When thinking about Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) many often focus on its effectiveness with disruptive children. What is sometimes overlooked though is how effective it is in mending a parent-child attachment that may have been disrupted due to a variety reasons (e.g., divorce, long work hours, parental mental illness). Such was the case in the following example, which highlights the positive results of this highly researched treatment method.
“Johnny , a 6 year-old male, and his mother came to treatment after his mother stopped working and was now becoming his primary caregiver again. Johnny had become accustomed to his aunt caring for him the majority of time and therefore was having difficulty adjusting to the change. After the transition, Johnny began to present with oppositional behavior and aggression towards his siblings, but it was clear upon intake that the underlying reason for his behavior was a lack of a secure attachment between him and his mother. This was also complicated by the fact that his mother had a history of depression and therefore often lacked the drive and energy to engage with him in a way that would help establish a positive, warm relationship.”
Throughout the course of treatment, the interaction between Johnny and his mother changed significantly. Below are some examples of the positive changes that were made through their participating in PCIT:
|Before Treatment||After Treatment|
|During playtime, mother would sit next to Johnny without engaging with him and when she did, it lacked enthusiasm.||Mother learned specific play skills that resulted in their play-time being full of warmth, love, positive energy, positive attention and enthusiasm.|
|Mother often presented as depressed and lacked energy.||Mother presented as happier with more energy.|
|Mother lacked confidence in interacting with Johnny and handling his misbehavior.||Mother exhibited confidence in using the play and parenting skills that she had learned.|
|Johnny exhibited oppositional behavior and aggression at home.||Oppositional behavior and aggression at home significantly decreased and when Johnny did exhibit these behaviors, mother was confident in handling them.|
|Mother felt overwhelmed and anxious when having to deal with Johnny and his brother in public places.||Mother felt confident in telling Johnny and his brother her expectations of them while out in public and in implementing consequences if they did not follow her directions.|
Overall, the above case example highlights the positive outcomes of PCIT not only in decreasing a child’s disruptive behaviors, but also in creating a warm, positive relationship between parent and child that is full of fun, enthusiasm, security and confidence.
Written by Erika Stapert, PsyD