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Parent-Child Interaction Therapy

Portland Anxiety Clinic is excited to begin offering Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and PCIT-Toddlers.

PCIT is a short-term, specialized behavioral parent training program for young children (2-7 years) and their caregivers. PCIT is an exceptionally effective treatment, backed by over 30 years of research. Originally developed to treat disruptive behavior disorders (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD), PCIT is also effective for more mild behavioral concerns as well as the treatment of childhood trauma. Moreover, PCIT is a best practice for the prevention of child maltreatment.

PCIT has been implemented among young children with mild developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, hearing impairment/deafness, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic medical conditions, as well as among children in foster care. Adaptations of PCIT have been developed for toddlers, children with sexualized behavior, and childhood anxiety. Researchers have adapted PCIT for delivery in schools, in the home, and via telehealth. Moreover, PCIT has been evaluated among families from minoritized ethnic/racial backgrounds in the United States, and is currently implemented in nine other countries, with positive outcomes across cultural groups.

Early intervention programs such as PCIT can create a positive pathway for children and families. Longitudinal research on PCIT has demonstrated positive long-term treatment gains among families that completed PCIT, as compared to families who did not engage in PCIT.

How does PCIT work?

In PCIT, caregivers have the opportunity to learn positive parenting skills to manage their child behaviors.

The therapist provides real-time coaching to caregivers, supporting their practice of skills in-the-moment with their child.

There are two phases in PCIT: Relationship enhancement and behavioral management. In the first phase, caregivers learn how to communicate with their child in positive and supportive ways. In the second phase of treatment, caregivers learn how to provide developmentally appropriate directions to children and management misbehavior. At the start of the program the therapist will review the key principles and techniques for each phase with caregivers.

Research has found that PCIT improves child behavior at home and other settings (including school) as well as behavior of untreated siblings. Caregivers report decreased parenting stress and increased confidence in their parenting, and observations indicate use of more effective parenting practices. Treatment gains have been found to maintain years after engagement in PCIT as well.


PCIT has also been adapted for toddlers 12-24 months of age. Caregivers are coached in the use of therapeutic parenting practices proven to decrease problematic behaviors, improve children’s language, and encourage toddlers to follow directions.

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