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What is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

PCIT is a behavioral family intervention for children 2-7 years of age with disruptive behavior disorders.  Developed by Sheila Eyberg at the University of Florida, PCIT integrates concepts from social learning theory, traditional play therapy, and attachment theory to enhance the parent-child relationship, increase children’s pro-social behaviors, and increase parents’ behavior management skills.  The program is implemented in two phases:  The first phase is the Child Directed Interaction (CDI) phase during which parents develop child-centered interaction skills.  The second phase is the Parent-Directed Interaction (PDI) phase during which effective discipline skills are the focus.

PCIT includes the child in treatment, both in session and during daily homework assignments.  In contrast to the traditional approach to parent training that focuses on instruction and role play, parents in PCIT rehearse new skills weekly in session through live interactions with their children.  This active practice facilitates skill development and allows therapists to conduct ongoing assessments of parents' progress.  During parent-child interactions, immediate feedback is given by the therapist.  Therapists use behavioral principles such as modeling, reinforcement, and selective attending in their coaching to shape the parents' behaviors.  The use of live coaching and immediate feedback is key to PCIT.  Therapists directly observe parents’ behaviors and can modify them as they occur.
Adapted from PCIT Training Guidelines (Feb 2009)

"PCIT is a short-term intervention that usually requires approximately 12 one-hour weekly sessions.  Although short-term, PCIT is not time-limited.  Progression through the treatment program is based on skill mastery (assessed via a standardized coding system) so that treatment length varies across families.  PCIT is concluded when the parent masters both the CDI and PDI skills and the child's behavior improves to within normal limits." (McNeil & Hembree-Kigin, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, 2011)

Click here for more detailed information from PCIT International.  Also, check out these videos designed to help parents understand the many benefits of this evidence-based therapy.