If you’re a parent, or work with young children, you might have heard the term PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy) before, but what is it really? PCIT.org defines PCIT as an evidence-based treatment for young children with behavioral problems, but if you look a little closer, it is actually SO much more.
PCIT sessions are conducted by the parent and child playing together in one room, while the therapist observes and coaches the parent through a “bug in the ear” device from a separate room. It is done across two treatment phases. The first phase consisting of child directed interaction (CDI) and the second, parent directed interaction (PDI). Treatment usually lasts anywhere from 12-20 sessions depending on the child and family.
Now that you know the basics, how do you know if PCIT is right for your child? If he/she is between the ages of 2 and 7, and struggles with behavioral problems such as frequent tantrums, aggression, extreme defiance, or destructive behaviors, they could benefit from PCIT. Also, what many people don’t know is that PCIT is beneficial for children with low self-esteem, trouble concentrating, poor social skills, and attachment difficulties. On top of all of this, PCIT can decrease parental frustration and burn out.
As a therapist and parent of a 4 going on 16 year old, I’m here to answer all of your burning PCIT questions! Here are some FAQs to get you started.
1. What makes PCIT different from other evidence-based practices?
PCIT stands out from other practices due to the fact that every session involves both the child and the parent. The therapist will never see the child alone, and never plays with the child themselves. They stay behind the scenes while the parent is playing, learning, strengthening their parent/child relationship, and best of all genuinely having FUN with their child! A PCIT master trainer once described PCIT as a way of teaching parents to be their child’s own play therapist!
2. Weekly sessions sounds like a lot of work. How can I make this work with my busy schedule?
You’re exactly right, weekly sessions can be a lot of work, especially with a young child. PCIT is truly a practice where what you put in, is what you get out of it. Choose a day/time that works for you and stick with it. Stay dedicated, and the results will come.
3. PCIT involves A LOT of praising. Isn’t there such a thing as too much praise?
Well, let’s think about it. Have you ever been praised too much? Has being praised for something you’re already expected to do ever had a negative effect on you? If your boss came to your office and gave you a genuine praise for something you accomplished, would that make you want to do it more, or less? There’s your answer.
4. Is PCIT going to try to turn me into one of those parents that doesn’t use the word No?
NO! The word no is absolutely necessary as a parent. However, PCIT will keep you from having to use the word as often as you were before. Your child will learn positive ways of getting your attention (instead of asking for that cookie 25 times in a row), along with being more respectful of rules and directions.
5. Playing with my child is not fun to me, how am I going to make this work?
As adults, sometimes it’s hard to genuinely have fun playing with our young children. We just don’t know what to do, and that’s okay! PCIT will help you figure out exactly how to play with your child, along with what to say, and when to say it! Playing with your child will go from feeling like a chore, to something both you and your child look forward to each day. Other parents will be dying to know your secrets!
6. This sounds great, where do I sign up?
I’m so glad you asked! For more information on PCIT head over to PCIT.org and click on the “Parents” tab, or email me at Megan@northstarcounselingcenter.com. I can’t wait to get started with you and your child on your PCIT journey!