Intake Session- Meet- Mary Jo Sue

Feb 01, 2023

Hello, again!

I have missed you. Writing this blog brought me great joy when our family was journeying through the Foster care world. When that journey ended, I was lost for what to write about. So I stopped. For a long time!

Then, a dear friend kept reminding me that people don't really understand what I do, and they were curious. They brought it up every few months until I was ready to do something about it. Then I had a meeting with my mentor who asked me about what set my soul on fire (a phrase I use a lot in coaching) and I told her I used to love to blog. 


This re-brand of the blog idea came to life.

This blog is going to be different than before, in that it is not going to be an exact journey. Rather, it is going to be a compilation of stories and sessions from my clients over the years. Not only do I want to maintain confidentiality, but I also want to be able to showcase the myriad of ways sessions can go with The Foster Lane. Every client has their personal journey and sharing just one felt too limiting.

This blog is going to follow an imaginary client and their journey through parent coaching. While some of the details may ring true for anyone particular client, those coincidences are purely accidental. All details have been changed in order to protect clients privacy. There is no such client as Mary Jo Sue for The Foster Lane and the image is pulled from Canva :-) 

So... without further ado..

I would like to introduce you all to Mary Jo Sue!

Mary Jo Sue is married to Henry and they have three children. Mary Jo is coming to parent coaching because her middle child is driving her crazy. Read her intake paper work to see where her struggles are:

 I have tried everything I can think of to get my middle child to listen. Everything my friends and family tell me just doesn't work and I'm exhausted. She won't listen, yells all the time, and it feels like she is running our house.
I don't even know.
My kid won't let me try anything. My husband won't try anything I try because he thinks I just give in to our kids on everything.
Sometimes we can eat dinner together and no one fights.
We like to dance
We are funny
We keep trying
George 13
Susanne 9
Max 5
They are funny, they make up fun games, they do well at school
I don't feel like I have any
My mom, my sister, the kid's daycare
I don't have energy at the end of the day to do anything for me

My husband and I are not on the same page. Sometimes I wonder if doing this all on my own would be easier.



The paperwork comes through when Mary Jo schedules her session and there are a few days before we meet. I read the paperwork and prepare my notes and her file.

The day of the session!

Mary Jo joins the Zoom meeting and I can tell she is nervous. She is looking right at me with a nervous smile and more than a little skepticism.

I introduce myself and how I got to be on the zoom call with her. I tell her about my family, our journey, from struggling greatly parenting chronically inflexible children, to the present day. We are still imperfect, but we laugh a lot, we enjoy each other's company (most days) and continue to show up for each other in the good and struggle moments.

I warn her about my two dogs who love to chime in on sessions and we connect over pets!

Now it is Mary Jo's turn to tell me how she got to today's session. She tells me about how her middle child, Susanne has taken over the house- she isn't even a teenager yet! Mary Jo tells me about when Susanne was a baby and how she was just fussier than other children and no one could tell her why. We explore those early years and Mary Jo tells me about when Susanne was 2 months old she was ill and needed to be hospitalized for 3 weeks. We process how scary that was Mary Jo and we talk about how scary that was for Susanne as well.

***This is a flag for early childhood trauma for Susanne- not something that her parents did to hurt her, but something she *could* have experienced as a traumatic event, which *may* have had an impact on her brain development- more to come on that later- something to note!***

We continue to talk about the rest of Mary Jo's family, their interests (singing, dancing, and loads of time on video games) before jumping into the biggest topic. Why is Mary Jo here TODAY?

You may be thinking- she's here because her kid runs the show... OBVIOUSLY, Sarah! While that is partially true, her child has been acting in these ways for years. It is important to understand what the tipping point is.

Mary Jo gets serious and tells me an incident that happened 2 weeks ago. Susanne punched a classmate at school and ran out of the classroom. When Mary Jo tried to talk to her after school, Susanne punched Mary Jo and told her "I HATE YOU FOREVER and I WISH I WAS WITH A DIFFERENT FAMILY!!!!!". This incident shook Mary Jo into action and she scheduled her session. This was a tearful story and Mary Jo quietly says, "what is wrong with me as a mom that my daughter feels this way?"

We sit in those feelings a bit and talk about how upsetting it is to feel such intense feelings. We talk about what would her family look like if she didn't feel this way anymore. (Goals/when we know we are ready to graduate).

Mary Jo says that she wants to be able to make it through a day without someone screaming. She also wants her children to listen to her and her husband to help with the kids.

I let her know that the only person we can change in our sessions is Mary Jo.

While it can feel tempting to say- FIX THEM! In reality that isn't possible. The only thing we can do is shift the way Mary Jo responds in situations and create space for the rest of her family to change, if they wish.

She hates  hearing this. What good is the service if I'm not going to change her family?

I acknowledge her feeling and fears and talk about what parent coaching looks like and how it works:

  1. We meet weekly to discuss present day struggles, get curious about the why behind the behavior (the need/lagging skill), and then co-construct options for Mary Jo to try in the following week.
    1. We will get curious about what happened at school that Susanne felt the need to punch a child and why she punched mom as well- AND we want to go a little deeper than just that incident!
  2. We work through psychoeducation to help increase Mary Jo's understanding of Susanne's strengths and struggles as well as increase awareness of optional tools Mary Jo can use in her daily life.
  3. We review what Mary Jo will try on in the week and we close the session.

Due to the level of chaos that happens in home and how Mary Jo doesn't like how she is talking to her children, Mary Jo has decided to start with the Attachment psychoeducation. Her homework for this week is to take the attachment quiz on Diane Poole Heller's website and send a screenshot of the pie chart when she is done.

We do a little breathing exercise and close our session! Mary Jo is excited for the next session, and also not so sure what this is going to look like for her.

I document what happened in session and our plan to work through the Attachment psychoeducation next week. I make a note about the early childhood medical trauma as a reminder to encourage the trauma psychoeducation at a later point.



whew! That was a pretty good glimpse into an average parent coaching intake session for The Foster Lane. The examples change, but the feelings are pretty spot on.

If you would like to know what happens in Mary Jo's next session, click subscribe for the newsletter!

If you have questions, please feel free to email [email protected]

See you in 2 weeks!


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