropouts or missed sessions from on-line training may be lower than group approaches because on-line sessions can more easily be rescheduled to adjust to a schedule conflict whereas face-to-face group sessions cannot. Now I love to send participants to rooms for practice, to give them funny stickers, and rewards for their efforts and help them share their successes with each other. While I can’t provide interesting snack rewards or tangible prizes or hugs I can encourage participants to do something for themselves at this challenging time and work on some work-life balance. I am encouraged by the positive participant evaluations and comments such as, “this is definitely better than nothing”. Here are a few other comments on our parent evaluations.
“There was so much helpful information covered in today’s session, I look forward to putting these practices and ideas into my time with my five-year-old. I appreciated the group leader addressing specific questions I had regarding independent play, and also sharing some videos with social/emotional coaching that were relevant to my parenting (as a mom of boys). Also, I look forward to sharing some breathing/calming exercises so he can find some good self- soothing strategies to grow with. There were several helpful ideas for this, and I had actually not heard most of these before!”
This paper is written to help IY group leaders understand how deliver on-line individual or group sessions. The article will cover how to select parents for either the individual or a group on-line IY video tele-session training, to provide tips to tailoring the IY parent video tele-session agenda, to determining the number of sessions needed, and ways to promote essential IY methods, processes, and fidelity principles when delivering the IY programs on-line. Group leaders will learn how to work with their co-leaders, to share their screen to mediate video vignettes and to promote more intimacy by using on-line rooms to set up buzzes and practices. The chat function and white boards can be used to record key principles. You will learn how to use the IY web site to share on-line weekly home activities, record sheets, refrigerator notes, and session evaluations via internet to parents.