PCIT: Parent Child Interaction Therapy in the Iowa City Coralville area

What is PCIT?

Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based behavioral treatment for young children.

It is designed to help children with emotional and behavioral disorders feel better.  The main goal of PCIT is to improve  the parent-child relationship and parent-child interaction patterns.

Children and their caregivers work together with the therapist in PCIT. Most of the session time is spent coaching caregivers in specific therapy skills. Therapists typically coach from an observation room with a one-way mirror into the playroom (or a webcam and a camera). They use a “bug-in-the-ear” system (like a blue-tooth device) to communicate to the parents as they play with their child.

After each session, therapist and caregiver together decide which skill to focus during the following week.  They are asked to practice for 5-15 minutes each day with their child.

Efficacy of PCIT

PCIT outcome research finds large improvements in behavior of preschool age children.  After treatment, children’s behavior is within the normal range. Also, well-designed and well-controlled studies have documented the superiority of PCIT to wait list controls and to parent group didactic training. In addition to significant changes on parent ratings and observational measures of children’s behavior problems, outcome studies have demonstrated important changes in the interactional style of the fathers and mothers in play situations with their children.

In summary, the findings are clear: it is effective and it helps.

What Are The Theories Behind PCIT?

According to the PCIT International website, PCIT is based on Baumrind’s (1966) developmental theory of parenting.  It uses research on both attachment and social learning principles to teach authoritative parenting—a combination of nurturance, good communication, and firm control. Compared to other parenting styles, the authoritative style is associated with fewer child behavior problems and better long-term mental health across many clinical populations.

Do You Offer PCIT at Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants?

Jennifer Luria
Jennifer Luria
Yes, we do.  Ms. Jennifer Luria, LISW is certified in PCIT, and has used this technique in therapy with her patients at the University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development for a number of years.  She is very skilled.  Also, she uses PCIT with very young children, as well as older children.  She very much enjoys her PCIT-focused practice.

Dr. Cindy Anderson did her master’s thesis and a large part of her graduate research on some of the foundational constructs behind PCIT.   Her master’s thesis studied the gender differences in parenting children between 18-30 months old.  She studied over 80 pairs of parents and children with intensive behavioral coding of parenting practices, as well as child behaviors.  She likes to discuss this research and their projects with her patients if they are ever interested.  It was very involved and intensive research, but also very fun to conduct.

Cindy Anderson

Author: Cindy Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Clinical Child Psychologist. She also owns Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Dr. Anderson has achieved a high degree of specialization in working with children and families. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and completed APA Accredited internship and postdoctoral training in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology. She prides herself as a life-long student, and tries to learn something new every day.