Science has shown us that when a child goes through a traumatic event, their development can be severely disrupted, resulting in lifelong consequences.

In cases of abuse, it can’t be understated how important it is to quickly establish a safe environment for your child. Furthermore, we encourage families in these situations to pursue counseling services.

One solution we advocate for children recovering from abusive situations is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).

What is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

PCIT programs help children and their families develop play-therapy skills that encourage positive behavior. Parents are coached by a therapist to help them master parenting techniques and strengthen family ties.

With over 50 years of evidence-based research, PCIT is recognized by professionals as an effective therapy for families. The program helps abused and at-risk children aged 2 to 8 and their parents (or caregivers) learn new behavior management techniques to improve the child’s behavior.

On average, families are coached for 12 to 20 weeks of PCIT or until they show mastery of the new parenting techniques.

The program goals are achieved through two program phases:

  • Phase 1: Child-Directed Interaction – This phase is all about helping parents foster their relationship with their child. Parents are coached to support their children by increasing daily positive interactions and are also shown how to practice other positive principles. One of the main goals of this phase is to help children feel safe and secure about the relationships they have with their parents.
  • Phase 2: Parent Directed Interaction – In phase 2 of the program, parents practice specific commands and discipline practices to learn how to effectively manage difficult situations. This phase covers proven strategies to help your child respect rules, accept limits, and behave appropriately in public.

PCIT Technique Examples

One of the main reasons that PCIT programs are so successful is the live coaching from therapists. The feedback supports parents so that they can efficiently improve their parenting and communication with their children.

For example, we can refer to the child-directed interaction phase to better understand how the therapist helps parents practice positive reinforcement skills using PRIDE, an acronym that stands for:

  • Praise: Praise your child’s good/appropriate behavior that you wish to see more of. An example can be, “Thank you for saying ‘Excuse me.’” or “Great job cleaning up your room!”
  • Reflection: Repeating your child’s words supports parent-child communication because it helps children feel heard and understood. Repetition can be helpful after your child asks a question; say it back to them to let them know you’re listening and to also let them clarify if needed.
  • Imitation: When parents mimic and engage their child’s behavior, it gives kids the impression of approval. This also teaches children to imitate others, a key part of developmental learning.
  • Description: To help build their child’s vocabulary, parents should describe what the child is doing. This helps the children feel recognized by their parents.
  • Enjoyment: Show enthusiasm at your child’s activities and let them know you enjoy the time spent together.

Other parent training principles include:

  • Ignore negative behavior that is not harmful or serious.
  • Refrain from using words with negative connotations (such as “don’t,” “can’t,” and “no”).
  • Avoid using sarcasm and/or criticism.
  • Effectively using time-out procedures to support discipline and compliance.

Can My Child Benefit from PCIT?

Children who are victims of abuse and struggle with cooperation and/or compliance can benefit from PCIT. The program effectively and efficiently decreases disruptive and non-compliant child behaviors.

Years of evidence-based research has proven that PCIT:

  • Prepares children so that they can better cope with internalizing behaviors such as anxiety and depression.
  • Results in significant decreases in parenting stress.
  • Treatment effects carry over into home and school settings, and can also help improve relationships with untreated siblings/children.
  • Helps maintain improved behavior with one and two-year follow-up evaluations.
  • Has a high client satisfaction rate.

PCIT gives children the opportunity to reclaim their lives, improve their self-esteem, and improve their social skills to live a better life.

For parents, the program helps develop reliable parenting techniques to help them handle challenging situations related to behavioral issues, whether at home or in public.

Empower Victims of Abuse with Resources and Support Options

Whether you know someone in an abusive situation or can benefit from assistance directly, support is available at the Children Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties.

Help us make a positive impact in our community. By donating or volunteering, you can help us continue serving the youth of the Rio Grande Valley.