Wisconsin PCIT Initial Therapist Training

Training Overview, Objectives, & Presenters

What is PCIT?

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a nationally-recognized, evidence-based parent management program for families who have children with internalizing and/or externalizing behavior problems. The program is unique in comparison to other parent management programs because it involves live coaching of parents as they interact with their young child (ages 2-7 years). There are two phases to PCIT: Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) and Parent-Directed Interaction (PDI).

This workshop is an introductory clinically-based training for mental health providers who are interested in becoming PCIT therapists in Wisconsin. This training is meant for practicing professionals and includes foundational skills in the PCIT protocol, Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System (DPICS), and the CDI and PDI phases of treatment.

Experiential learning opportunities in coding and coaching techniques will be provided, with a particular emphasis on developing PCIT competencies, coding reliability, and fidelity to the PCIT model.

Who Should Attend?

This course is appropriate for those in advanced level social work or child & family counseling. The intended audience includes clinicians who have a master’s degree or higher, or an international equivalent of a master’s degree, in a mental health field who are independently licensed mental health service providers, or license-eligible and working under the supervision of a licensed mental health service provider. Alternatively, clinicians may be advanced psychology doctoral students who are conducting clinical work under the supervision of a licensed mental health service provider.


  1. Determine appropriate clients for PCIT.
  2. List “Do” and “Don’t” skills for CDI phase of treatment.
  3. Summarize basic concepts for the DPICS coding system.
  4. Identify PDI skills with specific attention to the PDI sequence.
  5. Describe PDI progression using House Rules and Public Outing procedures.
  6. Use graduation criteria to identify client readiness to terminate treatment.
  7. Practice effective coaching statements in both CDI and PDI.
  8. Recognize competencies necessary for certification as a PCIT Therapist.

Content Covered

40 hours of workshop training with a PCIT International Certified Trainers covering:

  • Implementation procedures, background theory, and research evidence for PCIT.
  • The latest advances in PCIT practices, including the PCIT protocol, Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System (DPICS), and the CDI and PDI phases of treatment.
  • Experiential learning opportunities in coding and coaching techniques, with a particular emphasis on developing PCIT skills, coding reliability, and fidelity to the PCIT model.

Following the PCIT Therapist Training (required):

  • 12 months of twice monthly, hourly group web-based consultation calls led by a PCIT International Certified Trainer OR 20 hours of in-person co-therapy with a trainer*.
  • Four (4) video reviews of PCIT sessions with written feedback from a PCIT International Certified Trainer OR live supervision of 4 sessions with Trainer feedback.

*20 hours of co-therapy available for Children’s Wisconsin in-agency clinicians only

Cost & Registration Fee

Total cost ($4,000)** includes:

  • $1,000 for the 6-day virtual workshop with 4 PCIT International Certified Therapists.
  • $3,000 for required consultation (twice monthly group consultation for 12 months OR 20 hours of in-person co-therapy with a trainer; 4 video reviews; paperwork preparation for certification).
  • The fee to register for the PCIT Therapist Training (after application acceptance) includes the PCIT Therapy Protocol, the DPICS Clinical Manual, and the DPICS Clinical Workbook necessary to conduct PCIT.

Continuing Education:
Currently, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is exploring options for the provision of continuing education credit hours through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB),and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The page will be updated as information is received.

Course Completion:
Social Workers must complete all live virtual training sessions sessions and required number of consultation calls. They must also turn in an evaluation form in order to complete training.

About the Presenters

James “Dimitri” Topitzes, Ph.D., LCSW is a professor of social work in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr. Topitzes has designed, implemented, and tested programs aimed at preventing or treating early psychological trauma. Along with his 15 years of applied research experience, Dr. Topitzes is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in trauma-informed care and trauma-focused treatments. He created and directed the Trauma-Informed Care Graduate Certificate at UW-Milwaukee and developed a number of program courses. In addition, he co-founded the Institute for Child and Family Well-being, a partnership between UW-Milwaukee and Children’s Wisconsin, and currently serves as the Institute’s Clinical Director. Dr. Topitzes is a Level II Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) trainer candidate and served as the Clinical Director for Project Connect, a PCIT implementation project funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Leah Cerwin, LCSW, PCIT Within Agency Trainer, is a Well-Being Lead Clinician with Children’s well-being team. Prior to her current role, Leah worked with Children’s as a foster and adoption services specialist and family case manager. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. While in graduate school, Leah interned with the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being directors and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee faculty Dimitri Topitzes and Joshua Mersky to develop Project Connect. Leah helped pioneer PCIT and Project Connect at Children’s, as well as Parenting with PRIDE, a virtual group-based therapy utilizing PCIT principles. She has continued to contribute to the development of the well-being team by conducting trainings for new practitioners.

Meghan Christian, LCSW, PCIT Within Agency Trainer Candidate, is a Child and Family Therapist with the Institute for Child and Family Well-Being and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Meghan has spent most of her career in the nonprofit sector, working with people who have experienced acute or ongoing trauma including abused children and adults, refugees and families living in poverty. Meghan’s interests lie in translating research on the effects of trauma on the developing brain into practical ways of using evidence-based interventions with her clients. She’s particularly interested in the role resilience plays in protecting against and transforming negative neurophysiological changes.

PCIT requires the use of specialized technology.

  • Bug-in-the-Ear Device: this is the primary method the therapist provides live feedback to the caregiver during parent-child interactions. The parent wears a “receiver” earphone, while the therapist uses a “transmitter” to coach the parent discretely.
  • One-Way Mirror or Video Monitoring System: PCIT requires the use of an observation room and a therapy room. This may be accomplished by use of a traditional one-way mirror or via a video monitoring system.
  • Audio System: the therapy room needs to be equipped with a microphone connected to a speaker in the observation room, or a video camera with microphone connected to a video monitor in the observation room.
  • Computer with Web-camera or Phone with Camera and Internet Access: both the virtual training and the consultation calls are held via Zoom web-conference and materials will be available to participants in Basecamp, an online project management tool.

Following several weeks of the relationship-building phase of PCIT, called Child-Directed Interaction (CDI), the family enters the second phase of treatment focused on structure and discipline, called Parent-Directed Interaction (PDI). During PDI, PCIT requires the use of a time-out chair. PCIT also requires the use of a back-up to the calm down chair called the time-out room.

  • During the PCIT Therapist Training, we will discuss specifics of an appropriate time-out room (at a minimum 5×5 space). We will problem-solve common issues related to implementation of a time-out room, including the use of time-outs in the home setting for families.
  • Here are some resources discussing the appropriate use of a time-out chair and time-out room:

PCIT Therapist Certification Information

Please Note: The PCIT Therapist Training process and PCIT International Certification process are separate. While the training provided by the PCIT Certified Trainers is consistent with eligibility guidelines to apply for PCIT Therapist Certification, the training alone does not constitute Certification. At the successful completion of PCIT Therapist Training, the provider must apply to PCIT International for Certification. While a brief overview is provided below, please refer to www.pcit.org for complete information.

Certified PCIT Therapists are individuals who have received appropriate and sufficient PCIT training to be qualified to provide PCIT services to children and families.

Process: Please note the process for becoming a Certified PCIT Therapist has multiple steps to demonstrate competence as a PCIT Therapist, summarized as follows:

  1. Upon completion of PCIT Therapist Basic and Consultation Training, an applicant for Certified PCIT Therapist status must complete the Certified PCIT Therapist Application (available from PCIT International Certified Trainers or at www.pcit.org)
  2. Following acceptance of the Certified PCIT Therapist Application, the applicant must successfully complete the PCIT Certification Experience which reviews concepts covered in Basic and Continuation Training.
  3. Final decisions about certification of PCIT Therapists will be made by PCIT International.

To successfully complete the process to become a Certified PCIT Therapist, applicants must demonstrate core competencies in specified areas of the PCIT protocol and implementation. PCIT International reserves the right to deny certification to any individual if minimum standards of competence are not met and appropriately documented, as outlined in the Training Requirements for Certification as a PCIT Therapist.

Social Work Contact Hours:
Currently, Children’s Wisconsin is exploring options for the provision of continuing education credit hours through PCIT International, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).  The page will be updated as information is received.

Upcoming Training Dates

Monday, 9/16/24
Wednesday, 9/18/24
Friday, 9/20/24

Monday, 11/4/24
Wednesday, 11/6/24
Friday, 11/8/24

Register Here

Contact for Questions

If you are new to the concept of PCIT or considering whether PCIT is right for your clinical practice, please contact Leah Cerwin to schedule a brief phone consultation at lcerwin@childrenswi.org.