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PCIT is a family-centered treatment approach proven effective for abused and at-risk children ages 2 to 8 and their caregiver, birth parents, adoptive parents, or foster or kin caregivers. During PCIT, clinicians coach parents while they interact with their children, teaching caregivers strategies that will promote positive behaviors in children who have disruptive or externalizing behavior problems. Research has shown that, as a result of PCIT, parents learn more effective parenting techniques, the behavior problems of children decrease, and the quality of the parent-child relationship improves.

Research has established that PCIT is highly effective in treating several types of behavioral and emotional problems in young children. The benefits of PCIT include:


Reduces Behavior Problems in Young Children by Improving Parent-Child Interaction:

  • PCIT addresses the negative parent-child interaction patterns that contribute to the disruptive behavior of young children. Through PCIT, parents learn to bond with their children and develop more effective parenting styles that better meet their children’s needs. For example, parents learn to model and reinforce constructive ways for dealing with emotions, such as frustration. Children, in turn, respond to these healthier relationships and interactions. As a result, children treated using PCIT typically show significant reductions in behavior problems at home and at school.


Treats the Parent and Child Together:

  • While many treatment approaches target either parents or children, PCIT focuses on changing the behaviors of both the parent and child together. Parents learn to model positive behaviors that children can learn from and are trained to act as “agents of change” for their children’s behavioral or emotional difficulties.


Decreases the Risk for Child Physical Abuse and Breaks the Coercive Cycle:

  • PCIT is appropriate where physical abuse occurs within the context of child discipline, as most physical abuse does. While child behavior problems and child physical abuse often co-occur, PCIT may help change the parental response to challenging child behaviors, regardless of the type of behavior problem.


Offers Support for Caregivers Including Foster Parents:

  • PCIT is now recognized as a way to help support foster parents caring for children with behavioral problems by enhancing the relationship between foster parents and foster children and by teaching foster parents behavior management skills.


PCIT uses live coaching, meaning a clinician/coach will be observing your interactions with your child while at the same time providing coaching. We do this by viewing the interaction through a one-way mirror or secure video conferencing. Live coaching provides immediate prompts to parents while they interact with their children. During the course of this hands-on treatment, parents are guided to demonstrate specific relationship-building and discipline skills.


Phase 1: Relationship Enhancement (Child-Directed Interaction):

This phase emphasizes building a nurturing relationship and secure bond between parent and child. Phase I sessions are structured so that the child selects a toy or activity, and the parent plays along while being coached by the clinician. Because parents are taught to follow the child’s lead, this phase also is referred to as child-directed interaction (CDI).


During Phase I sessions, parents are instructed to use positive reinforcement. In particular, parents are encouraged to use skills represented in the acronym “PRIDE” These skills include: Praise, Reflection, Imitation, Behavioral Description and Enjoyment.


Phase II: Discipline and Compliance (Parent-Directed Interaction):

During this phase, also known as parent-directed interaction (PDI), the parent takes the lead. Parents are taught to give clear, direct commands to the child and to provide consistent consequences for both compliance and noncompliance When a child obeys the command, parents are instructed to provide labeled or specific praise. When a child disobeys, however, the parents initiate a timeout procedure. The timeout procedure typically begins with the parent issuing the child a warning and a clear choice of action and may advance to sending the child to a timeout chair.

PCIT is designed to be completed within 12-14 sessions. Treatment completion is based on caregiver obtaining mastery in the skills taught. Because PCIT is an evidence based, protocol based treatment, it is vital to treatment effectiveness for families to attend sessions consistently.

Quality Time
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