Families can encounter a variety of stressors – some of which do not tend to significantly affect their functioning, while there are others that do.
The latter type of stressors may include, but are not limited to:
- Parental stress and/or mental illness
- Trauma – e.g., significant injuries, witnessing community violence, terrorism, life threatening events such as fires or car accidents, abuse, domestic violence
- Death of a loved one
- Parental job loss
- Moving homes
When these types of stressors occur, many children may start experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and/or behavioral problems, which many parents may have difficulty managing due to the stress that they are also experiencing and subsequent depleted emotional and mental energy. The result then tends to be a very emotionally charged and conflictual situation in which the parent-child dynamic has shifted to a more negative interaction style, as the child’s behavior elicits negative parental reactions, which then, in turn, leads to increased behavioral difficulties. This can then lead to a family feeling as though they are spirally out of control, but it does not have to be this way.
In times like these, a specialized treatment program called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is highly effective in getting things back on track. Due to its focus on increasing positive parent-child interactions, and consistency and predictability, it re-establishes what is often lost during times of stress.
What specifically is PCIT?
PCIT is a type of family treatment for children between the ages of 2 and 7 years old. It utilizes a live coaching model in order to optimize change in the parent-child dynamic, and focuses on developing a parent-child relationship in which the child feels safe and secure (a sense that is often lost in times of significant stress) through the use of positive attention and clear and consistent rules and limits.
What does the process look like?
- Treatment begins with an observation of the parent-child interaction in different situations in order to ensure that PCIT is the right fit.
- The following sessions then consist of two different types:
- Teach sessions during which your PCIT clinician teaches you the specific skills that you will be practicing and utilizing in your interactions with your child
- Coaching sessions during which your PCIT clinician will observe and coach you through a one way mirror in the use of the skills.
- Treatment consists of two different phases:
- Child Directed Interaction (CDI) – Focuses on establishing a more positive parent-child interaction through the use of positive attention and play therapy skills that create a strong connection and sense of safety between the parent and child.
- Parent Directed Interaction (PDI) – Parents learn how to set clear and consistent limits, which leads to a sense of predictability for both the parent and child.
How does my family begin?
The Manhattan Psychology Group has several certified PCIT clinicians who are eager to help your family begin working towards developing a more positive familial dynamic and decreasing family stress. So, if you feel as though your family is currently under a lot of stress and conflict and would like to work towards turning things around, simply call the number below to schedule an intake.
Written by Erika Stapert, PsyD