Is Child Therapy a Solo Activity? Or Does it Take a Team?

Updated: May 12

Therapy can be incredibly helpful and a beautiful opportunity for kids to have a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings and practice healthy coping strategies. Add a supportive parent willing to do the work alongside their child and the results are amazing!



When you drop off your child at soccer practice or gymnastics, your child becomes stronger, more skilled, and more confident. What if you also exercised simultaneously? You would also become more skilled, stronger, and confident. Similarly, therapy is about practicing and working our social and emotional muscles. Therapy is about building resiliency and endurance for life’s challenges. Sometimes, kids do need the space to work things out individually in therapy, and other times they need you right there with them practicing.


When parents and children work together in therapy, they often become even more skilled at working as a team, communicating and problem solving effectively, and supporting and rooting each other on.


Parents and children know that whatever life throws at them - “We are a team. We’ve got this!”


While individual therapy is definitely needed at times, therapy oftentimes can be most successful when parents are supportive, encouraging, and learn effective tools simultaneously with their children.


Parent involvement in therapy often leads to long-lasting results because everyone in the family can work together as a team. Like riding a bike, you never forget. The skills last even years from now - long after therapy has ended.


When I was first trained in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and Parent-Child CARE with UC Davis CAARE Center, I was taken aback by the quick and long-lasting results. When UC Davis asked me to become a Trainer of Trainers and Training Partner, I jumped at the opportunity for my dream job. Now, I can make an even larger impact - reaching more families by training other therapists and providers. So what is PCIT and PC-CARE?


PCIT and PC-CARE therapists coach parents while they play with their young child, suggesting words to say and actions to take to increase cooperative family time. PCIT, originally developed by Dr. Sheila Eyberg, has been extensively researched and shown to be effective in reducing 2-7 year old children’s disruptive behaviors and decreasing parenting stress. PC-CARE, developed by UC DAVIS CAARE Center, is also very effective in reducing children’s disruptive behaviors and increasing positive family communication. PC-CARE has a developmental component making it suitable for children ages 1 to 10 years old, and includes a special protocol if the child is on the autism spectrum. Additionally, PC-CARE coaches families to use healthy coping strategies, perfect for everyday challenges and helpful for more intense life stresses, such as a move, divorce, or trauma. PCIT tends to last between 14-20 sessions, whereas PC-CARE is a 6 session coaching program. If you are interested in PCIT or PC-CARE, feel free to check out more at ahealthyfocus.com. We would be happy to chat with you to find the perfect fit for you and your family.


Why dyadic therapy or parent-child coaching? Parents may seek out therapy because they find it difficult to support their children through the intense emotions or challenging behaviors. I’ve witnessed and supported families through major meltdowns, intense power struggles and volcanic aggression that can bring parents to tears. Not surprisingly, these behaviors tap into parents’ feelings of insecurity, doubt, anger, sadness, and hopelessness. Parents may say or do things out of frustration or helplessness that might inadvertently add fuel to the fire. Families get stuck in the story of “this is just how it is.”


As the parent-child coach, we help families start a new chapter filled with hope. We let families know that they are not alone. There is hope. There are tools. We sharpen the tools to communicate more effectively. Tools to modulate their emotions. Tools to prevent, redirect, and manage difficult behaviors that even the “best” behaved children exhibit.


We give families the tools and confidence to get through the difficult moments with grace, and to shift to more harmonious and enjoyable times.


By the end of treatment, children are often much more cooperative, and parents tend to be more calm, consistent, and confident. It’s a win-win for everyone. What surprises me most is the beautiful transformation in the parent-child relationship. Time after time, my clients and my trainees’ clients amaze me! Parents listening, observing, practicing positive communication, and truly enjoying their child. Children thanking their parents for just being present! Awww. It’s all too much! Parents and children looking loving at each other, laughing, smiling, and showing gratitude.


My heart feels like exploding each time!


When I work with families, I feel incredibly blessed and honored to be part of the team, assisting parents and children with more joyful family times. I coach them. I cheer for them. When they practice, I praise them. In reality, they give me an incredible gift and joy in witnessing the power of love and kindness. I have never heard so many “I love yous” and seen so many hugs in therapy. It warms my heart, and fills me with happy tears thinking of all the tender moments between children and parents.


Does PCIT or PC-Care sound right for your family? Is your child between the ages of 1 to 10. Give us a call at 818.230.1050 and we will tell you more and help connect you with a wonderful parent-child therapist.


Are you a therapist seeking to deepen your practice in a rich and rewarding way? Call us to learn more about our UC Davis Training certificates for PCIT therapists, PCIT Trainer of Trainers (TOTs), and PC-CARE therapists. You can reach us at 818.230.1050 or apply to join our Healthy Focus therapist consultation groups at ahealthyfocus.com


We’d love to hear from you!