The Parent-child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Program is an evidence-based treatment for young children between the ages of two through seven that teaches parents specialized, therapeutic parenting strategies to use with their children who display emotional and/or behavioral difficulties.
The PCIT Program is an evidence-based treatment for young children between the ages of 2-7 who display emotional and/or behavioral difficulties. It teaches parents specialized, therapeutic parenting strategies to use with children who have these difficulties. PCIT was initially developed for children who demonstrate: noncompliance, parent-child conflict, attention difficulties, hyperactivity, and developmental delays. It has also been adapted for children who display rigid thinking, emotion dysregulation, anxiety, and selective mutism. For children ages 7-10 who have similar challenges, the PCIT older child protocol is used.
PCIT is unique in that children and their parents are seen together in session. Parents are coached to practice skills with the child within the therapy session itself. Our PCIT therapists observe the parents and the child from a special observation room with a one-way mirror, and use a “bug-in-the-ear” system to coach parents to apply specialized, therapeutic parenting skills as they play and interact with their child. PCIT Therapists at CBC often use a co-therapy model to facilitate training and provide additional support to families in treatment.
PCIT is a time-limited treatment, averaging approximately 14 weeks, with hour-long weekly sessions and daily therapy practice at home. Families remain in treatment until parents have demonstrated mastery of treatment skills and their child’s emotional and behavioral concerns have improved.
PCIT improves the quality of the parent-child relationship, decreases the child’s emotional difficulties and behavioral problems, increases the child’s positive social skills and cooperation, and reduces parental stress. Treatment helps parents build positive, warm relationships with their children and supports parents as they set firm, developmentally appropriate limits.
Before beginning treatment, the family attends an initial intake session where the therapist gathers information about the child’s history and the parents’ goals and concerns for their child. At the intake session, a baseline observational assessment of the parents’ skills is also conducted.
The first phase enhances the parent-child relationship and teaches parents to use their own play therapy skills to increase positive child behaviors. Some examples of these skills include praising the child, reflecting back to the child what they are saying, and describing the child’s behavior. After attending an initial session without their child to learn these skills, the parents attend sessions with their child and the co-therapists provide them with in-the-moment coaching on how to use these skills. These skills have been shown to foster trust and security between the parent and child, improve the child’s vocabulary, increase the child’s sharing behaviors, and enhance the child’s self-esteem.
The second phase of treatment coaches parents to use effective skills to increase their child’s compliance with parents’ instructions and to decrease the child’s unhelpful or problematic behaviors. Some examples of these skills include giving clear and direct commands and providing the child with praise when they follow through on requests. Similarly to the first phase of treatment, after the parents attend an initial session without their child to learn these skills, they attend sessions with their child and the co-therapists provide them with in-the-moment coaching on how to use the skills. After the parents become more comfortable using these skills within a session, they are asked to make house rules, bring siblings into the session if applicable, and go on a public outing with the co-therapists assisting them with behavior management. These skills have been shown to increase the child’s compliance to adult requests and improve parents’ confidence in making requests of their child.
At the beginning of each PCIT session, the therapist checks in with the caregiver about any stressors or barriers to homework practice. The parents also complete the same questionnaire about their child’s behavior each week, and this questionnaire is used to track their progress in treatment. At the end of each PCIT therapy session, the therapist and parent collaboratively decide which skills should be practiced at home in between sessions.
Dr. Amber Ufford, Coordinator of CBC’s PCIT program oversees our team of 11 PCIT therapists. Both Dr. Amber Ufford and Dr. Chad Brice are certified PCIT International therapists and Level 1 Trainers. Several members of our PCIT team are certified PCIT therapists or are completing training to become certified. Our PCIT team has received expert consultation from Dr. Cheryl McNeil, a world-renowned Master PCIT trainer.