PCIT was introduced in the 1970s as a way to treat children with serious behavioral problems. Since then, PCIT has been heavily researched and is proven to be effective across socio-economic status, race, single and dual parent families, and with children ages 2-12. Research has shown that as a result of PCIT parents learn more effective parenting techniques, the behavior problems of children decrease, and the quality of parent-child relationship improves.



Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based treatment using very specific, step-by-step, live coached sessions with both the caregiver and the child. PCIT places emphasis on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing negative parent-child interaction patterns. In PCIT, parents are taught specific skills to use with their child to establish, improve, or maintain a nurturing and secure relationship while increasing their child's positive behavior and decreasing negative behavior. PCIT is a family centered treatment approach tailored for each parent and child's specific needs. PCIT can include multiple siblings and both parents.



The benefits of PCIT include:

  • Improvement in the quality of the parent-child relationship

  • Improvement in parenting skills, including positive discipline

  • Improvement in parent's attitude about parenting or about their child – the "I love my child but I don't like my child" scenario

  • Improvement in the child's behavior at home, in school, daycare and with peers

  • Decrease in parental stress

  • Lasting effectiveness

  • Useful in treating multiple issues such as negative attention seeking behaviors, oppositional, defiant and other externalizing behavior problems, separation anxiety, depression, self-injurious behavior, ADHD, adjustment following divorce, reunification with a previously absent parent, and attachment disorders

  • Adaptable for variety of populations – effective across gender, socioeconomic status and across a variety of ethnic groups

  • Reduction in risk of child abuse


The distinctiveness of PCIT lies in the use of live coaching of the parent and child together. While many other treatments target either the parent or the child, PCIT focuses on working with both in the actual moment that they are interacting. Parents learn to model positive behaviors that children can learn from and are taught to act as agents of change for their children’s behavior. Live coaching provides immediate prompts to parents while they interact with their children. During the course of this hands-on treatment, parents are guided to demonstrate specific relationship-building and discipline skills. Live coaching allows the PCIT therapist/coach to tailor the treatment based on the observations of the child and parent together.


The benefits of live coaching are significant:

  • Parents are provided with opportunities to practice newly taught skills

  • Therapists can correct errors and misunderstandings on the spot

  • Parents receive immediate feedback

  • Parents are given support, guidance and encouragement as they learn


PCIT involves a two phase approach. Sessions are generally divided between relationship enhancement skills and positive discipline and compliance skills. During the relationship enhancement portion, parents are coached in relationship building and self-esteem enhancing skills with their children through positive reinforcement techniques. Parents also learn the first form of positive discipline. During the second phase the parent is coached in effective delivery of commands and strategies designed to increase compliance as well as additional positive discipline skills. The skills are gradually expanded from the very structured in clinic setting to less structured situations in the home and in public. In order for PCIT to be effective, the parent/caregiver and the child must have regular, ongoing contact to allow for homework assignments to be completed. The homework is designed to reinforce skills coached in session.