Parent-Child Interactive Therapy, PCIT for short, is an evidenced based approach designed for young children (and their caregivers) between the ages of 2-7, who are experiencing behavioral problems.

PCIT evolved from integrating two prominent, but theoretically distinct child treatments, Behavioral Therapy and Play Therapy; and retained important therapeutic elements of each. Both play and behavior therapy had unique strengths. One was the emotional calm produced by the play therapy experiences, however the calming effects of play therapy are a function of the bond that develops between therapist and child. These positive interactions, that are often lacking in parent-child relationships. When a child is experiencing challenging behavior, parents are feeling overwhelmed. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy helps parents to feel confident in successfully handling these moments. Teaching parents play skills has its benefits, but parents also need the skills/tools provided by behavior focused parent training for setting appropriate limits and reversing coercive discipline.

PCIT is now one of the most prevalent empirically supported, evidenced-based practices world-wide for the treatment of families with young children. This modality has repeatedly demonstrated its effectiveness in improving parent-child relationships and reduces disruptive behaviors.

PCIT is unique in that caregivers are provided with live coaching sessions. Caregiver and child are observed during play, while the clinician provides live, in-the-moment, coaching through a live video feed/bug in the ear. In fact, PCIT can even be done virtually, in the comfort of your home! Caregivers also complete daily homework and use a behavior scale (weekly) to keep track of behaviors, and to measure progress.

“The overarching goal of PCIT is to strengthen the relationship between a child and their caregiver.” – Daniela Nogales, LCPC

There are two phases to this therapy process:

In the first phase, called CDI (Child Directed Interactions), caregivers are given tools to increase appropriate behaviors and positive interactions by using therapeutic play skills and differential attention to improve parent-child relationship, improve parenting skills and child social skills, and improve child’s self-esteem. We use an acronym (PRIDE) to remember these important therapeutic play skills: Praise, Reflect, Imitate, Describe, and Enjoy.

Once caregivers have a strong foundation on CDI skills, we then move to the second phase called PDI (Parent Directed Interaction). During this phase, caregivers learn skills on how to set limits with fairness, consistency, and predictability – a way that feels good for the caregiver, and the child!

new sibling acceptanceTreatment is not time-limited. With consistency in attending weekly sessions and daily HW completion, treatment length can be from 12-20 weeks (could be more or less). Families graduate from PCIT when caregivers have met mastery in both sets of skills, report behaviors to be within normal limits on a behavior rating scale, and most importantly, report confidence in being able to manage behaviors.

Typical referral Concerns:
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Difficulty with listening and following instructions
  • Aggressive behaviors (verbal and physical)
  • School is having difficulty managing behaviors
  • Caregivers seeking help in managing behavior at home and/or in public
Target Population:
  • Children ages 2-7
  • Receptive language skills are at or above 2 years
  • Pervasive disruptive behaviors
  • Common Possible Diagnoses: ADHD, ODD, Anxiety, Adjustment Disorder, PTSD
  • Caregiver must  be able to attend weekly coaching sessions

Disruptive and challenging behavior concerns can get better. Call us to discuss how PCIT can help you and your family!