When Dawn Mackechnie’s nine-year-old son Tristan began feeling anxious, Dawn noticed that his worries seemed to center most around one thing: travel. And specifically, travel in cars.
So when Tristan was in a car accident in October 2021, Dawn was most thankful for two things: First, that no one was hurt. And second, that Tristan had already begun seeing a Brightline coach in August, two months before the accident, when he was anxious about going back to school in-person after a year of remote learning.
So Dawn reached out to Brightline for support.
Coaching as a preventive measure
“I wanted a coach for Tristan because he would get really anxious about car rides, even before his accident. Sometimes he would even make himself throw up because he was so nervous about getting in the car,” Dawn said.
“I chose Brightline in part because I love the idea of coaching. I didn’t necessarily want to go the long-term route of therapy. But I wanted to take preventative measures to ensure that Tristan had the tools to handle his anxiety, especially before he went back to in-person learning,” Dawn said.
Dawn loved the convenience of virtual coaching and realized it can be just as effective as meeting with a coach in-person. “It was just so much more feasible for us to not have to worry about travel time — not to mention Tristan’s anxiety about traveling in a car to go to the appointment. I knew that virtual coaching would allow us to stick to a schedule and not miss any sessions."
When Tristan began meeting with his Brightline coach, Dawn noticed that she focused on his many positive qualities rather than dwelling too much on the anxiety itself. “Tristan has such a beautiful way of looking at the world, and so much innate strength and ability. His coach immediately saw that. During their sessions, she highlighted his strengths rather than pushing him to talk about his anxiety too much. That really put Tristan at ease, and helped his self-esteem and confidence,” Dawn said.
Tools for back-to-school transitions
When it came time to return to in-person school after a year of remote learning, Dawn knew that Tristan would need extra support. “I wanted to make sure he had a set of tools to help manage his anxiety when he went back to school, and that’s exactly what his coach helped him develop."
Tristan’s coach helped him create a toolbox of tools to help him when his anxiety flared. “For instance, she helped him put together a calming box of things that could calm him down and help him when he felt his anxiety increase,” Dawn said.
And after Tristan’s car accident, Dawn was so grateful Tristan had a coach ready to help. “The accident was very traumatic on a lot of levels. So for Tristan to have those tools to utilize, and to already have built that relationship with his coach, that was so valuable to our family,” Dawn said.
Dawn also loved that his coach would check in regularly. “She would reach out to us between sessions, so I never felt like I was bugging her if we needed a little extra support,” Dawn said. “She had just checked in with me a couple days before the accident. I loved that I felt like we were on her radar and she was thinking about our family beyond Tristan’s weekly sessions. For me to know that she was there when we needed her was really, really helpful,” Dawn said.
Support for the whole family
Dawn said that one of the aspects she liked most about Brightline is how they engage parents in their child’s care — which has proven to lead to better outcomes for families. “I would join Tristan’s coaching calls for a few minutes at the beginning, and then I’d come back at the end and his coach would summarize what they talked about,” Dawn said. Tristan’s coach would also send Dawn reports after each session with examples of ways that Dawn could support him.
“That’s another reason why I really like Brightline. As a parent, I was looking for support as well. I didn’t want to feel alone or in the dark about Tristan’s treatment. So it was great that his coach involved me in the process. I definitely needed that support,” Dawn said.
Dawn believes that having a coach made Tristan’s transition back to in-person school much smoother. “He had a lot of anxiety surrounding eating in the cafeteria with everyone. So we talked to the principal and made separate arrangements for lunch, and talked about giving it about a month or so to see if we could transition him back to the cafeteria. But we were able to transition him within the first week.”
“I definitely feel that working with a coach is what made the transition back to in-person learning so much easier. Tristan had the tools and the reinforcement to help him with his anxiety,” Dawn said.
Coaching has helped with Tristan’s travel anxiety as well. “I used to have to tell him how many minutes we had left in the car ride, and I’d translate the number of minutes to the number of songs so that he could understand it. I’m not having to do that much anymore,” Dawn said.
“Brightline was there for our family at exactly the right time,” Dawn said. “Between the car accident and Tristan’s anxiety about going back to school, having a coach onboard during such a stressful time was a lifesaver.”