In Parenting

Getting Involved: Parent Child Interaction Therapy

What is Parent Child Interaction Therapy?
Parent-child interaction therapy is a therapy approach to children who have or show signs of emotional or behavioral disorders. This form of therapy focuses on the parent-child relationship and the patterns that may have already formed between the parent and child.

Benefits and Goals of PCIT (Parent Child Interaction Therapy)



One of the goals of this form of child therapy is to empower parents and help them make the necessary changes that will help their child. These changes will help the parent and child for a strong bond that is safe, nurturing, and secure.


Another goal of this form of therapy is to improve the lives of children and families as a whole. This form of therapy is committed to empowering and encouraging every family member for an overall success of the release of emotional and behavioral stress that is present.



One of the most recognized benefits of PCIT is the treatment of the child and parent together. Many child therapy techniques involve only the children or a parent, but rarely both. With this form of therapy, parents learn how to become positive role models for their child. It is a parent’s job to show the child how to conduct themselves in many different situations in a proper manner. Parents are taught various strategies to reinforce their child’s positive behavior.

Decreasing the Risks

Many different studies reveal that this therapy is effective for many different families, especially those who have children that range from ages 2 to 12 years old. Families who have gone through this form of therapy report they are less stressed and use fewer punishment techniques.


Whether you are a parent, foster parent, or guardian, you will greatly benefit from having available support. Parents, foster parents, and guardians are taught management skills to help them cope and deal with children who suffer from emotional and behavioral problems. Dealing with and caring for children can be overwhelming and frustrating at times, especially when you are caring for a child who suffers from emotional and behavioral disorders.

Live Coaching

Parent-child interactive therapy differs from other types of therapy that are available due to the way different skills are taught. As far as live coaching is concerned, everything is done one-on-one with the parent and child. This is the most common time where hands-on treatment is used. Once hands-on treatment is used. Once hands-on treatment is in order, parents are taught how to demonstrate the relationship as well as discipline skills. Live coaching helps correct parent’s techniques as soon as mistakes are made. This is the best way to ensure a positive learning environment for everyone.

Limitations of Parent Child Interactive Therapy

Although parent-child interactive therapy has great benefits and outstanding results, there are times when this form of therapy should not be used. Parents who do not have frequent interaction with their child may need to find another form of therapy for their child’s emotional and behavioral disorders. Parents and guardians may not benefit entirely from PCIT. Any disorder that involves any form of hallucinations or delusions that a person experiences due to a mental disorder may not be the best candidate for this form of therapy.

Parents and guardians who are hearing impaired and experience difficulty using their hearing device should seek another form of therapy to better suit their needs. Parents who have difficulty speaking or have receptive language deficits may want to explore other therapy options.


There are two phases that are associated with this form of therapy. These phases help parents interact with their children and overcome the emotional and behavioral problems.

Phase 1

Phase one is all about being positive. During this phase, parents are taught the skills of positive reinforcement. In this form of therapy, the PRIDE technique is used.

P-Praise is the primary thing that parents are taught. Parents are taught to praise their child for excellent and situation-appropriate behavior. A simple compliment, such as “great job for behaving in school” or “great job for picking up your belongings off of the floor” are examples of positive reinforcement.

R-Reflection is used to enforce what the child has learned. The parent is instructed to complete certain tasks with the child, and the reflection part of phase one is to see how much information the child retained.

I-Imitation is one significant part of a child’s life. Instead of the child imitating what the parent does, the parent imitates what the child does. When a parent does this, this suffices as a sign of approval for the child.

D- Descriptive measures are taken in this situation. The parent tells the child which activity they are participating in, such as “you are placing the toys in the toy chest.” This step within the PRIDE technique helps a child build their vocabulary skills and shows interest in what the child is doing.

E- E is for entertainment or enjoyment. During this step of the PRIDE technique, the parent shows excitement and interacts with the child and involves themselves in the child’s activities.

Phase 2

Phase two of this form of therapy revolves around discipline. Many parents experience issues when discipline is involved. While some parents do not discipline their child enough, some parents discipline their child too often. As far as discipline is concerned, there is a time and place for it.

In this instance, parents are taught how to approach discipline matters in a structured and consistent manner.

This technique helps parents who are afraid to discipline their child and parents who discipline their child in ways that are not appropriate. To start, parents are taught how to give clear and concise instructions to the child. A lot of parents do not understand that their child may not grasp all of the concepts that they are trying to imply, and this is a common reason parents discipline their child. The bottom line for some parents is that they discipline their child for what they do not understand, and this is not the child’s fault.

During the second phase, parents are taught how to deal with their child’s misbehavior in an effective manner by using parent-directed interaction (PDI). PDI I when the parent takes control of the entire situation and directs the child, this is known as parent-directed interaction.

During this discipline phase, parents are taught how to give commands to their child, and have the child obey their commands without using physical force. This is one effective way that parents learn which commands to use and how to use them. The key to success in this situation is the commands that are spoken and the tone of voice that is used.

Many people do not realize how much their tone of voice plays a major role in communicating with others, especially children. If you are trying to discipline a child with a smile on your face, it will be difficult for a child to know and understand that you mean business. Instead, speak with a strong or stern tone of voice, and a stern or serious facial expression. When your tone of voice and facial expressions coordinate, your child will receive the message that you are giving, otherwise, you will be sending mixed messages.

The Aftermath

In most cases, once phase one and two have taken place, the parent and child are sent home, and the parent is left to implement the rules and use the techniques they have learned. After some time has passed, the parent and child are interviewed, and they are graded on what they have retained, and the improvements they have made.

The first thing the coordinator will take into consideration is improvements and attitudes. The parent and child will endure an interview, and there are different aspects that will be looked into and considered. The coordinator will watch the interaction between the child and parent to see if the parent’s parenting skills have improved and attitudes have adjusted.

Behavior is another aspect that is concerned in this situation. More than 15 studies reveal that children who were disruptive, and had emotional and behavioral problems improved significantly. These improvements were due to the phases of parent-child interaction therapy and the components that come along with it.

Based on the evidence that is provided from the interview, coordinators will tell the parent and child the results of the interview. Most parents and children exceed the expectations of the coordinator, and no further therapy sessions are required. For the parents and children who require more therapy sessions, the coordinator will tell the parent and child which areas need more improvement and when future therapy sessions will begin.

Although there is not a pass or failing grade given, parents and children are judged upon the techniques and skills that were taught, and how well the parent and child grasped the concepts that were taught. In most instances, there are always areas that can be improved, but most of these instances can be worked on at home and do not require more therapy sessions.

PCIT is a fairly new way that therapists improve on family matters and other situations involving a child and their parents. Many foster parents have issues with children who have emotional issues and behavioral issues. Talking and other forms of therapy may work for a while, but as a child gets older, sometimes these issues get worse. When this happens, foster parents seek parent-child interactive therapy to calm any tension that may be present and create new beginnings.

Foster children often endure painful childhoods that are difficult to reverse or overcome. PCIT is a great way to help foster parents understand foster children and create a strong bond with the child. A lot of the time, foster children are placed in foster care because their biological parents do not care for them the way they should. In this instance, foster parents and foster children greatly benefit from this form of therapy and lead happy lives with their families. Children who are not raised in foster care have problems that pertain to emotional and behavioral issues. These issues can be corrected with PCIT. This form of therapy is not for everyone, but for those who are candidates for this form of therapy benefit greatly from it.

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