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What is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

At the Family Interaction Program, we offer several evidence-based programs to support parent-child relationships. We have been delivering our corner stone program, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, to those in parenting roles (including parents, step-parents, foster and kinship caregivers) for over 20 years.



What is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a parent support program that is informed by attachment theory and behaviour principles. PCIT has become one of the most popular and effective parenting support programs in the world. PCIT focuses on increasing positive interactions between the parent and child, while also increasing parents' capacity to manage their children's big feelings and reduce associated disruptive behaviours. In PCIT, we focus on adding to a parent's toolbox of skills. We want to help parents to feel ready and able to manage challenging moments with their children as they arise.


Who is it for?

PCIT is designed for children aged between one to seven years old who have difficult-to-manage disruptive behaviours and big feelings including defiance, tantrums, and aggressive behaviours. It is also helpful for parents who feel exhausted because of their parenting pressures or have had experiences that interferes with their confidence as a parent.


How does it work?

Unlike other parenting programs, PCIT uses in-vivo coaching to support parents in building new skills to increase parent-child positive interactions. Coaching happens with a parent and child playing in one room, while the parent wears a Bluetooth headphone in one ear. The therapist sits in another room separated by a window to observe the session without getting in the way of the play. The therapist is able to communicate with the parent about how they could respond to their children as they play, especially helping with managing any challenging child behaviours. The responses we coach are strategies that can reduce the disruptive behaviours and improve parent-child relationships. As a result, both the parent and child learn new ways to interact. It's about finding out about new skills and practice during play!


PCIT has two main phases, with sessions typically taking place over 17 weeks (one hour per week). The first phase will focus on positive relationships: this happens through play that is led by the child, while parents participate, observe and reflect their children's emotions and behaviours. This first phase is the longest and take most of the 17 weeks. The second phase supports parents to confidently deliver effective instructions to gain cooperation from the child while managing challenging behaviours in the moment. Prior to commencing each phase, the therapist has a session with the parent to explain the new skills that will be taught and practiced over the next few weeks. Families are encouraged to practice using the skills as much as possible outside of the sessions.


PCIT works. We not only hear this from our families, but we also do our own research to make sure. Our research has demonstrated that families who complete PCIT see a decrease in child disruptive behaviours including tantrums and aggressive behaviours. Families also report less stress at home and feel less stressed about their parenting. Families report better communication skills and more positive interactions. Parents also report they find it easier to avoid anger, hostility, and coercion when interacting with their children.


Want to know more? Reach out to us through Instagram or Facebook @familyinteractionprogram

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