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Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Services in Tennessee

Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Services in Tennessee

What Is Parent Child Interaction Therapy?

Parent Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT, is an evidence-based therapy created to teach young children who exhibit highly disruptive behavior how to manage their frustration.1

This family-oriented short-term therapy aims to enhance the parent-child bond through conversation and interaction. Child directed contact can aid in developing useful parenting strategies, decrease behavioral problems, and may even strengthen family ties.2

PCIT was initially created in the 1970s by Dr. Sheila Eyberg to treat disruptive behavior issues in children between the ages of 2 and 7 years.3 Since then, it has been extensively researched in various populations proving to be a highly effective intervention for a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues.

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What Can Parent Child Interaction Therapy Treat?

Parent Child Interaction Therapy can treat a wide range of behavioral issues, including children who exhibit some or all of the following:

  • issues with parent-child relationships
  • refusal to comply with requests from adults
  • emotional instability
  • low tolerance for frustration
  • easy to get angry
  • sensitive – easily irritated by others
  • intentionally annoying other people
  • acting with malice or revenge
  • accusing others of their errors
  • destroying things
  • having trouble remaining seated
  • having trouble playing quietly
  • inability to take turns

Furthermore, PCIT therapy modifications have been evaluated and shown to be effective for:

  • selective mutism
  • autism
  • children exposed to trauma
  • maltreating, abusive parents
  • ADHD
  • language-delayed children
  • child anxiety
  • infants/toddlers
  • families who are deaf and hard of hearing

How Does Parent Child Interaction Therapy Work?

Two phases make up a typical PCIT therapy program: Parent Directed Interaction (PDI) and Child Directed Interaction (CDI). The therapist will go over the main ideas and methods for each phase with the parents at the beginning of the program. Then, using a one-way mirror, the therapist will watch the parents interact with their children. Additionally, the therapist coaches the parents in real-time using an earbud. Targeted behaviors are monitored and graphed over time to show how well parents and kids are doing. Because only you and your child are participating in these developmentally appropriate activities, the interactions remain more “genuine.”

Child Directed Interaction (CDI) is the first phase. During this phase, therapists demonstrate to parents how to be excellent reinforcers by teaching them to pay attention to desirable behaviors and reward positive behaviors as they occur. CDI also teaches parents when and how to ignore mildly negative behavior or disruptive conduct. Once the parent learns the CDI skills, the discipline phase follows.

The Parent Directed Interaction (PDI), the second phase, teaches your child how to obey and behave better by building upon the abilities parents learned in the CDI phase. Practicing following instructions and having a good sense of humor in the clinic before gradually transferring the improvements to your home environment is a central component of this phase.

Parents can gain skills in PCIT therapy to help them better provide their children with a loving, nurturing, and healthy environment. Parent child behavioral therapy’s ultimate objective is to assist in changing undesirable behaviors into more constructive behavioral patterns. Parents should practice these abilities until they are comfortable using them. Children exposed to PCIT therapy frequently learn how to modify their conduct. Many families notice significant improvements in their children’s behavior and the parent-child bond.

While there are other Parent Management Training (PMT) programs, particularly for children over 11, PCIT techniques apply to three different age groups. You and your treating clinician will decide which group based on the size and maturity of your child.

  • Toddlers 12-24 months
  • 2-7 years old
  • Older children 7-11 years old

Although there are weekly sessions, the most important job is when the parent practices learned techniques with their children at home for five minutes daily. Most families require 14 to 20 coaching sessions to finish the program.

Goals & Benefits of PCIT

The objectives of PCIT’s Child Directed Interaction phase are as follows:

  • utilize constructive attention techniques to foster intimate ties between parents and their kids
  • encourage warmth and security between parents and their children will help children feel secure and at ease
  • enhance kids’ play and organizing abilities
  • reduce children’s frustration and rage
  • inform parents of effective teaching techniques that won’t make them or their children angry
  • boost kids’ self-esteem
  • enhance kids’ social skills, including sharing and collaboration
  • parents should learn how to interact with young children with short attention spans.

The following are the objectives of the Parent Directed Interaction phase of PCIT therapy:

  • teach parents effective methods of punishment that will encourage their kids to pay attention to their parents’ commands and follow them
  • reduce troublesome behavior by encouraging parents to be reliable and consistent
  • encourage parents to feel confident in their ability to control their kids’ behavior both at home and in public

Furthermore, research suggests that PCIT therapy may be particularly beneficial for:

  • fostering pleasant parent-child interactions and coming up with effective parenting techniques
  • lowering the chance of physical and verbal abuse against children
  • reducing problems with child behavior (anger, aggression, defiance, etc.)
  • developing family interaction and communication skills

PCIT Effectiveness & Success Rates

With more than 40 years of research, Parent Child Interaction Therapy’s evidence based treatment is an intervention that improves parent-child relationships, boosts parenting abilities, lessens behavioral issues in kids, and lowers the chance of abuse. A growing amount of data supports its effectiveness. As a result, PCIT therapy is increasingly listed among the most effective, promising options. For example, the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare gave PCIT therapy the highest scientific rating.4

Furthermore, children who received PCIT therapy exhibited more considerable language gains than a control group in a 2011 study of children between the ages of 8 and 10 with particular language impairments.

In addition, in a subsequent study conducted in 2011, 150 women with a history of child abuse or at high risk of abuse were divided into two groups. The other group was placed on a waiting list while one group took part in PCIT. After 12 weeks, the moms taking part in PCIT interacted with their kids better and claimed that their kids’ conduct had improved. As a result, they were less stressed.

The Cost of Parent Child Interaction Therapy & Insurance Coverage

Parent Child Interaction Therapy is frequently covered by insurance companies as either family therapy or individual therapy, though each coverage varies.5 The service’s out-of-pocket expense varies by provider and region, with certified therapists in major cities likely to charge more.

From client intake until graduation, the average cost of offering PCIT therapy is around $1,000 per client.6 Keep in mind that these are average costs and not necessarily what you’ll pay for Parent Child Interaction Therapy in Tennessee.

Filling out our free and confidential online insurance verification form is the best method to determine the specifics of your insurance coverage for Parent Child Interaction Therapy in Tennessee. Athena Care is in-network with most major insurance plans. Our expert care coordinators are here to help Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. After completing the form, a care coordinator will review your policy and thoroughly explain your options. Rest assured, all submitted or discussed information remains private.

How To Find the Best PCIT Therapist in Tennessee?

In 2009, a certification program for PCIT Therapy practitioners was established. Finding PCIT therapists with this certification has advantages, even though not all therapists whom do effective Parent Child Therapy hold this certification.

PCIT International developed the certification program to build a set of competency requirements and effectively spread PCIT therapy domestically and globally. A clinician must hold a Master’s degree or higher to be eligible for certification. In addition, they must complete training that includes at least 40 hours of in-person instruction, consultation calls every two weeks, and four session reviews.

Finding mental health clinics in Tennessee that provide mental health assessments and PCIT therapy has never been more accessible with Athena Care’s multiple locations. In addition, you’ll find a list of practitioners organized by city, their background, and their specialties here.

Before starting therapy, you and your family should have the chance to interview potential PCIT therapists. The therapist you will work with should be someone you can trust and feel comfortable around. Therefore, it’s important to ask lots of questions and to keep the following in mind when selecting PCIT therapists in Tennessee.

The following are some questions you may want to pose to a therapist about PCIT therapy:

  • What role will the parent have in the process?
  • What kind of Parent Child Interaction Therapy training do you provide?
  • When were you trained?
  • How long did your training last?
  • Do you have access to post-consultation assistance?
  • Which PCIT reference materials are you familiar with?
  • Do you work with individuals who have received PCIT training in a peer supervision group, or are you clinically monitored by them?
  • Why do you think PCIT therapy is my family’s best course of action?
  • What methods will you use to assist my child in controlling their emotions and associated behaviors?
  • What methods will you use to help me gain better knowledge and abilities?
  • Do you use a systematic evaluation procedure to collect initial data on the functioning of families and track their development over the course of treatment?
  • Do you have a one-way mirror and an earpiece appropriate for PCIT therapy?
    • If not, how are the sessions going to be set up?
  • Is there a chance that receiving treatment could be harmful or hinder progress?

Athena Care offers a full-spectrum of mental and behavioral health services to those in Tennessee.

We have qualified therapists and accept many of the big name insurance providers. Our locations are open Monday-Friday from 7am to 6pm. Learn more below:

PCIT Therapy & Telehealth

You can do PCIT therapy online. A therapist works remotely to deliver the same precise care via the internet or telehealth. The structured sessions are discreetly coached by the therapist using headsets. According to research, the gains are comparable or even superior to those of in-office PCIT therapy.

In a 2017 study, clinicians chose forty families randomly to receive either internet-based Parent Child Interaction Therapy (I-PCIT) or conventional clinic-based PCIT. All children were 3-5 years old and met the criteria for oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. According to analyses, 70% of families who received I-PCIT treatment and 55% of families who received clinic-based PCIT were “responders.” Additionally, 55% of families receiving I-PCIT therapy and 40% receiving clinic-based PCIT were “responders” after a six-month follow-up.7

Furthermore, I-PCIT demonstrated results equivalent to clinic-based PCIT for several outcomes, including externalizing issues and functional limitations. Notably, compared to families that received typical clinic-based PCIT, families who received I-PCIT had a considerably greater rate of “good responders” (as determined by an impartial assessor unaware of the type of treatment each family received). Additionally, parents who participated in I-PCIT reported having considerably fewer barriers to care (such as schedule conflicts, transportation issues, and comfort with the treatment environment) during therapy than parents who received standard clinic-based PCIT.


  1. “What Is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?” Kurtz Psychology, 22 May 2022, www.kurtzpsychology.com/behavior-problems/what-is-parent-child-interaction-therapy.
  2. GoodTherapy Editor Team. “Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).” GoodTherapy, GoodTherapy, LLC, 7 Aug. 2016, www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/parent-child-interaction-therapy.
  3. Lieneman, Corey, et al. “Parent&Ndash;Child Interaction Therapy: Current Perspectives.” Psychology Research and Behavior Management, vol. Volume 10, 2017, pp. 239–56. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.2147/prbm.s91200.
  4. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: A Primer for Child Welfare .. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, 2019, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/factsheets_pcit.pdf.
  5. Kudla, Linda, Psy. D. “Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): How It Works, Cost, and What to Expect.” Choosing Therapy, 29 June 2022, www.choosingtherapy.com/parent-child-interaction-therapy.
  6. Goldfine, Matthew E., et al. “Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: An Examination of Cost-Effectiveness.” Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, vol. 5, no. 1, 2008, pp. 119–41. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1037/h0100414.
  7. Comer, Jonathan, PhD. “Broadening the Reach of Parenting Intervention through Technology.” American Psychological Association, CFY News, May 2019, www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2019/05/parenting-intervention-technology

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

(615) 320-1155