Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a proven, evidenced-based practice. For a therapist to be trained in PCIT, they must have a master’s degree in a mental health field and complete the year long post-masters intensive training. PCIT is a parent-child treatment program that assists parents of children with behavioral problems (aggression, non-compliance, defiance, and temper tantrums). These behaviors may be related to attachment issues, trauma, ADHD/ADD, oppositional defiant disorder, adjustment issues, mood disorders, anxiety, divorce, changes in custody, issues from bullying, and the list goes on...
PCIT is a unique treatment program that focuses on promoting positive parent-child relationships and interactions while teaching parents effective child management skills. The therapist “coaches” the parent behind a one way mirrored window while the parent and child play. With this model, the parent can practice the skills until they have reached mastery. PCIT typically lasts from 14-20 sessions. Each session lasts approximately 1 hour.
The first half of PCIT consists of the Relationship Enhancement component. Parents are taught and coached how to decrease negative aspects of the relationship with their child and to develop consistently positive and supportive communication.
The second half of PCIT consists of the Strategies for Compliance component. Parents are taught and coached the elements of effective discipline and child management skills. Parents learn and acquire specific skills, practice these skills until mastery is achieved and the child's behavior has improved.
The most appropriate referrals are children between the ages of 2-8 years who are exhibiting some challenging behaviors. PCIT is ideal for children with behavioral issues such as aggression, non-compliance, defiance and temper tantrums. These behaviors may be related to attachment issues, reunification with their caregiver, trauma history, ADHD/ADD, ODD, anxiety, mood disorders, disruptive behavior disorders and adjustment issues, just to name a few. PCIT is most effective with young children and their parents/caregivers who want to improve their relationship with their children.
Information on this rating can be found at the American Psychological Association here.
A review of 17 studies that included 628 preschool-age children identified as exhibiting a disruptive behavior disorder concluded that involvement in PCIT resulted in significant improvements in child behavior functioning. Commonly reported behavioral outcomes of PCIT included both less frequent and less intense behavior problems as reported by parents and teachers, increases in clinic- observed compliance, reductions in inattention and hyperactivity, decreases in observed negative behaviors such as whining or crying, and reductions in the percentage of children who qualify for a diagnosis of disruptive behavior disorder (Gallagher, 2003).
Examining PCIT effectiveness among foster parents participating with their foster children and biological parents referred for treatment because of their children’s behavioral problems, researchers found decreases in child behavior problems and caregiver distress for both groups (Timmer, Urquiza, & Zebell, 2005).
Follow-up studies report that treatment gains are maintained over time (Eyberg et al., 2001; Hood & Eyberg, 2003).
Adapted versions of PCIT also have been shown to be effective in treating other issues such as separation anxiety, depression, self-injurious behavior, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and adjustment following divorce (Johnson, Franklin, Hall, & Preito, 2000; Pincus, Choate, Eyberg, & Barlow, 2005).
Studies support the benefits of PCIT across genders and across a variety of ethnic groups (Capage, Bennett, & McNeil, 2001; Chadwick Center on Children and Families, 2004; McCabe, 2005).
Research reveals that parents and caretakers completing PCIT typically demonstrate improvements in reflective listening skills, use more prosocial verbalization, direct fewer sarcastic comments and critical statements at their children, improve physical closeness to their children, and show more positive parenting attitudes (Hembree-Kigin & McNeil, 1995).
In a study of 110 physically abusive parents, only one-fifth (19%) of the parents participating in PCIT had re-reports of physically abusing their children after 850 days, compared to half (49%) of the parents attending a typical community parenting group (Chaffin et al., 2004). Reductions in the risk of abuse following treatment were confirmed by another recent study among parents who had maltreated their children (Timmer, Urquiza, Zebell, & McGrath, 2005).
PCIT is now commonly referred to in the cluster of "trauma informed" strategies. Trauma adaption to the model was examined in a study of PCIT in meeting the needs of mother-child dyads exposed to Interpersonal Violence (IPV) by reducing children's behavior problems and decreasing mother's distress (Timmer, Ware, Urquiza & Zebell, 2010)