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Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) is a type of pediatric behavioral therapy for young children and their caregivers. PCIT uses play between a child and their parent or caregiver to shape positive behavior. More than 200 research studies have shown that PCIT reduces child behavior problems and decreases parent stress.

The mental health professionals at The University of Kansas Health System understand the importance using evidence-based techniques that are proven to work. We use PCIT to teach parents and guardians how to better relate to children with behavior problems.

What is parent-child interaction therapy?

Parent-child interaction therapy teaches specific skills parents can use to help improve physical and verbal exchanges with their children. Aimed primarily at children ages 2-6, PCIT has been shown to be effective for children who exhibit disruptive behavior due to a variety of reasons such as post-traumatic stress disorder or autism spectrum disorder.

PCIT can help improve family dynamics by introducing skills to curb negative behaviors and improve interactions between family members. This is achieved by practicing new behaviors and ways of communicating that focus on reassurance and positive encouragement.

The techniques taught by parent-child interaction therapy build better relationships between children and their caregivers, which leads to improved behavior. When practiced consistently, both parents and children experience more confidence, reduced anger and less aggression.

We offer a variety of appointment types. Learn more or call 913-588-1227 to schedule now.

Who can have parent-child interaction therapy?

Children may act out or be difficult for a variety of reasons. Some children act out due to trauma or abuse while others may have a disorder that causes what adults perceive as bad behavior. These behaviors can include:

  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Anxiety and clinging behavior
  • Attention seeking
  • Biting
  • Defiance
  • Hyperactivity and inattention
  • Interrupting
  • Not following directions
  • Swearing
  • Talking back
  • Tantrums
  • Whining

Dealing with children who regularly engage in disruptive behavior or severe emotional outbursts can also lead to heightened stress and emotions in their parents and caregivers. PCIT is designed as a therapy for both adults and their children to redirect their emotions in a structured and positive manner.

How does parent-child interaction therapy work?

Parent-child interaction therapy is evidence-based, meaning that over time its techniques have been proven to work and refinements to those techniques have been made to improve its efficacy. Therapists work directly with parents and children during sessions to understand and modify behavioral responses as they arise.

It typically takes somewhere between 12-20 sessions to complete a PCIT program. This depends on the needs and circumstances of the family. One- and 2-year evaluations are conducted alongside follow-up sessions to ensure that positive habits and behaviors remain strong.

Family therapy

Behavioral issue or mental illness?

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Benefits and risks of parent-child interaction therapy

For children who have issues with cooperation and compliance, parent-child interaction therapy has been shown to be very effective. These results are backed by more than 2 decades of clinical research:

  • Lasting behavioral improvements
  • Marked improvement in children’s self-esteem and decreases in depression and anxiety
  • Positive outcomes in interactions at home and school
  • Significant decreases in disruptive behaviors
  • Significant decreases in parenting stress

What happens during parent-child interaction therapy?

Families attend 60-minute sessions once a week until their child’s behavior improves and parents master the new skills. Parents are given feedback on how they are using the new strategies and are coached through challenging behaviors as they arise.

Treatment is provided at The University of Kansas Health System in a clinical setting. In-home services are not available at this time.

Sessions involve teaching parents new strategies to prevent and manage challenging behaviors. PCIT treatment is broken into 2 phases: relationship enhancement and behavior management techniques.

Why choose us for parent-child interaction therapy

  • Our dual-focused behavior therapy clinic provides evidence-based treatment for parents and children and supervised training for providers working toward PCIT certification. This is made possible only within an academic medical center.
  • PCIT is recommended by the CDC and National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
  • Research shows PCIT works. More than 200 research studies have shown that PCIT reduces child behavior problems and decreases parent stress.