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Understanding Parent child interaction therapy (PCIT)

Greetings! At Angelus Therapeutic Services, we are dedicated to helping children and families navigate challenges and build meaningful connections. PCIT, or Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, is one of the impactful ways we address these challenges. This weeks article will explore this treatment approach and how it may be used to help your family overcome difficulties that they may be experiencing in a way that builds long term relationships and connections.

PCIT is used to help families with children ages 3-7 who may be struggling with:
  • losing focus easily,
  • being defiant,
  • not following instructions,
  • children who may appear to have attachment issues,
  • can be aggressive,
  • struggles with getting along with their siblings.

How do you know it can help my child? 

PCIT is what is called an evidenced based practice, which means it is very well tested, used and regulated with a full training process that ensures the therapist is experienced and well versed in helping families healed. There is a year-long process of training and developing experience to become certified in PCIT, which I have fully completed.

PCIT is hands on, where the parents get to enjoy the experience of working with their child in a healthy and positive play environment. The therapist will assist the parents in completing the therapy with their child. This is used to build a more secure attachment with their primary care giver and to help that caregiver learn healthy & consistent discipline for when things get a little rocky. This is done with both the parent and child present. I, as the therapist takes on an observer role and coaches the parent on how to use play therapy to build a more warm and nurturing relationship. Which can understandably have become difficult over time as children may have experienced different traumas, struggles and delays in their lives.

How long does the PCIT process take:

PCIT can be done in as little as 12 weeks. It is split into two sections of learning.

The first six weeks are Child Directed Interactions, which means the parent follows the child lead in play and uses positive social skills to build a secure attachment.

The second 6 weeks are parent Directed Interactions, meaning the parent will learn to give and use effective commands as well as have a tried-and-true discipline technique that they can use anyway.

As the therapist I am able to be very discreet in my coaching by allowing the child and caretaker to be in the play space together with myself in another space observing through video and being able to make suggestions to the parent through an earpiece. Thus, ensuring that the child sees that adult as the lead in the process.

The idea of having someone watching you play with your child on video and ‘whisper’ hints in your ear, may seem odd, but it is no more strange then having a personal trainer at your gym walking you through how to correctly use machines to get the best benefit out of your workouts. In this circumstance, the therapist is walking you through techniques and strategies that help you get the best benefits out of your therapy time, AND your natural play and interaction time at home. 

Is that it?? All I need to do is come once a week and my kid’s behaviors change?

Not quite: As can be imagined nothing can be changed in a family simply from coming to a PCIT session once a week and only trying these techniques in that space. As part of this therapy there is an important and required 5 minutes of homework each day to help the parent and child learn and reinforce these skills.

Over the course of time, a decrease in negative behaviors is measured from completing simple check in assessments each week. This helps the family and therapist gage where focus and further fine tuning may be needed as we work through the process.

improving childs behaviors in therapy
So what are the goals in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

At the end of the PCIT process our goals are to increase positive attachment and connections between the child and their primary caregivers, increase positive attention span at home and school, for families to be able to have more positive and relaxed interactions, to decrease anxiety about going to the store with your kiddo or into social scenarios which may have previously triggered meltdowns, and to help your child to truly alter their behaviors so that they can have quality social relationships with family and friends.

child therapist seeing medical assistance in lawrence county

Erin Micco, LSW

If you’re seeking a positive change for your family, we’re here for you. Currently, we have two therapists accepting new clients for PCIT services at our New Castle office. Connect with us today through our ‘getting started’ tab, and let’s embark on this journey together. We look forward to supporting your family’s growth and well-being.

child therapist seeing medical assistance in lawrence county

Diana McClure, LSW

Digging Deeper:

Blogs related to helping children & Families:
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External Supports and Resources:

    At Angelus we have a great group of therapists available to help you child and family through your healing journey. Reach out today to get started and see if one of our therapists is the right fit for you.