Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)


Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence based treatment where the therapist works with the parent and child together. It is designed for children with behavioral problems that are causing distress in the family, school, and social situations.  It is recommended for children between 2 and 7 with behavioral issues.  It is also used with children who have experienced family disruptions and difficult home environments.  The goal of PCIT is to teach the caregivers many of the skills professionals use to improve a child’s behavior, improve attachment between parents and children, and bring out the best in the child.


Parent Child Interaction
Parent Child Interaction


What are the main goals of PCIT?

The first goal is to improve the parent/child relationship first, which will also lead to better behavior with friends, daycare, or at school.  PCIT also improves a child’s self-esteem as the parent/child relationship becomes more positive.  Also children who have experienced family changes and stress often experience anxiety and uncertainty. These problems can be helped with the tools learned in PCIT.


The second goal is to reverse the trend towards a negative self-image so that even early in treatment you will begin to see your child striving to try new things, believing in himself or herself, and having a more optimistic outlook.


Many children with behavior problems also have a low frustration tolerance and anger easily.  A third goal of PCIT is to help your child learn new ways to manage and reduce anger and to see the world as a more positive place.


A fourth goal for PCIT is an improvement in organization and attention, especially for children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  PCIT helps your child develop new strategies for listening and organizing his work and play.


A final goal for PCIT is to help children learn to listen and mind.  Our goal is for your child to leave after treatment obeying you the first time you tell them to do something, and minding you quickly and nicely.  I realize this might be hard to believe, and I do not mind a challenge.  This program can be extremely successful with parents who are willing to work as hard as we are willing to work to see their child succeed.


What are the two sections of PCIT?

PCIT is divided into two sections.  The first section focuses on improving the relationship between you and your child.  As your relationship improves it leads to increased self-esteem, reduced frustration and anger, and helps with the attention and organization skills.  During phase one the parent and child play together in a room while the therapist is in another room, coaching the parent through a “bug in the ear” microphone.  This leads to increase bonding between parent and child, rather than having the child bond with the therapist.


The second part focuses on listening and minding skills.  Most parents would prefer to work on the second part first, but discipline without improved relationship leads to obedience with anger and resentment.  As the relationship improves with PCIT often the listening and minding skills improve before the second phase even begins.  During the second stage children listen and mind with a positive attitude because they want to please the adults who are important to them.  This model is “evidence based” which means it has been proven to work.


Who can act as the “parent” in PCIT?

PCIT can be done with one parent, both parents, or other caregiver, such as an adoptive or foster parent.  There is daily homework which consists of 5 minutes spent in “Special Time” with your child, using the play techniques taught in the office.  All aspects of PCIT are practiced in the therapy session before the parent uses them at home.  Also any particular challenges are discussed at each session.


I look forward to beginning Parent Child Interaction Therapy with you and your child.  I have seen the benefits it brings to families in strengthening the parent child bond and having a child who listens and obeys willingly and promptly.