Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) 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.
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.
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.
The two-way mirror and live-coaching through a blue-tooth-like electronic device allow therapists to intervene directly in the moment. Therapists are able to provide parents with immediate support, feedback and rationale as they are coached in the use of the PCIT interventions. Treatment is tailored to the specific needs of each child and parent based on clinical assessment. PCIT is a successful treatment that is strongly supported by decades of research. It has been proven that as a result of PCIT, parents learn more effective parenting techniques, the behavior problems of children decrease, and the quality of the parent-child relationship improves. Once parents learn the therapeutic skills, they can apply the techniques to all of their children throughout their lives.
No problem. Although some children are on their best behavior during the initial sessions, they soon relax and show their challenging behaviors. It is also important to note that during times when acting-out behaviors are not occurring therapeutic work is still being accomplished. It can actually be very helpful if your child behaves well during the first couple of sessions.
Parents (or significant caregivers) are the most influential people in their child’s life. PCIT therapists provide parents with specific skills to effectively manage their child’s problematic behaviors. Long after treatment has been completed, parents are able to use the PCIT techniques in situations that come up as their children grow into new developmental stages.
Yes! This is the most ideal situation. The more consistently the skills are used with the child (by all caregivers involved), the more quickly behaviors will change. Additionally, many parents find it helpful to go through treatment together as they can support each other in the learning and use of the therapeutic skills. In two-home families, the participation of both parents helps to modify behaviors more quickly and to reduce parenting conflict between homes.
PCIT sessions typically focus on one parent and one child at the onset of treatment, however once the basic therapeutic skills are acquired, other children or caregivers can join the sessions. The goal of treatment is for parents to eventually use the PCIT techniques in “real-life” settings as well as in the sessions. Including other family members in sessions is a part of this generalization process.
No. Families are free to end treatment, or take a break, at any time. However, it is strongly recommended that the full course of treatment be completed so that treatment gains can be maintained and to help prevent behavioral relapses.
Consider the financial and emotional costs of your child's challenging behaviors. Many parents complain that disruptive behaviors cost them valuable time and energy, both at home with daily power struggles and at work with having to take personal time to address issues with their child’s school or daycare. PCIT is not only an investment in a better relationship with your child, but an opportunity to reduce your own level of stress. Compared to other therapeutic interventions, PCIT has been found to be more effective in a shorter amount of time. PCIT is typically completed in 15-20 sessions, unlike other treatments that may continue for over a year with unclear progress.
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).
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).
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).
The Findings of the Kauffman Best Practices Project to Help Children Heal From the Effects of Child Abuse. Click below to read the report.