What is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an empirically-supported treatment for conduct-disordered young children that places emphasis on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing parent­ child interaction patterns. In PCIT, parents are taught specific skills to establish a nurturing and secure relationship with their child while increasing their child’s prosocial behavior and decreasing negative behavior.

Parent/child interactive therapy is very effective for children who have ADHD, attachment disorders, and oppositional defiant disorders. It uses a unique combination of behavioral therapy, play therapy, and parent training to teach more effective discipline techniques and improve the parent-child relationship.

This treatment focuses on two basic interactions:

  1. Child Directed Interaction– similar to Play Therapy, parents engage their child in a play situation with the goal of strengthening the parent-child relationship
  2. Parent Directed Interaction- resembles Clinical Behavior Therapy, parents learn to use specific behavior management techniques as they play with their child.

Parents and children are given a large playroom during sessions. A two-way mirror allows the therapist to observe and coach the parent without being in the room. The therapist is notes interactions and progress and then meets with parents after sessions to go over the observations.

Therapists assess the families’ progress in several ways. Therapists utilize observation and coding of parent-child interactions at the start of each session to select the skills to target during the session, and to determine when parents have met the criteria for moving from one phase of treatment to the next or for completing treatment.

Before each session, parents fill out a measurement of the child’s current frequency of disruptive behavior at home. The therapist graphs the score each week to monitor the child’s progress.  At various points in treatment the therapist shares this graph with the parents. Treatment does not end until parents express confidence in their ability to manage their child’s behavior and feel ready for treatment to end.

PCIT requires continuing education and a special certification of the therapist.

To find a therapist at Ascendant Behavioral Health Clinics that specializes in PCIT go to Our Staff or call (801) 872-5516.