Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: An alternative approach for parents and children

As a parent, it might be difficult to admit to yourself that your child needs some extra help or attention. You try to do everything you possibly can for your child, but sometimes it’s wise to seek professional help when things just don’t seem right.

Of course, it can be hard to let go of that Mama Bear instinct of control and protection of your child. You might feel uncomfortable about not being directly involved in a traditional therapy session, and you may desire ways to be more hands-on with your child’s mental and behavioral health and development.

Many parents who feel the same way are turning to Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, which allows them to be directly involved in their child’s mental and behavioral healthcare plan.

What is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is utilized to help correct undesirable behavior exhibited at home or school. In a more traditional setting, a therapist and the patient (child) would work one on one to talk through what the root of the issue is. And then they would come up with strategies to help regulate emotions and control behavior.

However, many mental health professionals have come to realize that parents and guardians should be an active part of the child’s mental health, and not just an observer. With Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, the child might not even have to meet with the therapist.

You and your child will be in a playroom, and the therapist will observe what is happening from another location. You will also be wearing an earpiece that allows the therapist to communicate with you. By communicating in real time, the therapist involves you directly in the process and helps you to work with your child to learn and adopt positive behavior regulation strategies.

parent-child interaction therapy

Phase One: Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy typically consists of two phases. The first phase is focused on strengthening the relationship between you and your child. This is not to say that a relationship doesn’t already exist. Like any mental health and behavioral journey, trust and warmth must be established and strengthened.

By improving your relationship with your child, you are likely to see a decrease in negative attention-seeking behaviors like whining and yelling. Tantrums may also be lessened in frequency and severity.

You might even experience a decrease in the frustration you have as a parent when your child exhibits negative behaviors. By helping your child learn how to regulate emotions and reactions, both you and your child will build a stronger connection that will help in the second phase of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.

Phase Two: Developing an Action Plan

The second phase of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is most likely the reason you decided to seek therapy in the first place: to develop an action plan. In this phase the therapist will work with you to come up with strategies for helping your child learn to regulate their body in times of frustration. You will learn how to coach your child through a tough situation, such as not getting a toy they wanted or demanding attention from you when you are speaking with someone else.

Going through the first phase of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is crucial for the success of the second phase. The trusting relationship that you built in the first phase will help make the process of developing and implementing behavior improvement strategies go much better than if you had not completed that step. During the second phase of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, you can expect to see your child’s behavior become less aggressive and for more appropriate communication to develop.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, just like any other kind of therapy, takes hard work and patience. Most parents and children will need close to twenty sessions to complete the program. Many times, therapists will give parents activities to complete with their child at home as a way to continue the therapy away from the controlled playroom. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but the benefits of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy can be astounding.

What are the Benefits of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy?

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy aims to tackle behavioral issues that a child might be facing. There are many benefits to decreasing a child’s negative behaviors and encouraging better methods of communication, but probably the most significant benefit is the positive relationship that is built between the parent and child.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is just that: parent and child interacting with each other, creating a bond, and creating a plan that will work well for both of them. By being directly involved in the process, the parents can help determine what is working for both the child and them, as well as showing the child that they are invested in the child’s behavioral improvement.

Your child trusts you and craves your attention, and as such will greatly benefit from the interaction with you. And you will benefit in seeing the positive changes over time and sharing in the accomplishment. You will have done the work alongside your child, and you will both be able to celebrate all that you have accomplished.

Of course, there is also the benefit of simply just going through the journey with your child. As a parent, you want to be there for your child’s milestones and growth. Improved mental health and successful behavior management are big milestones for children. And even though they might not admit it, your child will be happy that you have been with them every step of the way. Building a stronger bond between the parent and child is not only beneficial and necessary in the world of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, but also in every aspect of your and your child’s life.

Taking the First Step…

If you would like to learn more about Parent-Child Interaction Therapy or other ways to help your child learn to better regulate their emotions and behavior, give us a call. One of our trained youth counselors would be delighted to meet with you and your child to develop a therapy plan.