Benefits of Parent-child Interaction Therapy
Being a parent is one of the most challenging and important responsibilities anyone can undertake. No one feels like they’re doing a perfect job all the time, and it’s normal to experience stress, worry, and confusion as you learn how to navigate this role. If your child has behavioral problems or other concerns, you might feel especially overwhelmed. Parent-child interaction therapy, or PCIT, is an excellent option for families who are struggling to manage behavioral issues or for parents who worry that they’re not connecting with their kids. When you’re having a hard time figuring out how best to support your children, collaborating with a mental health professional can be immensely helpful. You don’t have to have all the answers, and you don’t have to feel like you’re facing these challenges on your own. With the help of PCIT, you can discover the strategies that empower your family to build safe, stable, and healthy bonds.
What Is PCIT?
Parent-child interaction therapy is a form of family therapy that was established in the 1970s. The goal of PCIT is to strengthen the parent-child relationship, which eases the parent’s stress and provides a sense of safety and stability for the child. A strong and healthy relationship with the parent at a young age can lay the groundwork for a child’s future health, happiness, and success. PCIT equips you with specific, actionable techniques that you can use to help your family thrive.
Parent-child interaction therapy looks quite different from a traditional talk therapy session. The approach uses some techniques from play therapy, so you and your child will interact in a playroom while your therapist observes through a one-way mirror or through a video feed. They’ll also give you directions throughout the session using an earpiece so that you can practice the PCIT techniques in real-time.
There are two main phases to parent-child interaction therapy. In the relationship enhancement phase, your child will take the lead by choosing the activities or toys to play with. During this phase, your job is to provide positive reinforcement to your child, which your child behavior therapist will coach you through. In the discipline and compliance phase, you’ll take the lead and provide clear directions for your child with consistent consequences for non-compliance. By sequencing the phases in this way, you first establish a positive and nurturing connection with your child so that they feel supported. Then, setting clear and firm boundaries and expectations is far easier.
Many studies over the years have shown parent-child interaction therapy to be an effective form of therapy for at-risk families and for children with behavioral issues. Most families complete weekly sessions for about 15 weeks, but the number of sessions you and your child attend will vary depending on your needs.
Benefits of Parent-child Interaction Therapy
PCIT can have lifelong benefits for you, your child, and the rest of your family. The following are some of the most important PCIT benefits:
Improves the Parent-child Relationship
PCIT is first and foremost about your relationship with your child. One of your most important tasks as a parent is to help your child understand the world and their role within it. If your relationship is strained, distant, or unstable, your child may feel lost or uncertain. By building a stronger connection, you can help your child feel loved, validated, and supported.
A healthy parent-child relationship is critical for your own well-being, too. Feeling distant or frustrated with your child can be painful and confusing, and all parents want more than anything to have a good relationship with their children. Parent-child interaction therapy teaches you relate to your child more positively, which helps you feel confident and assured in your role.
Reduces Aggressive or Defiant Behaviors
Child behavior disorders can cause a number of problems at home and at school, and they can be a sign of distress within your child. Often times, parents accidentally encourage or reinforce these behavioral issues by responding to them in an unhealthy or unhelpful way.
Learning to manage aggressive or defiant behaviors isn’t easy, and not knowing the best way to handle these challenges doesn’t make you a bad parent. However, PCIT equips you with the most effective techniques for setting boundaries, establishing clear rewards and repercussions, and teaching your child to express their needs in a more appropriate way.
Lowers the Risk of Child Abuse
No parent expects to act abusively toward their child. Unfortunately, though, child abuse is a tragically common problem, especially among parents who were abused as children or who struggle with their own mental and emotional challenges. Parent-child interaction therapy greatly reduces the risk of child abuse as it teaches parents safe and healthy ways to discipline their children. When you have these techniques up your sleeve, you’re far less likely to lash out at your child or say something harmful.
Improves Future Mental Health Outcomes
From a young age, your relationship with your parents has a major effect on your mental health. Those with secure attachments to their parents tend to have lower rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders in adulthood. On the other hand, those with unhealthy attachment styles are more likely to struggle with mental and emotional issues.
Parent-child interaction therapy isn’t just beneficial here and now. By working on your relationship with your child, you’ll set them on the path to lifelong success. Support and stability in childhood lay the groundwork for independence, confidence, and perseverance later in life, so family therapy is a long-term investment in your child’s future.
Applicable to Other Children
The strategies you learn in parent-child interaction therapy might be somewhat tailored to your unique relationship with your child, but you’ll learn plenty of techniques that are applicable to other children. If you have another child in the future, you can use the strategies you learn to develop a healthy connection with them from a very young age.
PCIT is a valuable resource for foster parents for this reason. Not only does the therapy teach you how to support an at-risk child who’s in dire need of safety and stability, but you can also apply the techniques with other foster children you take in.
Work With a PCIT Therapist in Los Angeles
If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or lost as a parent, it’s time to reach out for help. You and your child both deserve a healthy, joyful relationship with one another, and it is possible to overcome behavioral challenges or any other issue affecting your bond.
Menachem Psychotherapy Group provides parent-child interaction therapy for families in the Los Angeles area. Our child behavior experts are trained in this therapeutic method as well as many other counseling techniques. To learn more about our services or to consult with family therapist, you can reach out to us today.