PCIT Therapy

Is your child displaying distressing social, emotional, or behavioral patterns?

Are you getting calls from teachers about your child’s behaviorsits exhausting?

Perhaps, you are a parent who wants to improve your parenting skills.

Do you want a better relationship with your child?

Are you unsure how to best support your child?

Children often display social, emotional, and behavioral patterns that do not foster a healthy relationship with their parents. These can impact their daily lives. Common patterns of social, emotional, and behavioral concerns in children are:

  • Irritability
  • Resentfulness
  • Tantrums
  • Screaming
  • Physical aggression (e.g., kicking, biting)
  • And the destruction of items/environments (e.g., throwing things, breaking items)
These patterns may be present in a variety of settings, such as at home, school, and public places. But, it’s common for these symptoms to be present in the home environment. These patterns can be variable based on environment and caregiver engagement. They often cause distress for the entire family. Thus, leaving parents to be unsure of how to respond to their child.

The great news is that specific therapeutic approaches have been designed to address these patterns of behavior and improve the parent-child relationship.

One common therapeutic approach with scientific support for its implementation to manage these associated symptoms is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). Our therapists have helped many caregivers improve their relationship with their children. By doing so, they can better manage disruptive and defiant behaviors. In fact, some of our trained therapists are certified in PCIT therapy. Asking for help in managing your child’s behavior can be difficult. Yet, learning to improve your relationship with your child and better manage their disruptive behavior can be fun and interactive. This occurs through the use of play and lives feedback

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) Symptoms 

A child covers their face while sitting on the ground next ot a chair. A PCIT therapist in Tampa, FL can help you connect with your child via PCIT therapy in St. Petersburg, FL and more. Or, search PCIT therapy near me today.

Not every child with social, emotional, and behavioral concerns develops a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). In fact, many children exhibit a limited number of these concerns. These patterns may change with time. Especially during times of change or high distress (e.g., moving or starting a new school). But, when these patterns of behavior are displayed for longer durations or with greater intensity, they may start to impact the child and family’s daily living and functioning. Thus, the diagnosis of the oppositional defiant disorder may be warranted. The diagnosis may appear intimidating. But, it is only the grouping of common symptoms displayed by children who may benefit from formalized intervention. If your child is displaying any of the symptoms listed below they may be displaying social, emotional, and behavioral concerns associated with the diagnosis of ODD

Angry/Irritable Mood

  1. Your child may often lose their temper.
  2. Or they may often become easily annoyed.
  3. They’re often angry and/or resentful. 

Argumentative/Defiant Behavior

  1. Your child may often argue with you, other authority figures, and adults.
  2. They may often defy or refuse to follow rules. 
  3. Your child may often actively defy or refuse to comply with requests from you, authority figures, or adults. 
  4. They may often deliberately annoy other people. 
  5. Your child may often blame other people for their own behavior.
  6. They may often blame other people for their own mistakes. 


  1. They may be spiteful or vindictive

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Build a Healthier Relationship with your Children and Better Manage their Behavior

Our therapist, Dr. Huffman is a certified therapist in PCIT therapy. This means he has met the standards of the PCIT international organization to use this treatment. He is a member of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy International and is consistently engaged in the PCIT International consultation calls to provide the most up-to-date scientifically-supported services. He received specialized training during his post-doctoral fellowship in the College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida. This was under the supervision of Dr. Melanie Nelson (a PCIT International Certified Global Trainer). He has graduated many cases from PCIT therapy and has worked with diverse families. He aims to improve their relationships, functioning, and overall well-being

What is PCIT Therapy?

PCIT therapy is a scientifically supported evidence-based treatment for children. Children are often between the ages of 2-7, with social, emotional, and behavioral problems. It was first developed by Dr. Sheila Eyberg in the 1970s to help families learn to better manage disruptive behaviors and improve the parent-child relationship. Since its development, it has gained national and international recognition for its effectiveness and scientific support. For example, it has demonstrated effectiveness for disruptive behavioral disorders and support for its application to manage symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and separation anxiety disorder. Further, research has also documented positive effects for caregivers. Parents reported an increase in overall parenting skills and decreases in anxiety, depression, and stress.  

PCIT therapy is conducted with bug-in-the-ear coaching.

This provides parents with direct feedback on their behavior with their children during play. PCIT therapy focuses on the direct interaction and behaviors of the parent/child during play. As a result, the parent can receive live feedback and guidance on how to respond to their child during times of enjoyment and distress.

PCIT consists of two phases of treatment.

The first phase of treatment is called “Child Directed Interaction.” During this phase, the PCIT therapist works with the parent to establish warmth in their relationship with the child. The caregivers learn proven skills to help children feel good about themselves. These skills help regulate their emotions and feel more secure in their relationship with their caregivers. During this phase of PCIT therapy, the therapist will work with the parents to decrease the severity, frequency, and duration of behavioral outbursts or tantrums. This occurs by decreasing the attention provided for negative behaviors and increasing the attention provided to desirable behaviors. The intended outcomes for this phase are to increase the child’s:

  • Attention span
  • Self-esteem
  • Pro-social behaviors
  • Feelings of security
  • Safety and attachment to their caregiver

During this phase, the PCIT therapist works with the parent to establish limits in their relationship with the child. The caregivers learn skills to manage disruptive and defiant behavior. All while remaining calm and consistent in their response to their child’s actions. During this phase of PCIT therapy, the therapist will work with the parents to continue to practice the skills learned in the Child Directed Interaction phase of treatment. At the same time, they will integrate the skills learned in the Parent Directed Interaction phase.

This is done by continually monitoring parental skill use through behavioral observations. This allows treatment to be individualized and guided by parent performance. The intended outcomes of this phase of treatment are to decrease defiance and the frequency, severity, and duration of aggressive behavior. Further, PCIT therapy is designed to increase child compliance with appropriate adult requests, respect for house rules, and improved public behavior.

Who should participate in PCIT Therapy?

A person holding a clipbaord points to toy blocks as a child plays with them. Learn more about the benefits of PCIT therapy in Tampa, FL by connecting with a PCIT therapist in Tampa, FL. To take part in PCIT therapy, there must be a child and caregiver. The child often ranges between 2 to 7 years of age. But, PCIT therapy may be helpful for children outside of this range. Many factors go into treatment selection and planning. This may include the relationship between child and caregiver, physical and emotional development, and caregiver involvement in treatment. Anyone can serve as a caregiver in PCIT, with many diverse families experiencing success. This can include caregivers such as biological parents, adopted parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and other important caregivers.

In some families, more than one caregiver may choose to attend the appointments. In other families, only one caregiver may be engaged. Either is appropriate. This can be determined based on your preference, availability, and current circumstances. In addition, some families elect to have other important family members join consistently or sporadically throughout the sessions, such as grandparents. This encourages the implementation of skills and allows other important caregivers the ability to observe and/or take part to the extent they are comfortable

What do I need to complete PCIT?

PCIT can be conducted in a variety of different modalities, such as in-person or online therapy. Many factors determine the modality of treatment. This is decided by the therapist and parent of the child engaging in treatment. In general, to conduct PCIT, parents would have some form of creative toys to engage with at home. This can be toys already owned by the family, newly purchased toys, or creative items in the space. Toys we use recommend for PCIT therapy are:

  • Legos
  • Duplos
  • Tinker Toys
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Mr./Mrs. Potato Head
  • Crayons/paper
  • Foam blocks
  • And play sets such as farms, houses, and toy food

It is not expected that parents buy these toys unless they so choose to do so on their own.

Oftentimes, parents and therapists can identify toys already at home that would be appropriate for PCIT therapy. When this is not possible creative methods may be identified. This could include using Tupperware at home to build if this is engaging to the child and appropriate to the parent. In the clinic, all toys and needed resources are provided

When PCIT therapy is conducted online, caregivers must have a means of accessing their telehealth appointment. This can occur via an electronic device of their choice. They must also have access to the internet. Parents would also have to use a video camera and use wireless earbuds. By doing so, the therapist may view them engage with their child, unrestricted by chorded headphones. Telehealth appointments are beneficial in that the therapist can observe the identified problem behaviors in their natural environment. Then, they can provide recommendations based on these observations and the limitations of the observed physical space.

How long will PCIT take to complete?

In general, PCIT therapy is conducted every week for an hour. It lasts approximately 12 to 20 sessions. The majority of sessions are conducted live with immediate feedback to the parent about their interactions with their child. But, a few sessions are conducted with the parents alone. This is to identify their areas of concern and teach them the necessary skills for success. If parents are willing to have full engagement in treatment, the impact of therapy and the reduction of problem behavior can be quite quick. This includes practicing the skills at home consistently and attending weekly scheduled appointments. But, PCIT therapy is not time-limited. As a result, families can engage in services until they believe their child’s behavior is within normal limits and they have developed confidence in the learned strategies of behavior management.

Progress is monitored through behavioral rating scales (i.e., the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory [ECBI]) and parent performance of learned skills through behavioral observations. PCIT therapy is often terminated when parents rate their child’s behavior within normal limits and have demonstrated competence in their skills. As a result, the timeline to completion is unique to each family. A celebratory graduation session is conducted, regardless of duration to completion. During this time, the child and caregiver receive a PCIT certificate of completion and review their treatment progress.

Where can I find more information on PCIT?

The logo of PCIT International, which offers suppoprt with PCIT therapy in Tampa, FL. Learn more about PCIT therapy in St. Petersburg, FL by contacting a PCIT therpaist in Tampa, FL or searching PCTI therapy near me today.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy International is a great tool for those interested in learning about PCIT therapy. It is also great for those in PCIT. Or, those who have already completed therapy. PCIT international often updates its web page to include helpful topics. Some of these include its position on the Black Lives Matter movement, the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, and the acts of violence in our nation and world. They also provide copies of some of the handouts used in treatment, resources, and a list of certified providers. To view Dr. Huffman’s listing on the PCIT website and to learn more, please visit PCIT.org.

Begin PCIT Therapy in Tampa, FL

You deserve support in finding the best ways to parent your child. Our team would be happy to offer support through this process from our Tampa, FL-based therapy practice. You can contact Wellness Psychological Services today to get connected with a PCIT therapist and start your therapy journey.

Other Services Offered with Wellness Psychological Services

Our team understands you may face a variety of mental health concerns unrelated to your child or parenting. This is why we’re happy to offer multiple services in support of your mental health. We are happy to offer online therapy, counseling for depression and bipolar disorder, anxiety, stress management, relationship problems, testing and evaluation, OCD, DBT, eating disorder treatment, and EMDR therapy. We also provide support for people dealing with relationship issues. Our couples therapists focus on marriage counseling, divorce discernment, and collaborative divorce. We also offer therapy for professionals, life coaching, and more. Contact Wellness Psychological Services in Tampa Bay, FL today to learn more.

205 S. Hoover Blvd. Ste 202
Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 563-1155

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