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  • What is Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)?

    “Audrey, can you please stop playing with your toys and put your shoes on?!?!” Mary asks for the sixth time.  Mary is trying to get herself and her four-year-old daughter ready so that they can leave to pick up Audrey’s older brother from soccer practice and they are already running behind schedule.  Mary is frustrated and has tried everything she can think of in order to get her youngest child ready and out of the house.  She has bribed Audrey with ice cream, promised her a later bedtime for tonight, and even tried threatening to take away TV for the rest of the day.  Nothing seems to work and Audrey just sits there, playing with her toys, ignoring everything her mother is saying.  Mary sometimes wonders if she can even HEAR her or if she has completely tuned her out.  Mary finally resorts to abruptly taking away the toys, picking Audrey up and putting her in the car.  At that point, Audrey lets out a shrill scream and starts kicking and punching wildly.  In the car, Audrey continues to scream, punch, and kick all the way to their destination.  Mary has a headache and thinks how much she would love it if she and Audrey could enjoy the car ride and take advantage of their time alone together.  But more often than not, their time is taken over by Audrey refusing to listen and then screaming, punching, and having a full-blown tantrum whenever she has to do something she doesn’t want to do.  Does something similar to this happen in your house?

    (PCIT) Parent Child Interaction Therapy could help! But what exactly is it?

    Parent Child Interaction Therapy, PCIT for short, is an evidenced-based educational and behavioral practice used with families who have similar situations like Mary and Audrey.  It is a short-term treatment (approximately 12-20 sessions) and improvements can usually be seen within the first two weeks of treatment.  This can be a real benefit when you are a parent stretched to the max and are at your wit’s end.

    PCIT is used best with:

    • Children ages 3 through 7.
    • Children who consistently have difficulties following instructions the first time they are given.
    • Children who continuously tantrum or whine when told to do something they don’t want to do.
    • Children who become aggressive (e.g., punching, throwing objects, hitting, biting) when told to do something they don’t want to do or told to stop doing something they want to continue doing.
    • Parents who want to provide consistency in the home, including having a more effective discipline option.

    For a sense of what actually happens in a PCIT session, see What will (PCIT) Parent Child Interaction Therapy sessions look like? 

    Let us help you reduce your parental stress!  If Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) sounds like something you and your child might benefit from, please CONTACT US at the Torrance office of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Southern California to set up an assessment with one of our child clinicians.

    Author Erica D’Ambrosi, LMFT is a child and adolescent behavioral specialist and practices in Torrance, CA.