Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)


The health and well-being of children, families, and communities are critical foundations for a prosperous future. Responsive relationships are a key component to the health, well-being, and resilience of children. Parent-Child relationships can inoculate children from the harmful effects of toxic levels of stress that negatively impact brain development. Toxic levels of stress caused by ongoing adversity, such as poverty, poor housing conditions, and community violence, negatively impact the architecture of a child’s developing brain that has lasting effects into adulthood. Adverse childhood experiences also have a negative impact on adult capabilities/functioning such as planning, self-control, and focus. These effects are made worse during times of stress, making parenting during stressful circumstances even more difficult.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based intervention offered to caregivers and their children ages 2-7 years old who struggle with externalizing behaviors and/or positive parenting skills. Practitioners use in-vivo coaching to provide real-time feedback to caregivers on their parenting skills and resulting changes in child. Treatment consists of two stages:

  1. Child Directed Interaction
  2. Parent Directed Interaction

The first stage strengthens the caregiver-child relationship while the second stage uses authoritative parenting techniques to increase compliance in defiant children.

PCIT is a long-established core to the ICFW, with staff from Children’s receiving training for their Title IV-E internship in Project Connect at UWM. ICFW clinicians have delivered PCIT in a variety of settings, serving primarily children in foster care, including in group-based formats, abbreviated adaptations, and in the child’s home. The ICFW continues to support dissemination of PCIT to clinicians serving families at-risk of, or already involved with, child welfare programs in Milwaukee and Racine through the Trauma and Recovery Project (TARP).

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Parenting with PRIDE

If you are a PCIT trained therapist and interested in providing PCIT skills in a group setting virtually, check out our infographic which outlines the results of our pilot program, Parenting with PRIDE. If you or your team are interested in consulting with us to provide PCIT skills by way of telehealth in a group setting, contact

Journal Article – Implementation of Parent Child Interaction Therapy Within Foster Care: An Attempt to Translate an Evidence-Based Program Within a Local Child Welfare Agency

Journal Article – Adapting Parent-Child Interaction Therapy to Foster Care: Outcomes From a Randomized Trial

PCIT International

University of California-Davis PCIT Training Center



Leah Cerwin
Meghan Christian
Joshua Mersky
Dimitri Topitzes


Children’s Wisconsin
All Child & Family Well-Being