Parents Served by Assertive Community Treatment: Parenting Needs, Services, and Attitudes

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Abstract

Objective: Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is an evidence-based practice for individuals with severe mental illness. Although at least half of all people with severe mental illness are parents, little is known about their experiences as parents and as recipients of mental health interventions like ACT. The purpose of the current study was to examine the experiences of parent consumers served by ACT. Method: Seventeen parents being served by ACT teams were interviewed about parenting, parenting needs, severe mental illness, satisfaction with ACT services, and suggestions for improved parent-focused treatment services. Results: All parents identified at least one positive aspect of parenting and most parents (77%) also identified negative aspects of parenting. Loss of custody emerged as a significant parenting problem, with most parents (88%) experiencing custody loss at least once. Parents expressed interest in numerous parent-focused services, including family therapy, parenting skills, communication skills training, resources for children, and peer support groups. Most participants with adult children (88%) reported having no unmet parent-related needs and high satisfaction (4.63 of 5) with ACT services, whereas parents with young children (78%) reported having several unmet parenting needs and relatively lower satisfaction (3.78 out of 5) with ACT services. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: The ACT treatment model may not be adequately serving parents of young, dependent children. Findings suggest the need for more attention and focus on parent consumers, including identification of parental status and improved parent-related treatment services and support.

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