What is PCIT?


Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a proven, evidenced-based practice. For a therapist to be trained in PCIT, they must have a master’s degree in a mental health field and complete the year long post-masters intensive training.  PCIT is a parent-child treatment program that assists parents of children with behavioral problems (aggression, non-compliance, defiance, and temper tantrums). These behaviors may be related to attachment issues, trauma, ADHD/ADD, oppositional defiant disorder, adjustment issues, mood disorders, anxiety, divorce, changes in custody, issues from bullying, and the list goes on... 

PCIT is a unique treatment program that focuses on promoting positive parent-child relationships and interactions while teaching parents effective child management skills.  The therapist “coaches” the parent behind a one way mirrored window while the parent and child play.  With this model, the parent can practice the skills until they have reached mastery.  PCIT typically lasts from 14-20 sessions.  Each session lasts approximately 1 hour.

PCIT Has Two Program Components

The first half of PCIT consists of the Relationship Enhancement component. Parents are taught and coached how to decrease negative aspects of the relationship with their child and to develop consistently positive and supportive communication.

 The second half of PCIT consists of the Strategies for Compliance component. Parents are taught and coached the elements of effective discipline and child management skills. Parents learn and acquire specific skills, practice these skills until mastery is achieved and the child's behavior has improved. 

Appropriate Referrals

The most appropriate referrals are children between the ages of 2-8 years who are exhibiting some challenging behaviors. PCIT is ideal for children with behavioral issues such as aggression, non-compliance, defiance and temper tantrums. These behaviors may be related to attachment issues, reunification with their caregiver, trauma history, ADHD/ADD, ODD, anxiety, mood disorders, disruptive behavior disorders and adjustment issues, just to name a few.  PCIT is most effective with young children and their parents/caregivers who want to improve their relationship with their children. 

Clinical Research supporting pcit


Information on this rating can be found at the American Psychological Association here

Improvements in Child Behavior

A review of 17 studies that included 628 preschool-age children identified as exhibiting a disruptive behavior disorder concluded that involvement in PCIT resulted in significant improvements in child behavior functioning. Commonly reported behavioral outcomes of PCIT included both less frequent and less intense behavior problems as reported by parents and teachers, increases in clinic- observed compliance, reductions in inattention and hyperactivity, decreases in observed negative behaviors such as whining or crying, and reductions in the percentage of children who qualify for a diagnosis of disruptive behavior disorder (Gallagher, 2003). 

Benefits for Parents and Other Caregivers

Examining PCIT effectiveness among foster parents participating with their foster children and biological parents referred for treatment because of their children’s behavioral problems, researchers found decreases in child behavior problems and caregiver distress for both groups (Timmer, Urquiza, & Zebell, 2005). 

Lasting Effectiveness

Follow-up studies report that treatment gains are maintained over time (Eyberg et al., 2001; Hood & Eyberg, 2003). 

Usefulness in Treating Multiple Issues

Adapted versions of PCIT also have been shown to be effective in treating other issues such as separation anxiety, depression, self-injurious behavior, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and adjustment following divorce (Johnson, Franklin, Hall, & Preito, 2000; Pincus, Choate, Eyberg, & Barlow, 2005). 

Adaptability for a Variety of Populations

Studies support the benefits of PCIT across genders and across a variety of ethnic groups (Capage, Bennett, & McNeil, 2001; Chadwick Center on Children and Families, 2004; McCabe, 2005). 


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Find out more

The above research can be found in a publication from Child Welfare Information Gateway or you can download the full Kauffman Report here!

Kauffman Report (pdf)