Parents can sometimes feel like giving up when a child’s defiance, tantrums, and other challenging behaviors become a daily struggle. “I love my child, but it’s hard to like her at the moment,” one exasperated mother said.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a proven family therapy that coaches parents on ways to use positive reinforcement to manage children’s behaviors and emotions. Best used with children ages 2 – 7 years old, PCIT offers a play setting for parents to receive live coaching from a certified PCIT therapist. When parents master the skills of PCIT, the child’s behaviors noticeably improve and parents are better able to manage challenging behaviors when they arise. Most importantly, some of the warmth and joy returns to the parent-child relationship as families start to have fun together again.
PCIT works well for all families who need help managing children’s behaviors or just strengthening relationships. Some common challenges are
- “not listening” or defiance
- negative attention-seeking
- difficulty focusing
- adjusting to changes in family life, such as parents’ separation, new sibling, or adoption
- misbehavior in public places
- school behavior challenges.
Throughout PCIT, the therapist is able to track the child’s behaviors using a weekly behavior inventory that parents complete. Noticeable improvements in the child’s behaviors – and parents’ stress – is typically seen within the first few therapy sessions.
How It Works
PCIT is a 10-20 week therapy that occurs in two phases. The first phase focuses on strengthening parents’ relationships with their children by teaching the parent ways to interact during play that rewards the child’s appropriate behaviors with positive attention. While parent and child play, the PCIT therapist is able to observe through a video monitor, using a headset to be able to coach the parent on positive interaction skills. Once the parent has mastered the skills of phase one, they are ready to move onto phase two.
Phase two builds upon the strengthened parent-child relationship to promote the child’s compliance with the parent’s instructions – what we call “listening and minding.” Parents learn to state their instructions clearly and directly in ways that are easily understood and encourages compliance. Time Out is used when children do not comply with the parent’s direct command and following one warning. PCIT is completed when both parent and child have mastered the “listening and minding” and Time Out process and are ready to use the practice at home or in public. Even after completion of PCIT, the therapist is available for follow-up consultation and occasional tune-up sessions as the need arises.
PCIT During COVID
Although JFS therapists are not currently seeing clients for in-office visits, PCIT can be accomplished remotely. The PCIT Therapist uses the Zoom platform to remotely observe parents’ play with their child and coach the skills. As long as parents have access to a computer with camera capabilities, PCIT can still be provided without leaving your home.
If you would like to learn more about PCIT and how it might help you and your family, contact Kerry Scott, PCIT Therapist, at 913.730.1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.