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All About Parent Child Interaction Therapy

What is PCIT?

Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a positive, direct, and intensive therapy that helps both parents and children work on their parent-child relationship. 

What are the stages in PCIT?

There are a few stages to Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. The first stage is to gather information about the client’s behaviors and the parent-child relationship. This is done through interviews as well as an observation called DPICS. This is essentially like looking at a lot for where you want to build a house. Then, parents learn about Child-Directed Interaction which provides interventions in order to become great reinforcers of behavior. This is like building the foundation for your new house. You cannot build a house on a rocky foundation! At the end of this period, parents and children do another DPICS to evaluate how well they are able to implement these new skills before moving on to the final stage of PCIT. The last part is where parents learn about Parent-Directed Interaction. This is the stage in which parents continue to use the Child-Directed Interventions while also learning how to appropriately lead their child. This is the part parents are most excited about as it is building the house! At the end, the hope is for a parent and child to build their relationship and the happy/soothing feelings that can go with it. 

Desired outcomes of the first phase of treatment in PCIT include:

  • Decreased frequency, severity, and/or duration of tantrums
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Decreased negative attention-seeking behaviors (such as whining and bossiness)
  • Decreased parental frustration
  • Increased feelings of security, safety, and attachment to the primary caregiver
  • Increased attention span
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased pro-social behaviors (such as sharing and taking turns)

Desired outcomes of the second phase of treatment in PCIT include:

  • Decreased frequency, severity, and/or duration of aggressive behavior
  • Decreased frequency of destructive behavior (such as breaking toys on purpose)
  • Decreased defiance
  • Increased compliance with adult requests
  • Increased respect for house rules
  • Improved behavior in public
  • Increased parental calmness and confidence during discipline

Who is PCIT good for?

This therapy plan is great for those who are dealing with behavioral difficulties in different settings, such as home, school, and in social gatherings. Some behaviors that can be addressed are those acting out in school, aggression, “sassing” or talking back to parents, frequent temper tantrums, swearing, oppositional behaviors, and defiant behaviors. This should be done with an identified parent or caregiver who wants to increase their bond with their child as well as children ages 2 to 8 years old.

With consistent attendance and homework completion, PCIT can be completed within 12-20 sessions, though treatment is not time-limited. Treatment is considered complete when you have mastered both sets of skills and rate your child’s behavior within normal limits on a behavior rating scale.

Learn even more about PCIT here.

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