Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Are You Concerned About Your Child’s Difficult Behavior?

  • parent-child-interaction-therapyDoes your child frequently experience temper outbursts or act out in angry and aggressive ways?
  • Is your child often defiant, rude or simply refuse to follow adult instructions?
  • Have you tried various behavior management strategies only to experience further frustration and limited behavioral improvements?
  • Do you wish you could understand your child better and effectively intervene to improve his or her behavior?

Children have different temperaments, coping mechanisms and self-regulation skills. Some children are easy going and others have extreme difficulty adjusting to daily demands. It is not uncommon for children to occasionally experience problematic or defiant behavior. However, when difficult behavior impairs your child’s ability to function and typical parenting practices are not working, parents often feel stressed and frustrated. Thankfully, there is help and hope. At Innovative Psychological Solutions we can help you to improve both your relationship with your child and his or her behavior using Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). Research shows that PCIT reduces behavior problems at home and school and enhances the parent-child bond. 1-4

What Is PCIT?

PCIT is an evidence-based program developed by Sheila Eyberg for children experiencing behavioral, emotional or family problems.5 PCIT emphasizes improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing parent-child interactions. Parents are taught communication skills and behavior management with their children in a playroom while coached by one of our highly trained child psychologists. The primary goals of the program are to increase positive feelings and interactions between parents and children, to improve child behavior and to empower parents to use consistent, predictable, effective parenting strategies. Unlike most therapies in which skills are taught in the office and practiced outside in the “real world,” PCIT offers skills and the opportunity to practice with real-time guidance and support.

PCIT Can Help Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Reduce Family Stress

In PCIT sessions, you will learn specific skills to establish and/or strengthen a nurturing and secure relationship with your child while encouraging pro-social behavior and discouraging negative behavior. The treatment has two phases: child-directed interaction (CDI) and parent-directed interaction (PDI). In each phase, you will attend one didactic session to learn interaction skills and then attend a series of coaching sessions with your child in which you and your child apply these skills. During the CDI phase, you will learn nondirective play skills similar to those used in play therapy and engage your child in a play situation with the goal of strengthening your parent-child relationship. During the PDI phase, you will learn how to direct your child’s behavior with clear, age-appropriate instructions and consistent consequences with the aim of increasing child compliance. During coaching sessions, your therapist will observe your parent-child interaction from behind a one-way mirror and provide you with guidance through a “bug-in-the-ear” hearing device.

With support, guidance and the PCIT approach, it is possible for you to learn valuable parenting skills specific to the needs of your child and strengthen your parent-child relationship. You can decrease family stress, increase positive interactions and develop a more effective system of communication moving forward.

You may feel PCIT is the right thing for you and your child, but still have questions and concerns…

Why use PCIT rather than more traditional types of therapy?

PCIT is based on empirically supported childhood treatment approaches; however, the delivery of the therapy is very unique. The progression of therapy and live coaching model allows you to practice new strategies in the office. This provides opportunities to address potential problems with the support of the psychologist rather than attempting the strategies alone in your home. As a parent, you receive immediate guidance and feedback on how to handle defiant and aggressive behavior. If your child frequently has tantrums in public settings, such as a store or the mall, we can go to those locations and practice too. This type of training empowers and prepares you to use new behavioral management techniques in the home and public settings.

I’ve heard that PCIT may be expensive and take a really long time.

How long have you been trying to improve your child’s behavior while feeling  stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed? How much time and energy have you put toward behavioral interventions that have led to minimal behavioral improvement? What would you give for tools and support that really work? That said, PCIT does not have to be a costly, long-term investment. It is a mastery-based, rather than a time-limited treatment, and treatment length can vary depending on your child’s behavior. Families graduate from PCIT after demonstrating CDI and PDI mastery, reporting an average amount of disruptive behavior and expressing confidence in their ability to manage their child’s behavior in real-life settings. It can often be more short-term than traditional psychotherapy, and it is an investment in a long-term solution to improving your relationship with your child and their behavior in your home, at school and with peers, which can be priceless.

How do I know if my child’s behavior requires therapy? Maybe my child’s  behavior will get better with time.

All children are different, and defiance is often part of normal development. However, as parents we want our children to achieve their maximum potential. At Innovative Psychological Solutions, it is our goal to ensure that we meet the individual needs of your child and tailor interventions appropriately. We are happy to meet with you and discuss the specific needs of your child so you can make the best decision concerning how to move forward.

Please call us at 703-273-2198 to request more information about Parent-Child Interaction Therapy or schedule a free consultation appointment.

1 Brestan, E. V., & Eyberg, S. M. (1998). Effective psychosocial treatments of conduct-disordered children and adolescents: 29 years, 82 studies, and 5,272 kids. Journal of clinical child psychology, 27(2), 180-189. 2 Chase, R. M., & Eyberg, S. M. (2008). Clinical presentation and treatment outcome for children with comorbid externalizing and internalizing symptoms. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22(2), 273-282. 3 Eisenstadt, T. H., Eyberg, S., McNeil, C. B., Newcomb, K., & Funderburk, B. (1993). Parent-child interaction therapy with behavior problem children: Relative effectiveness of two stages and overall treatment outcome. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22(1), 42-51. 4 Eyberg, S. M., & Boggs, S. R. (1989). Parent training for oppositional-defiant preschoolers. 5 Eyberg, S. M., Boggs, S. R., & Algina, J. (1995). Parent-child interaction therapy: a psychosocial model for the treatment of young children with conduct problem behavior and their families. Psychopharmacology bulletin.