Understanding Parent Child Interaction Therapy

By Dr. Jonathan Huffman

Hello and thank you for stopping by to learn more about parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT).

A father holds the hand of their child while standing on a shore. Learn more about the support PCIT in St. Petersburg can offer by seraching "PCIT therapy near me" or contacting a PCIT therapist in Tampa, FL today.We are glad you are here! PCIT in St. Pete, FL is an evidence-based therapy. It is used for social, emotional, and behavioral problems in children. They often range from 2-7 years of age. It has demonstrated significant support for the management of disruptive behaviors. It is also often associated with the diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
PCIT is an evidence-based practice. It focuses on the behavior and interaction between caregivers and children. Thus, the therapy is conducted via bug-in-the-ear technology. This is used so the PCIT therapist can provide the caregiver with direct feedback on their behavior while they play with their child. The live component of PCIT makes it a unique form of therapy. This is because it allows the therapist to view the described concerns in action. As a result, they don’t have to rely on self-report from caregivers.
This increases the ability of the PCIT therapist to guide the caregiver’s behaviors within the context of the child’s disruptive behavior and associated environments. PCIT is often described as “fun” by both the child and parent because it is an active mode of treatment. This fosters healthy communication and emotion regulation in both parents and children through their interaction and play.

How is PCIT organized?

PCIT consists of two broad phases of treatment. The first phase of treatment focuses on strengthening your relationship with your child. This occurs through play and positive interactions. At the start of PCIT, parents often report they have to tell their child, “no, don’t, stop, quiet” many times during the day. These consistent interactions may have negative impacts on your relationship with your child. These can cause you to feel like you are always criticizing them. So, during this phase of PCIT, we focus on skills to help you praise the behaviors displayed by your child that you appreciate and would like to see more of.
For example, this may include saying “Good job staying calm, fantastic work building that tower, thank you for sharing with me.” Or, “I like when you play with the toys gently.” This makes the play more fun and allows you to have more positive experiences with your child every day.
A person holding a clipboard takes notes across from a smiling woman. This could represent the support a PCIT therapist in Tampa, FL can offer. Learn more about PCIT in St. Pete, FL and the other services we offer. Learn more about PCIT in St. Petersburg today.After completing the first phase of PCIT, parents report they are confident in their ability to praise their child for appropriate behavior. They often report a major decrease in disruptive behaviors before starting the second phase of PCIT. During this next phase, the PCIT therapist will focus on teaching you how to manage your child’s undesirable behaviors. Together, you will learn to set limits and use effective commands. During this phase, the parents learn how to manage their child’s disruptive behavior in play, at home, and in the community. At the same time, the child learns to manage their behavior and regulate their emotions.

How long does PCIT take and how do you track progress?

PCIT sessions are often an hour in length and occur weekly. In general, most cases complete around 12 to 20 sessions. The number of sessions is up to you, the parents, and the perspective of your child’s behavior. Plus, the display of learned behavior management skills in the session. Progress is tracked by observing your use of the skills and self-report measures. PCIT uses the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI) to track the reduction of reported problem behaviors. The ECBI is a self-report form completed at the start of each session. It is used to provide weekly feedback to the therapist about the child’s behavior outside of PCIT.

Is PCIT the right treatment for my child/family?

Common questions often asked by parents are, “Do my child’s defiant behaviors warrant a formal intervention, such as PCIT?” and/or “Do you think PCIT is the right treatment for my child and family?” These questions are often difficult to answer without a consultation. At Wellness Psychological Services, we offer free brief consultations to answer some of these common questions. After the consultation, you can also feel free to schedule a formal intake. Please reach out to us to set up a free consultation with one of our PCIT-certified therapists.
Broadly, about the first question, “Do my child’s defiant behaviors warrant a formal intervention, such as PCIT?” we must look at the context of the displayed problem behaviors relative to other children. And, the impact these behaviors are having on your family. For example, in what context are the behaviors occurring? Are they displayed in a singular environment or perseverative across many contexts? Are the child’s behaviors impacting you, the parent, and disrupting important areas of functioning (e.g., home environment, daycare, school)?

Many parents often wonder if their children will “grow out” of their disruptive or defiant behaviors.

This often causes them to question if formal intervention is necessary. Many children may learn to manage their emotions and behaviors in an adaptive manner over time. But, research has demonstrated the importance of early intervention. So, regardless of the severity, context, and hopes for the reduction of symptoms across time with development, we recommend reaching out for a free consultation. Our trained therapists may answer these questions within the context of your family. Generally, we believe all parents and children can benefit from the behavior management and relationship enhancement techniques provided in PCIT. These techniques offer a strong foundation for healthy parenting.
Related to the second question, “Do you think PCIT is the right treatment for my child and family?” PCIT 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, PCIT has demonstrated benefits for the caregivers who engage in treatment too. Some of such as an increase in parenting skills, and decreases in anxiety, depression, and stress. So, we believe PCIT has the potential to positively impact diverse families with various concerns. To determine if PCIT is a good match for you, please, contact us here. You can set up a free consultation with one of our experienced therapists.

What if I am anxious about being observed?

Parents sometimes report they have an interest in PCIT. But, they feel afraid of the live observation coaching sessions. This is a normal reaction to being observed by anyone. It is normal to be anxious. But, we have found that anxiety soon decreases after the first few sessions. We understand that you may be hesitant to let a professional observe your family during play. But we will work as a team to identify this concern, manage your reactions, and create a space that is comfortable for you and your family.
We understand that each family and their presenting concerns are different. This means we will hold no judgment on you and your family’s current behaviors/functioning. We instead hope to create an inclusive welcoming space where you can communicate your concerns and desired outcomes in an honest, open, and authentic manner.

Begin Working With A PCIT Therapist in Tampa, FL

Finding the right support can take time, but our team of caring therapists would be honored to support you and your child. We are happy to provide PCIT in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and across the state of Florida. To start your therapy journey, please contact Wellness Psychological Services to connect with a PCIT therapist today!

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. We are happy to offer a variety of services in support of your mental health. These include online therapy, counseling for depression and bipolar disorder, anxiety, stress management, relationship problems, testing and evaluation, OCD, and EMDR therapy. Our team is happy to 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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