This year’s pandemic has presented many new challenges but also new opportunities for connection and support. One bright spot has been the emergence of The Dorm’s Parent Collective, an online forum for Dorm parents to connect and learn with the support and facilitation of licensed clinicians.
The Dorm’s Parent Collective initiative began when The Dorm’s Clinical Supervisors saw a need respond to a surge of parent concern about the effects of public health lockdowns on their young adult children’s mental health. What started as a pandemic response grew into a virtual, bi-monthly series that has become a permanent part of The Dorm’s family service offering.
In response to the amazing feedback we have had about the Parent Collectives, we spoke to team members about how this came to be.
How did the parent collective come to be?
COVID-19 created new challenges for all of us. Thinking of the community that we serve – clients, families, and parents alike – we wanted to create a space for parents to connect with other parents as they navigate the mental health treatment of their adult children during a difficult time.
Many of our young adult clients returned home at the onset of the pandemic. Some did not. School plans changed, and mental health and addiction struggles heightened as lockdowns took effect.
In response, we wanted to ensure that our community had extra support during this period. The answer was to create space for parents to learn how to navigate all of their challenges more effectively – for themselves and their young adult children – while also connecting with each other during what has been experienced by many as a unique and isolating period.
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Has the structure of the Parent Collective changed since you started? How has it evolved?
When we started the Parent Collective, we really wanted to emphasize the connection piece. At the same time, it needed more structure than just an open conversation. We didn’t want this to be just another webinar.
We started with a 50/50 presentation and discussion structure. This then evolved to include more psychoeducation, where our facilitators posed questions and information as a springboard for parents to share their experiences with each other. This allowed our parent attendees to explore their experiences from a different lens based on the new information presented, and find mutual support in the parent community from other parents who truly relate to their struggles.
So, through some trial and error, as well as feedback from parents, we’ve ended up with a delicate balance of a themed discussion platform where we present ideas, strategies, and food for thought, and this acts as a jumping off point for ongoing community connection.
Overall, what has been the response from parents?
Many of the topics we discuss are difficult ones, and much of the information we provide, as well as hear from others’ stories, can be hard to digest. It takes a lot of courage for parents to come to conversations like this. Many parents are ready for this type of dialogue, though, and we’ve received some real appreciation from them for providing this platform and opportunity to connect with other parents on these important issues.
Some parents come in and out based on the topic, and others diligently attend them week after week. Many follow up with questions or express a desire for more information and insights which is a great opportunity for us to follow up and make sure their needs are being met.
What have been the most popular topics covered?
Our recent Collective topic “Fostering the Launch to Independence” was a popular one. We discussed the importance of parents holding back as they allow their adult children to explore the new territory of adulthood independently, making mistakes along the way and building resiliency.
Parents shared some of the challenges they have faced in this process, such as the fear that they will lose their relationship with their child, or that it will be too painful to watch their child stumble. It was an important opportunity for parents to share their fears with each other and get validation and support from others who are going through similar struggles.
The Dorm offers a range of family support services including parent therapy, family therapy and multi-family therapy group. How do The Parent Collectives complement these other supports?
The Parent Collective differs from our other offerings in that it blends psycho-education and processing with a space and format designed specifically for parents, rather than the family unit as a whole.
We expand on challenging topics or dynamics that may have come to the surface in multi-family group or family therapy sessions, and we also discuss specific skills and strategies to help parents confront these challenges directly.
The Collective is also unique in that it allows us to include parents from both of our sites, which means the peer support is even more broad than in groups limited to New York or Washington, DC. It’s been wonderful to get to know parents on this level and to have the chance to connect with them virtually, no matter where they are.
Thank you! Learn more about our family services here.