Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
Type of Approach:
Provider Education Level:
Type of services:
A relationship-based, parent-focused, behavioral intervention that utilizes step-by-step, live coached sessions with the parent/caregiver and child. The therapist provides coaching from behind a one-way mirror using a transmitter and receiver system. The emphasis is on improving the quality of parent-child relationships and changing negative parent-child interaction patterns.
Type of provider:
Clinical and residential settings, Head Start programs
Length of program/number sessions:
12-20 sessions that are one-hour in length; average number of sessions is 13
Type(s) of trauma addressed:
Interpersonal, complex trauma including childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect
Originally developed for children with severe behavioral disorders, PCIT has been adapted for use with physically abusive parents and their children and has been adapted for mothers who have been victims of domestic violence and their children.
Through live coaching and hands-on exercises, parents learn PRIDE parenting skills:
- Praising the child
- Reflecting the child’s verbalizations
- Imitating the child’s play
- Describing what the child is doing during play
- Enthusiasm while interacting
A modified version of PCIT, called CARE, can be provided by providers other than therapists (see CARE review). The CARE model has been used extensively with domestic violence shelters. There is another adaptation of PCIT that is delivered by teachers (Teacher Child Interaction Therapy [TCIT]). PCIT is also being adapted for use in the home as part of a larger intervention study.
PCIT has been adapted for delivery by non-therapist service providers and nonclinical settings.
Information for this summary was abstracted from the NCTSN publication, Trauma-Informed Interventions: Clinical and Research Evidence and Culture-Specific Information Project, www.pcit.org, Implementing Evidence-based Practice in Treatment Foster Care: A Resource Guide, 2008, Foster Family-Based Treatment Association, and other publications.
Ethnic Racial Group:
Age range of children:
Originally developed for children 2-7 years of age with disruptive behavior disorders, PCIT has been adapted for children aged 7 to 12 years old.
Parent/adult caregiver included in intervention:
Yes, PCIT may work with the offending parent when child abuse is involved. When domestic violence is the trauma being addressed, then PCIT works with then nonbattering parent, usually mothers, and the child. PCIT has been adapted for nonfamily caregivers including foster parents, residential treatment staff, and Head Start teachers.
Ethnic/racial and other groups served:
PCIT has been evaluated with at-risk African American children. The University of Oklahoma is adapting PCIT for use with Native American Families. UC Davis CAARE Center conducts PCIT with Spanish-speaking therapists.
PCIT consumer brochures have been developed for African-American families and Asian families.
English and Spanish
PCIT integrates concepts from social learning theory, traditional play therapy, and attachment theory. PCIT uses a two-stage approach that focuses on relationship enhancement (child-directed interaction) and child behavior management (parent-directed interaction).
Many evaluation studies including randomized controlled trials have been conducted of PCIT. A list of published studies and studies in press can be found at www.pcit.org
In one randomized controlled trial, parents were randomized to three interventions: 1) PCIT, 2) PCIT plus individualized services, or 3) standard community-based parenting group. Follow-up more than two years after the intervention, indicated a significant reduction in the re-report of physical child abuse for parents who received PCIT (19% vs. 49% for parents who received standard CB-parenting). There was no difference between enhanced PCIT and PCIT alone.
Chaffin M, Solovksy JF, Funderburk B, Valle LA, Brestan EV et al. 2004. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with physically abusive parents: Efficacy for reducing future abuse reports. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2004;72(3):500-512.
The publication listed below describes how PCIT can be adapted to work with mothers and children who have experienced domestic violence (it also notes that PCIT can be adapted to work with fathers who are victims of domestic violence and their children). PCIT is not appropriate if the violence is ongoing. The authors describe how PCIT addresses both the effects of domestic violence on children and the effects of domestic violence on abused mothers including parenting skills that may be compromised by the abuse.
Borrego J, Gutow M, Reicher S, Barker C. Parent-child interaction therapy with domestic violence populations. Journal of Family Violence. 2008;23:495-505.
Hood KK & Eyberg SM. Outcomes of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: Mother’s reports of maintenance three to six years after treatment. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 2003;32:419-429.
Has been used and evaluated with foster parents, in Head Start programs, domestic violence shelters, and numerous other settings.
Rated/Reviewed by Evidence Based Registries:
NREPP: SAMSHA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Evidence-Based Practices for Children Exposed to Violence: A Selection from Federal Databases
National Child Traumatic Stress Network Empirically Supportive Treatments and Promising Practices
Information is available on the PCIT website at www.pcit.org
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: Second Edition by Cheryl Bodiford McNeil and Toni Hembree-Kigin. 2010.
English and Spanish