A child psychologist explains a trending service: potty training consultations. Here's what parents need to know about the specialists who are paid to provide guidance, coaching, and support through this milestone.

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Young children learn new skills through interactions with their environment. Potty training is one of these skills—it is not innate and needs to be explicitly taught to most young children. Using the bathroom is a major transition for most toddlers who have spent their entire lives going in their diapers, anytime and anywhere. They now not only have to go in a potty, but they also have to identify the urge of having to go, hold 'it' in, communicate their need to go, and then make it to the potty in time.

An image of a child sitting on a potty training toilet.
Credit: Getty Images.

Most potty training methods are grounded in behavioral psychology, which relies heavily on reinforcement to shape new behaviors. This process, called conditioning, is the foundation of most potty training strategies. While some children potty train themselves, most need to be prompted and supported by the adults, mostly parents or guardians, in their lives to fully transition from diapers to underwear.

While some parents find success in choosing a traditional potty training method, many others struggle to implement one consistently. This leaves them frustrated or overwhelmed when the process is harder or takes longer than expected. While most parents would not hesitate to hire a tutor to support their struggling student, they question whether hiring a potty training consultant is appropriate or necessary. But there is no shame in asking and paying for help in parenting when you can afford to.

This is where I come in. I'm a licensed child psychologist who specializes in cognitive and behavioral therapies. While I am not exclusively a professional potty trainer, I am a potty training expert and am often called in to provide consultation and support to families who struggle to potty train their children on their own. Here's what I want parents to know:

What is a Potty Training Consultant?

Recently, more and more families are beginning to talk about their potty training struggles and are seeking help. Today, many parents are juggling the responsibilities of child-rearing with the pressures of full-time careers. The patience and consistency needed to effectively potty train are often overshadowed by the realities of modern life. Even parents who have the ability may not have the bandwidth to devote the time and resources needed while tending to multiple children or supporting various schedules or activities. Other times, parents have exhausted all their resources and are at their wits' end. This is when they call in the expert.

A potty training consultant is an individual with extensive experience working with children who are resistant or difficult to potty train. Consultants often have a background in psychology, have received training in behavioral methods to support potty training, or completed a potty training certification course to help support their practice. Potty training consultants help you troubleshoot your potty training obstacles and get your child on the path to success. They work with parents to create a plan that works for them and their child to address issues they may be experiencing.

Potty Training Specialist Cost and Services

Potty training consultants offer a wide array of services from phone consultations to in-home potty training. Suggested services are based on the family's needs. Phone consultation is usually the stepping stone for parents who are frustrated and overwhelmed with the potty training process and need a little extra hand-holding and support. These parents are either looking for a plan to get started or to troubleshoot and tweak what they are currently doing.

In-home potty training allows for demonstrations and hands-on coaching and support. In-home training is typically provided by the day with one to two days recommended depending on the child's age and whether potty training has already been introduced. In some cases, a half-day is sufficient and in other cases, such as working with children with special needs, three or more days may be needed. Parents are expected to continue using the techniques and supporting the process after the consultant leaves.

Cost of services range based on where the consultant and family reside and what the fair market value is in that region with phone consultations being the more affordable option. In-home training rates range from $50 to $300 an hour based on total time reserved, the consultant's credentials, and the specifics of the training case. Consultants may charge additional fees when traveling outside of their region.

Potty Training Consultant Vs. Potty Training Classes

Potty training consultants work one-on-one with your family to meet your specific potty training goals. Potty training schools offer group classes for parents or memberships that help support families throughout the potty training process. Each school offers different classes and levels of support, but like many other group supports, such as SAT prep classes and schools, the one-size-fits-all method to potty training does not actually fit all children."Like teaching anything else, the approach to potty training should be individualized for each child," says Samantha Allen, professional potty trainer and a behavioral specialist at NYC Potty Training. "If a child exhibits resistance or anxiety about using the toilet, it's important to assess the underlying issue to help the child with that specific challenge." Allen also noted a drawback of training schools: no one wants to poop with an audience.

Should I Hire a Professional Potty Trainer?

"Potty training can be extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing for many parents," explains Kimberly Walker, pediatric sleep therapist and potty training consultant at Parenting Unlimited. "Often, they feel lost on where and how to start and this confusion transfers to the child creating a chaotic, negative experience for everyone."

This is why hiring a consultant can be helpful. Potty training specialists help remove any power struggle from the experience. They can also cater services for a child who has special needs and may need alternative training methods implemented. A professional keeps parents involved in the training, without making it all-encompassing for them. That, says Allen, is one of the keys to successful potty training.

Finding a Potty Training Consultant Near You

Outsourcing potty training is more common in metropolitan areas says Lauren Trotter, a mom to a 4-year-old son in Houston, Texas. Trotter did a Google search to find a potty training consultant in her area. "The truth is, I didn't even know where to start," she says. "And this may not be the case for every family, but I really felt that potty training fell solely on my already hectic plate of things to do as a working mom; it's completely unfair." Perhaps one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in accessibility and the ability to communicate virtually, so Trotter ended up contacting me, a NY-based potty training consultant, for support.

Trotter and I worked together to develop a strategy to train her son. "For me, getting professional help was the best decision I ever made," says Trotter. "I was expecting to learn a lot from hiring a consultant but what I didn't realize was how much I needed support, counseling, and the encouragement to hold my son's daycare, my son, and myself accountable."

If you are interested in finding a potty training consultant, a great place to start is by searching for professional potty training services in your area on Google. Read more about when to start potty training here.

Francyne Zeltser is a licensed psychologist, certified school psychologist, adjunct professor, and mom of two in New York. Dr. Zeltser promotes a supportive, problem-solving approach where her clients learn adaptive strategies to manage challenges and work toward achieving both short-and-long-term goals. You can connect by email, DoctorZeltser@gmail.com.