Parent Child Interaction Therapy

parent child interaction therapy adhd disruptive behavior oppositional defiant disorder ann arbor michigan sunfield centerParenting is not always easy, particularly when a child’s temperament negatively affects his ability to adapt to the demands of daily life. Parents of children with behavioral difficulties, often experience increased frustration and higher levels of depression, particularly mothers. Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an empirically-supported treatment approach designed to help parents manage problem behaviors while building a stronger relationship with their child.

What is PCIT?
PCIT is a powerful intervention for families struggling to find harmony in their home. It uses an integration of attachment theory and behavioral therapy approaches to help parents regain confidence in their ability to positively and effectively parent their child.  Treatment is conducted with both the parent and child present in order to allow the clinician to coach the parent while observing from behind a one-way mirror.

Which families can benefit from PCIT?
PCIT is especially effective for children ranging in age from 2-7 years. The treatment addresses a variety of behavior and emotional problems. This includes acting-out behaviors, such as noncompliance and aggression, as well as more internal difficulties like sad mood, poor self-esteem, and anxiety. Principles of PCIT can also be implemented in a school setting in order to improve child behavior as well as a child’s relationship with his or her teachers and peers.

What are the steps involved in PCIT?
Prior to starting treatment, a child is first evaluated to identify specific parent concerns. When PCIT is recommended as the treatment of choice, an initial meeting is scheduled with the parents where a clinician orients them to the treatment model.

  • The first phase of treatment focuses on Child-Directed Interaction (CDI), which involves increasing positive engagement and offering praise in order to strengthen the parent-child relationship and reinforce appropriate behaviors. Parents are also taught to use selective attention to encourage pro-social behaviors while diminishing more problematic ones. After parents have learned the basics of CDI, they practice these skills with their child, while the therapist observes from behind a one-way mirror. The therapist helps parents succeed by unobtrusively coaching them via a small earpiece.
  • The second phase of treatment focuses on Parent-Directed Interaction (PDI), which entails teaching parents how to follow-through and increase consistency and predictability when giving their child directions. After learning this second phase of the treatment, parents practice PDI and CDI skills simultaneously while their therapist observes and coaches them from behind the one-way mirror. This involves having the parent practice giving clear and effective instructions as well as setting appropriate limits to noncompliance while reinforcing positive interactions via the use of their CDI skills.

What benefits has PCIT been shown to have for families?
PCIT has helped improve the everyday lives of many families. Research has found PCIT to be effective in reducing problem behaviors, both at home and in school. At the conclusion of treatment, parents report decreased parenting related stress and improved attitudes toward their child. Additionally, child compliance increases and parents typically endorse high treatment satisfaction. Given that PCIT is time limited, even busy parents are able to participate.