What Is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

Parents and children have unique relationships, no matter what. There is no other relationship or bond that can ever be as close as that of a parent, and their child. Unfortunately, for adults and children alike, sometimes we don’t fully understand how to make the most of those relationships, because we aren’t fully equipped with the right techniques and communication skills to deal with each other as individuals.

As parents, it’s easy to argue with your child, butt heads, and just assume your child ‘doesn’t listen.’ However, your child may be thinking you just don’t understand them, so they lash out in a negative way. The problem with this? Both parties involved could be at fault, and just aren’t communicating with each other in the right way. Because everyone is different, no two parenting techniques can be the same. That’s where Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) comes in.

PCIT was designed to offer a positive environment for parents and children to interact and learn how to better communicate with each other. Most parents will sign up for the therapy if they fear their child has behavioral issues, as a way to learn how to work with them, and how to communicate with them in a way the child can respond to.

What To Expect From PCIT

When a parent and child enter PCIT, there are two components to think about: Enhancing the overall relationship, and building compliance.

Enhancing the relationship is important for both parties involved, and both will learn how to diminish the negative aspects of their relationship, focus on the positive things, and learn how to use supportive, clear communication.

Improving compliance is usually directed more toward the parents, offering them the skills and tools needed to use disciplinary actions that are more effective, as well as management skills. Those skills are then actually practiced during the therapy session, so the child learns how to respond, and the relationship between the two is more focused on an understanding of communication.

Many times, behavioral issues in young children are nothing more than an inability for them to communicate correctly, or for parents to not understand fully what the child is saying through their actions. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is designed for both parties involved to walk away with a better understanding of how to communicate with each other. In that process, a stronger bond is formed, and the relationship can continue to grow and move forward in a much healthier state of mind.

If you have a child who may be struggling with behavioral problems, and nothing seems to work in terms of discipline, PCIT may be a perfect option for the two of you when it comes to rebuilding your relationship, and learning how to communicate with one another.

Michelle McDonald Kennedy, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Founded the Los Altos Parent-Child Therapy Center in Los Altos, California. Michelle is passionate about improving the relationship between parent and child. Michelle specializes in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) in Los Altos, CA.