UPP Centers

UPP—The Parenting Institute at work in Memphis

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever afffects one directly, affects all indirectly”—Martin Luther King


Vincent Felitti and Robin Karr-Morse at the ACE Center launch

Emerging research on the brain confirms that parent’s loving interactions and pleasurable experiences with their young children are any communiity’s best inoculation against violence, addiction and ill health. The city of Memphis, which has long been at the bottom of most measures of successful parenting (including high rates of violence and ill health)  will pilot a research-based and first-of-it’s-kind approach to supporting emotional health in families.

“UPP”—Universal Parent Places— reflects the understanding that toxic stress and trauma affects all families, crosses all backgrounds and incomes. The goal is to enable parents to intervene constructively in common stressors- divorce, separation, sibling or parental fighting and the difficulties of child behavior management, along with many other unanticipated realities- to prevent or moderate toxic effects on the brains of young children.


Future UPP site at the Baptist Women’s Hospital (before remodel)

UPP will provide attractive, warm, non-judgmental and strength-based environments. Looking more like Starbucks than clinics, these settings are environments in which parents can problem- solve their own perceived concerns with seasoned advisors as they first arise. The centers will be available to parents from birth and remain a source of support in communities throughout the child-rearing process.

Designed to be inviting, upbeat and fun as well as therapeutic and educational, the pilot will initially begin with two easy-to-access centers that will make available a parent directed menu including educational groups, a warm line, parent coaches and one to one brief therapy sessions designed to help parents deal with issues that they identify as threatening their family’s well-being.  The focus here is all about the brain: how to build healthy ones and how  to use family strengths  to offset challenges from the earliest point of discernment.

Drawing from the latest research in genetics, in child development and neurobiology, as well as state of the art relational delivery techniques, the centers will appeal to all kinds of families and will make available opportunities in the arts as well as more traditional forms of therapy. Partners in this effort will include Music for Aardvarks and Playback Memphis.

The hope is to move Memphis and ultimately the nation from an entirely remedial approach focused on treating mental disease to a front-ended and joyful rather than stigmatizing focus on protecting emotional health through building healthy relationships from the beginning of life.

The centers will be:

  • Universal – for everyone
  • Focused on parents, not treatment for children
  • Based on the latest research from neurobiology, epigenetic and traumatology
  • Emotionally and relationally focused. Coaches will employ positive strength-focused developmental guidance in conjunction with a family systems model that recognized the lynchpin effects of emotional health on behavioral and physical health
  • Fun, joyful, creative, drawing upon Playback Memphis, Music for Aardvarks, dance, and mediation.
  • Employing the wisest, warmest, most positive practitioners in the city!
  • Perceived as where the BEST parents (and grandparents!) come for ideas.
  • Located in trusted, accessible sites
  • Warm, inviting, rewarding.

The Centers are intended to compliment preventive physical services in pediatric medicine.



Copyright 2015 The Parenting Institute