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Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT, is just one option for treating behavior disorders. This article includes the key components of Parent Child Interaction Therapy, offers tips on finding a PCIT therapy specialist, and explains who may benefit from Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.

What Is Parent–Child Interaction Therapy?

Parent–Child Interaction Therapy, abbreviated PCIT, was developed by Sheila Eyberg in the 1970s with the goal of treating children aged 2 to 7 years along with their parents when together they engaged in coercive interactions with either the child showing externalized behavior problems and/or the parent being physically abusive. It came into being at the Oregon Health Sciences University and combined elements of play therapy and child behavior therapy. The philosophy of the program grew out of the work of Diana Baumrind, who demonstrated through research the effectiveness of authoritative parenting that combines nurturing with firm limits.

Today, it has developed into an evidence-based treatment for children aged 2 to 12 years and their care givers, whether biological or foster, and is used for abused children, at-risk children, disruptive behavior disorders, ADHD, and harsh parenting. That is, it is used to treat children, parents, and the dynamic between them. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is practiced not only in the United States, but also in Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Taiwan, and The Netherlands.

What Are Key Components of the Parent–Child Interaction Therapy?

Parents in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) learn to parent with authority. They begin by learning CDI (Child-Directed Interaction), which centers on positive parenting, the attachment between parent and child, and the child's social skills. The goal is to restructure the parent–child relationship. The next step is PDI (Parent-Directed Interaction), which centers on using clear directives and consistent follow-through, with responses being contingent on the child's choices, which leads to a reduction in noncompliance, aggression, and general behavior problems on the part of the child. The therapy is delivered through direct coaching, which maybe delivered through a wireless earphone or earbud. 

Following Parent - Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), which is often delivered in 14 to 20 one-hour sessions, children's behavior is in the normal range. and changes in parenting style persisted, with lessening of negative interactions, such as criticism, physical abuse, the use of coercion, and sarcasm, and increases in physical proximity, reflective listening, and prosocial verbalization.

Finding a Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Practitioner

PCIT should be administered by a certified trainer, in order that the elements of the official version—which is evidence-based and empirically established—are properly incorporated. The basic practice has been adapted to treatment in different cultures and situations, including families in which there has been child abuse, families in which children endured prenatal exposure to drugs, including alcohol, older children, and American families with different cultural backgrounds, so if you're considering Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, it can help to make your circumstances and situation clear during your initial contact.

You should be aware that Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is not for everyone. It is not effective when parents are not in contact with their child in an ongoing way, when children are younger than 2 or 2.5 years, when parents have severe mental health issues, when parents have serious language issues, and when parents have either sexually abused their child or engaged in cruel physical abuse.




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