Iowa Specialty Hospital

Counseling & Therapy Services: Parent Child Interaction Therapy

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Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a treatment for young children with emotional and behavioral disorders that places emphasis on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing parent-child interaction patterns. PCIT has been found effective in treating oppositional behavior, inattention, and aggression. The child’s parent(s) are actively involved in PCIT. PCIT teaches parent(s) specific strategies to increase the child’s compliance and decrease aggression.

Who is PCIT for?

Kids between 2 and 7 years old who have many of these problems:
  • Difficulties in preschool, head start, or kindergarten

  • Aggression toward parents siblings, or other children

  • Refuses to follow directions

  • Frequent temper tantrums

  • Swearing

  • Defiance

  • Really bad attitude

  • Won’t cooperate with time-outs

  • Disciplines that work with other children don’t work with them

What happens during PCIT?

There are two stages in this therapy approach. The first stage is a relationship enhancement where the bond between the child and parent is strengthened. The parent(s) learn specific skills designed to enhance the child’s self esteem and improve the child’s mood and desire to please the parent. The second stage is compliance training where the child learns to listen to and follow the parent’s instructions. 

These goals are accomplished primarily by the parent and child playing together while being observed from behind a one-way mirror by the PCIT therapist. The therapist coaches the parent in specific skills through a “bug in the ear” microphone. These sessions are also videotaped so that the therapist and parent(s) can review the process later. 

Following each session, the parent is given the assignment of practicing these skills with the child at home for five minutes daily. Homework assignments are reviewed at the following session.  

PCIT generally takes from 12 to 20 sessions and does require a strong commitment. PCIT is considered complete when the parent has mastered the required skills.

How effective is PCIT?

PCIT has been extensively researched and evaluated using treatment groups and control groups. Children in treatment groups demonstrated significant reduction in their level of behavior problems. Behavioral improvements are apparent in both the home and school setting. 

More information about Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) can be be found by clicking here.

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