Mother and young daughter being affectionate and funny

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a treatment designed for children between the ages of 2 and 7 whose negative behaviors are causing distress for the child, the parent, and the entire family; more often than not, these negative behaviors extend to social situations, daycare, and school.
What:​ PCIT is a treatment designed to improve the relationship between a parent (or other caregiver) and the child. It is one of the most effective treatments known for young children with significant behavior problems. It is also widely used for young children who have experienced stress, such as family disruptions or chaotic home environments. PCIT combines techniques used by child psychologists, developmental therapists, special education teachers, and family therapists. Our overarching goal in PCIT will be to teach you, the caregiver, many of the skills that we as professionals use to improve a child’s behavior, bring out the best in a child, and turn negatives into positives.

There are several goals in PCIT. (1) ​Improve your relationship​ with your child. Negative behaviors can often cause a distancing between parents and children and we want to make the relationship you have with your child something that is more positive than not. This is one of the most important ways your child learns to behave with other children and in a school setting, and by improving and building on this, we can also increase the chances of your child having positive experiences with friends and at daycare or school. (2) Increase your child’s ​self-esteem​. For many children with behavior problems, much of what they hear throughout the day is, “Stop doing that,” “I told you no,” “Quit it right now,” etc. As you might imagine, kids may start believe that there is very little that they can do correctly, and the cycle toward a negative self-image begins. Similarly, children who have experienced family disruptions or stress often experience anxiety and uncertainty. By reversing this trend toward a negative self-image, you will see your child striving to try new things, believing in him or herself, and having a better outlook in general. (3) Help your child learn new ways to ​manage and reduce anger​. Many children with behavior problems also have a very low tolerance for frustration and anger very easily, and PCIT can help them to see the world as a more positive place. (4) Help your child develop new strategies for ​attending and organizing​ his or her work and play. Organization and attention are often concerns of parents who seek intervention and PCIT can help young children learn how to stay focused and stick with activities. (5) Help your child learn to ​listen to you the first time​ you tell them to do something and to comply with what you say quickly and nicely. It may be hard to believe, but we have seen many, many children, and what we know is that if you are willing to work as hard as we are willing to work, with rare exception, this program can be extremely successful.

Sessions occur weekly for one hour and last 12 – 20 weeks. The PCIT provider will work with you to try to schedule these at a time that is convenient for your family.

PCIT is provided at the Princeton office. Due to the technology required during PCIT sessions, they can only take place at this location.