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Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

A research-based intervention for parents and young children experiencing behavioral and/or emotional difficulties

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT, is a fun and highly-effective treatment based on over 20 years of research.  Live coaching is the main method of training in PCIT.  Parents or other caregivers are coached in specific play therapy and discipline skills while the therapist observes the caregiver and child interacting.

Caregivers—parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, legal guardians, and even residential care-giving staff—are the heart of PCIT.  They learn how to use PRIDE skills with their children: praise, reflect, imitate, describe, and enjoy.  They also use effective commands and behavior management techniques as they play with their child.  These skills all translate to the real world, not just therapy sessions.

There are a number of advantages to live coaching.  Caregivers master skills much quicker because they learn by doing.  Therapists can give immediate feedback to caregivers by observing the interactions between the caregiver and child.  Caregivers become more confident and proficient in their dealings with their child as a result, and typically see marked improvements in just three or four sessions.

Through PCIT’s live coaching, children often enjoy an enhanced relationship with their caregivers and other people in their lives.  Children improve their listening skills and ability to comply with requests, learn to manage frustration and anger in more
positive ways, and develop greater self-esteem and attention skills. Positive changes in children’s behaviors have been seen in home, school, and child care settings.  These changes have also been reported in siblings of children participating in PCIT!


PCIT  is a short-term treatment model focused on reducing frustration and anger by improving the relationship between caregiver and child.  Using an earpiece to communicate, therapists help caregivers encourage their child’s positive behaviors and ignore obnoxious or annoying ones.  The caregivers follow the child’s lead in play while controlling dangerous behaviors.  Time out procedures and other real-world strategies are taught, as well.

Caregivers are given a homework assignment after each session to practice their skills every day for five to ten minutes with the children.PCIT works especially well for children who have disruptive behaviors.  Some of the behavior problems common to these sorts of children include refusing adult requests, losing their temper easily, annoying others on purpose, destroying property, and displaying aggression.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is designed for young children, aged two through seven.  The techniques have been successful with:

•children experiencing stress, such as chaotic home environments or other stressors

•children with oppositional defiant problems, as well as aggression

•children with attention problems

•children exposed to substance abuse

•children impacted by abuse and neglect

•children in foster care placements and those with attachment disorders

For more information about PCIT, or to make a referral, please contact Sharon Campbell, Psychology Department Coordinator at Laughlin Children’s Center.