Parent Child Interaction Therapy

PCIT is a treatment for young children with behavioral problems.​ The decision to whether PCIT is the most appropriate treatment for you and your child is between you and your mental health professional. PCIT is conducted through "coaching" sessions during which you and your child are in a playroom while the therapist is in an observation room watching you interact with your child through a one-way mirror and/or live video feed. You wear a "bug-in-the-ear" device through which the therapist provides in-the-moment coaching on skills you are learning to manage your child's behavior. With consistent attendance and homework completion, PCIT can be completed within 12-20 sessions, though treatment is not time-limited. Treatment is considered complete when you have mastered both sets of skills and rate your child's behavior within normal limits on a behavior rating scale.

Last reviewed: 2023

Intended Outcomes:

PCIT is done across two treatment phases. The first phase of treatment focuses on establishing warmth in your relationship with your child through learning and applying skills proven to help children feel calm, secure in their relationships with their parents, and good about 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)

The second phase of treatment will equip you to manage the most challenging of your child's behaviors while remaining confident, calm, and consistent in your approach to discipline. In this phase, you will learn proven strategies to help your child accept your limits, comply with your directions, respect house rules, and demonstrate appropriate behavior in public. 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

Continuum of Care:

Topic Areas:
Behavioral Health/Mental Health, Disruptive Behaviors, Trauma

Childhood (4-12), Early Childhood (0-3)

Geographic Locations:
Rural, Urban

Delivery Settings:
Community-Based, Congregate Care Facility

Cultural Considerations:
Limited research found involving diverse populations

Children between the ages of 2 – 7 years who are exhibiting challenging, disruptive behaviors.

Must be a licensed mental health professional. Certification is required.


Is Training Required?
Yes, see developer info

Who can provide the required training?
A certified global trainer, a regional trainer, or a certified within agency trainer.

Program Costs (materials, training, etc.):
Yes, refer to program website

Program/Practice Website:

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research:

Eisenstadt, T. H., Eyberg, S., McNeil, C. B., Newcomb, K., & Funderburk, B. (1993). Parent-child interaction therapy with behavior problem children: Relative effectiveness of two stages and overall treatment outcome. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22(1), 42–51.

Boggs, S. R., Eyberg, S. M., Edwards, D. L., Rayfield, A., Jacobs, J., Bagner, D., & Hood, K. K. (2004). Outcomes of parent-child interaction therapy: A comparison of treatment completers and study dropouts one to three years later. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 26(4), 1–22.

Phillips, S., & Mychailyszyn, M. (2021). A review of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): Applications for youth anxiety. Children and Youth Services Review, 125, 105986.

Jane Kohlhoff & Susan Morgan MMH (PerinatInf) (2014) Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Toddlers: A Pilot Study, Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 36:2, 121-139, DOI:

Mark D. Shriver PhD , Lynae J. Frerichs PhD , Melissa Williams EdS & Blake M. Lancaster PhD (2013) Comparing Parent-Child Interactions in the Clinic and at Home: An Exploration of the Validity of Clinical Behavior Observations Using Sequential Analysis, Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 35:1, 1-24, DOI: 10.1080/07317107.2013.760418

Fernandez, Melanie A. , Butler, Ashley M. and Eyberg, Sheila M.(2011) ‘Treatment Outcome for Low Socioeconomic Status African American Families in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: A Pilot Study’, Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 33: 1, 32 — 48

Additional Sources:

Well-Supported by Research

WV Rating:
Well-Supported by Research
»WV Ratings Info

Rationale for Rating:

There is well-established, peer-reviewed evidence from multiple sources and meta analyses with experimental designs and RCTs indicating that Parent Child Interaction Therapy is well-supported by research for disruptive behaviors. Research shows Parent Child Interaction Therapy is promising for anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, and trauma.

Contraindications or Concerns:
None identified

Other Registries/Ratings

The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
Well-Supported by Research Evidence

Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development:

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness:

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Model Programs Guide:
Effective - More than one study

Washington State Institute for Public Policy:
Found on the registry. See link for more information.

Washington State Institute for Public Policy Registry Link: