Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence based, family centered therapy that works well for children ages 2-7 that struggle with emotional and behavioral disorders (ODD, ADHD, ASD). It has also been shown to be effective for children who are at-risk of or experienced abuse. 

Our PCIT specialist, Dr. Kalee Gross, is one of only 11 certified PCIT psychologists in the state of Utah. She currently accepting new clients and is also available for consultation.

Some specific problems that PCIT can help with include:  

  • Refusal and defiance of adults’ requests 
  • Easy loss of temper 
  • Destruction of property 
  • Emotional dysregulation 
  • Low frustration tolerance 
  • Difficulty with prosocial behaviors (taking turns, sharing, etc.) 
  • Difficulty staying seated or playing quietly  
  • Deliberately annoying others 
  • Being spiteful or vindictive 
  • Parent-child relationship problems 

PCIT works by coaching the parents on learning and using specific skills with their children. To coach, therapists use a “bug in the ear” system where the parent and child are in one room, and the therapist is in another room where they can see the parent and child and are able to communicate with the parent through an earpiece. PCIT has also shown to be effective over telehealth and is the primary way that it is being done through UCEBT.  

Another neat piece about doing it via telehealth is that parents and children are learning these new behaviors in their own home. Usually when it is done in the center, there is a transition period where these skills and learning are generalized to being used in the home, though this occurs less with telehealth.  

PCIT occurs in two treatment phases.

PHASE ONE. The first phase focuses on teaching your child how good it feels to be good. This first phase also really helps increase warmth in the parent child relationship. Often times, warmth and enjoyment has taken a hit in the relationship when there has been a lot of incompliances from the child. This first phase also helps their child feel more calm and secure about their relationship with their parent and feel more confident in themselves.  

Desired outcomes of the first phase of treatment in PCIT include: ( 

  • Decreased frequency, severity, and/or duration of tantrums 
  • Decreased activity levels 
  • Decreased negative attention-seeking behaviors (such as whining and bossiness) 
  • Decreased parental frustration 
  • Increased feelings of security, safety, and attachment to the primary caregiver 
  • Increased attention span 
  • Increased self-esteem 
  • Increased pro-social behaviors (such as sharing and taking turns) 

PHASE TWO. The second phase of PCIT provides parents with the tools to teach their children how good it feels to listen. The tools parents learn help them to remain confident, consistent, and calm or neutral in their approach to discipline with their child. These tools help improve their child’s compliance with their directions, listening and following house rules, and ability to demonstrate appropriate public behaviors.  

Desired outcomes of the second phase of treatment in PCIT include ( 

  • Decreased frequency, severity, and/or duration of aggressive behavior 
  • Decreased frequency of destructive behavior (such as breaking toys on purpose) 
  • Decreased defiance 
  • Increased compliance with adult requests 
  • Increased respect for house rules 
  • Improved behavior in public 
  • Increased parental calmness and confidence during discipline 


Video: "What Is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?"

PCIT International Resource Page: