Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

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About This Program

Target Population: Children ages 2.0 - 7.0 years old with behavior and parent-child relationship problems; may be conducted with parents, foster parents, or other caretakers

Brief Description

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a dyadic behavioral intervention for children (ages 2.0 – 7.0 years) and their parents or caregivers that focuses on decreasing externalizing child behavior problems (e.g., defiance, aggression), increasing child social skills and cooperation, and improving the parent-child attachment relationship. It teaches parents traditional play-therapy skills to use as social reinforcers of positive child behavior and traditional behavior management skills to decrease negative child behavior. Parents are taught and practice these skills with their child in a playroom while coached by a therapist. The coaching provides parents with immediate feedback on their use of the new parenting skills, which enables them to apply the skills correctly and master them rapidly. PCIT is time-unlimited; families remain in treatment until parents have demonstrated mastery of the treatment skills and rate their child’s behavior as within normal limits on a standardized measure of child behavior. Therefore treatment length varies but averages about 14 weeks, with hour-long weekly sessions.

Program Goals:

The goals of the Child-Directed Interaction part of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) are:

  • Build close relationships between parents and their children using positive attention strategies
  • Help children feel safe and calm by fostering warmth and security between parents and their children
  • Increase children’s organizational and play skills
  • Decrease children’s frustration and anger
  • Educate parent about ways to teach child without frustration for parent and child
  • Enhance children’s self-esteem
  • Improve children’s social skills such as sharing and cooperation
  • Teach parents how to communicate with young children who have limited attention spans

The goals of Parent-Directed Interaction part of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) are:

  • Teach parent specific discipline techniques that help children to listen to instructions and follow directions
  • Decrease problematic child behaviors by teaching parents to be consistent and predictable
  • Help parents develop confidence in managing their children’s behaviors at home and in public

Contact Information

Agency/Affiliation: PCIT International

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: September 2013

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: March 2006