The Basics of PCIT and How it Can Benefit your Family

Every parent wants to raise their child right. Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy task. Each child is different, and there’s no clear-cut way to raise them. You could go through dozens of parenting books, but you’ll find that it doesn’t have all the answers. Lucky for us, psychology has come with new programs to raising kids. One approach that’s gaining more recognition today is parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT). Here are the facts to know about the program.

What is PCIT?


Developed in the early 1970s by Dr. Sheila M. Eyberg, PCIT is a new form of treatment.

It combines ideas from play therapy and behavioral therapy. This form of treatment focuses on how parents or caregivers interact with children, as guided by a trained coach. It aims to improve their relationship with each other through PCIT techniques. PCIT is directed towards turning negative behavior into more positive, wanted behavior.

Who Can Benefit from It?

Newly developed, the treatment is primarily for children of ages 2 to 7. Moreover, PCIT was meant to aid parents in raising children with disruptive behavioral and emotional disorders. This includes children who experienced abuse and trauma in the past. It addresses many behavioral issues such as non-compliance, defiance and aggression.


PCIT has been found to be especially useful and productive in other situations. This form of therapy has been used when dealing with children on the autism spectrum. Likewise, it has been used with foster and adoptive families as well as at-risk families.

How is PCIT Done?


A basic PCIT program has two stages: relationship enhancement and discipline training.


First, relationship enhancement is done through child-directed interaction (CDI). Under this stage, parents are coached into developing a healthy and nurturing bond with their children. This is typically done by having the parents play and interact with their children in a controlled playroom while being observed by and guided by a coach.


Under this stage, parents are taught the acronym PRIDE, which stands for praise, reflect, imitate, describe and enjoyment. During their playtime with their children, they are meant to praise positive behavior and reflect on what their children say. Additionally, they should imitate their children’s positive behavior to show approval of it. Describing what their children are doing helps build vocabulary in the child and shows that parents are paying attention. Parents are also tasked to show enjoyment and enthusiasm for their children’s activities.


Second, discipline training is aparent-directed interaction (PDI). This time, the parent takes the lead when it comes to discipline. Under this stage, parents are to give easy-to-understand instructions to their children. They provide specific and positively-expressed commands. When the children show compliance, they are given praise. Should they prove noncompliance, the children are given a time-out, teaching the difference between correct and incorrect behavior.

How Can it Help my Family?


Every child experiences unwanted behavior at some point. Some parents may find it easier to correct their children than others. Typically used for families with children exhibiting behavioral and emotional disorders, you may see that PCIT can still benefit your family.


You may choose to go through formal treatment, where you will be coached. Conversely, you may only read up on PCIT and apply its techniques when raising your children. You’ll find that the program gives many perspectives on parenting. Better connections are made between the parent and child, creating a closer relationship that helps you raise your child right.

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