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Your Child May Benefit From Parent/Child Interactive Therapy, by Gretchen Mahoney, LPCMH

A young mother appeared in my office with an adorable, curly-headed pre-schooler in tow. Mom was at her wits’ end after the most recent call from the school, the one from the teacher saying that, yet again, her child was hitting, kicking, and throwing temper tantrums. The mom needed to do something about it soon, or the child would be kicked out of the pre-school.

I observed the mother and child in play for about 15 minutes and noticed a valiant effort on the mom’s part to corral her child, attempting to reign in the grabbing and throwing of toys, screaming, and general defiance. I asked the mother to play for a few minutes in whatever way the child wanted to play, following the child’s lead. Then I asked the parent to play, but this time to assume the direction and lead of the play. Finally, I asked the parent to see what would happen if she directed her child to clean up the small pile of toys. From these simple observations, I determined that PCIT, or Parent-Child Interactive Therapy, was a great fit for this family. 

PCIT consists of two phases of therapy: several weeks of child-led play, building strong, warm, loving attachment; and then multiple weeks of parent-directed interactions. Parents learn ways of verbally encouraging every action and sound the child makes. They also find new strategies for getting the child to comply the first time to effective commands. 

The two keys to a successful PCIT experience are consistency and predictability on the parents’ part. Five minutes per day of homework is required, along with the weekly therapy appointment. I have noticed that the more faithful the parent is to the five-minute assignment each day, the fewer weeks they spend in therapy. My favorite session is the graduation session, when we all acknowledge the monumental changes we have seen take place, and a certificate of accomplishment is given to the child! PCIT has become one of my favorite interventions as I have watched true change take place in families. This evidence-based therapy stands on a foundation of research and credibility. If your child (between ages of 2-7) has behavioral challenges at home or school, this may be the right approach for you!Learn more from this Washington Post article:
Have a kid who’s out of control?

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