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Enhancing parent-child relationship among young children with behavioral and emotional problems.

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Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a specialized form of behavioral therapy designed to improve the parent-child relationship and address behavioral and emotional problems in young children. It was originally developed by Sheila Eyberg in the 1970s.

The primary goal of PCIT is to enhance the quality of the parent-child relationship by teaching parents effective parenting skills and strategies to manage challenging behaviors in their children. It is often used with children between the ages of 2 and 7 years old who are experiencing behavioral difficulties, such as oppositional behavior, aggression, tantrums, and non-compliance.

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PCIT consists of weekly sessions conducted in two treatment phases: Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) and 
Parent-Directed Interaction (PDI).

In this CDI phase, parents learn how to engage their children in positive, structured play sessions. The therapist observes the parent-child interactions through a one-way mirror or via video and provides real-time coaching to the parent. The goal is to improve the parent's ability to use praise, reflective listening, and appropriate prompts during playtime, promoting positive communication and emotional connection between parent and child.

Once the parent has mastered the skills in the CDI phase, they move on to the PDI phase. During this stage, the focus shifts to teaching parents effective discipline and behavior management techniques. The therapist guides the parent through situations that require setting clear limits, implementing appropriate consequences, and using consistent follow-through.

PCIT can be customized according to the age and condition of the child, with variations for toddlers, older children, children with depression and/or anxiety, as well as children adjusting to major stressors such as the loss of a loved one or caregiver divorce or separation. It is appropriate for parents, foster parents, kinship caregivers, grandparents, and legal caregivers.



Not sure if PCIT is ideal for you and your child? Here are signs your child could be a good candidate for this kind of therapy:

  • Easy loss of temper or frequent temper tantrums

  • Gets angry when told "no"

  • Yells, screams, and/or whines

  • Aggressive towards parents or siblings

  • Caregiver-child relational problems

  • Refusal and defiance of adult requests

  • Destroys toys or other objects

  • Destruction of property

  • Overactive and restless

  • Difficulty staying seated and playing quietly

  • Acts defiant when told to do something

  • Refusal to follow house rules 

  • Difficulty taking turns

  • Purposeful annoyance of others 

  • Social skills deficits


PCIT typically is conducted with the caregiver and child together in one room and the therapist observing either in another room or on a HIPPA-compliant video platform where the therapist can effectively see how the child reacts with just the caregiver’s use of specialized behavioral skills. The therapist uses live coaching via a bug in ear device to increase use of those skills and respond to negative behaviors.  Skills are acquired rapidly by caregivers as they practice in the moment with therapist support and caregivers gain confidence.

PCIT consists of  weekly sessions conducted in two treatment phases. After completing the first phase of treatment (CDI), caregivers report: 

  • Increased compliance

  • Decreased tantrums and decreased severity of tantrums

  • Increase in behaviors such as sharing and patience

  • Decrease in attention seeking behaviors such as yelling, hitting, interrupting

  • Increased attachment to parent

After completing the second phase of treatment (PDI), which is about making sure as a parent you are remaining calm but firm with boundaries with your child, parents report:

  • Improved behavior at home, in school, and in the community

  • Increased respect and compliance with rules

  • Decreased destructive behavior

  • Increased parental confidence 

  • Decrease in aggressive behavior

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The first step to healing is deciding that you are ready to overcome your fears, behavioral challenges, or past traumatic experiences. If you wish to start your journey toward a better, more meaningful relationship with your child, contact me now, and let's arrange an introductory call to get started.

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