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Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)


Delivery Approach:
  • Individual
  • Dyadic
  • Group
Delivery Format:
  • In-Person
  • Virtual
  • Hybrid
Provider Requirements:
  • Licensed/Certified Professional Led
Type of Experience Addressed:
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Family Separation
  • Reunification
  • Medical Trauma
  • Verbal/Emotional Abuse
  • Mental Health Issues/Concerns
Engagement Methods:
  • Play-based
  • Culturally Grounded
Level of Interventions:
  • Primary Prevention
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Tertiary Prevention
  • Intervention
  • Greater than 12 weeks
  • School
  • Home
  • Hospital-based
  • Community-based Setting
  • Foster Care
  • Family Service Agencies
  • Mental Health Settings
Program Details:
Type of services:

A relationship-based, dyadic, 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 caregiver-child relationships and changing negative parent-child interaction patterns.

Type of provider:

Mental Health Therapists

Program setting:

Clinical and residential settings, Head Start programs, in home via telemental health

Length of program/number sessions:

12-20 weekly sessions that are one-hour in length. Treatment completion is based on family’s achievement of the criteria in four domains: (1) observed improvement in caregiver child-centered skills; (2) observed improvement in caregiver limit-setting skills; (3) caregiver-reported child problem behaviors within normal limits; and (4) caregiver confidence in managing child behavior.

Type(s) of trauma addressed:

Interpersonal, complex trauma including childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect

Additional information:

Originally developed for children with externalizing behaviors (e.g., disruptive behavioral disorders), PCIT also has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing children’s internalizing behaviors (e.g., anxiety, withdraw). PCIT has been identified as a best practice treatment for physically abusive parents and their children and for caregivers who have been victims of domestic violence and their children.

Through live coaching and hands-on exercises, parents learn child-centered interaction skills during the first phase of treatment (Child-Directed Interaction). In the second phase of treatment, caregivers learn safe, healthy, and consistent discipline strategies and are given opportunities to practice those strategies in real time with therapist coaching.

Unique/Innovative Characteristics

PCIT focuses on the development of the caregiver-child relationship rather than the therapist-child relationship through the live, immediate coaching of caregiver-child interactions in real-life situations. Live coaching is the primary mechanism of change in PCIT.

Telehealth Delivery:

Prior to the pandemic, preliminary research supported the delivery of PCIT in a telehealth format. Since the pandemic, the evidence-base for PCIT via telehealth has grown, and continues to support the effectiveness of remotely delivered PCIT. See below for select publications.

Barnett, M.L., Sigal, M., Green Rosas, Y., Rastogi, M., & Jent, J.J. (2021). Therapist experiences and attitudes about implementing internet-delivered parent-child interaction therapy during COVID-19. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 28, 630-641.

Comer, J.S., Furr, J.M., Cooper-Vince, C. Madigan, R.J., Chow, C., Chan, P.T., Idrobo, F., Chase, R.M., McNeil, C.B., & Eyberg, S.M. (2015). Rationale and Considerations for the Internet-Based Delivery of Parent–Child Interaction Therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 22(3), 302–316.

Gurwitch, R. H., Salem, H., Nelson, M. M., & Comer, J. S. (2020). Leveraging parent–child interaction therapy and telehealth capacities to address the unique needs of young children during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S82–S84.

Kohlhoff, J., Cibralic, S., Horswood, D., Turnell, A., Maiuolo, M., & Morgan, S. (2020). Feasibility and acceptability of internet-delivered parent-child interaction therapy for rural Australian families: a qualitative investigation. Rural & Remote Health, 20(1), 1–9.

Date Added/Updated:


Population Served:

  • 0-5 (Early Childhood)
  • 6-12 (Childhood)
Population Language:
  • English
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Other – Japanese, Dutch, German
Ethnic Racial Group:
  • Indigenous People – American Indian/Native American, Alaskan Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Child and Non-abusive Parent/Caregiver
  • Child
  • Family
  • Grandparents
  • Parent who uses Violence
  • Foster/Adoptive Parents
Population Adaptations:
Age range of children:

PCIT was originally developed for and has been extensively studied in children 2-7 years of age. Research is still needed to support the use of PCIT with older children.

Parent/adult caregiver included in intervention:

PCIT actively includes any caregivers who are important in a child’s life (e.g., parent, step parent, foster/adoptive parent, grandparents, adult siblings, etc.). PCIT has been established as a best practice for cases in which a caregiver has physically maltreated a child. In cases of child sexual abuse, only non-offending caregivers should be involved in treatment. PCIT is not appropriate for perpetrators of child sexual abuse. PCIT has been adapted for nonfamily caregivers including foster parents, residential treatment staff, and Head Start teachers.

Ethnic/racial and other groups served:

Within the United States, PCIT has been evaluated with at-risk African American/Black families and Latine/Hispanic families and has been tailored for use with Native American families. PCIT has also been evaluated and found effective in multiple controlled trials with families in Asia, Australia, and Europe.


Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish


Theoretical basis:

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).

Evaluation Studies:

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 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.

Niec., L. N., Barnett, M., Prewett, M., Shanley, J. (2016). Group parent-child interaction therapy: A randomized control trial for the treatment of conduct problems in young children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(8), 682-698.

Schuhmann, E. M., Foote, R. C., Eyberg, S. M., Boggs, S. R., & Algina, J. (1998). Efficacy of parent-child interaction therapy: Interim report of a randomized trial with short-term maintenance. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27(1), 34-45.

Other publications:

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.

Program replication:

Has been used and evaluated in groups, with foster parents, in Head Start programs, in domestic violence shelters, and numerous other settings.

Rated/Reviewed by Evidence Based Registries:

SAMHSA’s National Evidence Based Practice Resource Center
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Evidence-Based Practices for Children Exposed to Violence: A Selection from Federal Databases
The National Traumatic Stress Network Treatments and Practices, Trauma Interventions 

Training & Resources

Training Language:
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Norwegian
Training Available:
  • Yes
Training Details:
Training manual:

Yes. Eyberg, S. & Funderburk, B. (2011) Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Protocol. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy International, Inc.

Training available:

Yes. PCIT International, Inc is the organization founded and endorsed by the developer of PCIT, Dr. Sheila Eyberg, to set standards for fidelity, training, and certification. Only therapists trained by PCIT International, Inc trainers are eligible for this certification process. In order to apply for certification as a PCIT therapist, therapists must document applicable graduate education and complete the training requirements. See for detailed information on the PCIT International training and certification process.

Training Contact:


PCIT International Board of Directors:
President: Beverly Funderburk
Vice President: Larissa N. Niec
Treasurer: Melanie Nelson
Member at Large: Naomi Perry

More information is available on the PCIT website at

Program Contact

PCIT International Board of Directors:
President: Beverly Funderburk
Vice President: Larissa N. Niec
Treasurer: Melanie Nelson
Member at Large: Naomi Perry