So lately, at work, we’ve been getting trained on a treatment called “Parent Child Interaction Therapy”.  It is great, in my opinion, because I truly believe that to change a young child’s behavior, the intervention must be with their parents and the surrounding environment.  Working with children ages 2-7 is challenging, and PCIT takes out all  most of the guesswork.  This intervention is heavy in parent involvement and changing their interactions with their children at home, subsequently improving their relationships…thus reducing problematic externalizing behavior.

One of the main components of PCIT is teaching and coaching parents how to play with their children.  Interestingly enough, some caregivers need to be taught how to play and  some do not enjoy playing with their children. I can see how the “inner child” might’ve gotten sucked out of some of us as we’ve grown.

There are three target skills taught to each parent: labeled praises, reflections, and behavior descriptions.  Each of these used during five minutes of play per day can help children and parents become closer.  We encourage, of course, that the caregiver use these skills throughout the day as much as possible.  There are more components and you can research them on your own, because this blog is related to PCIT — not a comprehensive manual.

I have been practicing this type of therapy (almost one year now), and one day, I had a flashback.  (Not like a traumatic stress type of flashback).  It was a snippet of my life I had captured of myself in kindergarten.  I loved learning and was a smart (and eager) child.  One day, during free-play time, I went off to the corner of the classroom on my own and started doing a puzzle.  I was disinterested in what the other children were doing.  I had a moment of solemnity that quickly turned into fun.  I can remember that it was a wooden number matching puzzle.  I had to match the number “1” with another piece that had one object, the number “2” with the other piece that had two objects….etc.  As I was happily constructing the puzzle pieces together, my Kindergarten teacher got my attention and said, “Cristal, you’re doing such a great job completing your puzzle.  I’m going to give you a gold star for that.”  My face brightened. I felt warm and fuzzy inside despite sitting on the scratchy carpet.  And I kept on doing the puzzle.  In fact, for “free play” time from that point forward, I completed puzzles, games, and read books on my own in that same corner.  My eager mind was finally met with appropriate stimulation as well as love and attention.  This is why I loved kindergarten, and I why I continued to love school.

What my kindergarten teacher did was monumental.  I’m sure it even changed my life trajectory.  Instead of wandering aimlessly in that little classroom full of disinterest, she pointed out and praised my productivity and independence. And, in my lifetime, there are moments where I’ve felt disinterested and lost.  But, I’ll never forget this labeled praise because it was a moment that was impressed upon my heart and mind forever.  She taught me that I am self-sufficient, I am enough, and that I have everything I’ll ever need inside of me.

I can only imagine what PCIT and this treatment can do for these kids in this day and age.  The fact that the skills are meant to be constantly and consistently used (mind you I only had memory of ONE), and that these are said by the child’s parents has got to be way more powerful than the one I received from a teacher.

Published by ThroughTheEyesOfaTherapist

Mental health clinician, advocate, boxer, drummer, healer. Podcaster, blogger and creative spirit. Cristal Martinez Acosta has been working as a therapist within the border community of El Paso, Texas since 2011. Cristal is a Licensed Professional Counselor Board Approved Supervisor (LPC-S) in the state of Texas and a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). She graduated with honors from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. Then she attended New Mexico State University (CACREP accredited), where she received a Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance with a 4.0 GPA. She has experience working with youth and adults who have been affected by traumatic events. Her areas of interest are childhood abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, high-risk youth, depression, Reality Therapy, and immigration issues. She is certified in both Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Parent Child Interaction Therapy and trained in EMDR, EFT, Motivational Interviewing, and ITCT-A.

One thought on “Impressed

  1. That’s a really good example of the power teachers have and the impact they can make. By the time kids got to me they had already had a wide array of teachers. Some who belittled and humiliated and some who praised.

    I remember my first year in Bavaria I was sitting in my 4th grade classroom and the teacher was handing back the spelling test. I had been there a few months. She stopped as she was handing them back and called my name so I looked up. She said “You have zero mistakes on your test! Wonderful!” Then everyone started clapping for me. It was a powerful moment because it made me feel like I had finally done something right after so many weeks of feeling stupid and lost.

    I had gone from A-B student to failing every single subject with the trans-Atlantic move. For the first time in my life I felt stupid and like I was never going to be good at school again. That teacher took five seconds to recognize my struggle and improvement. She gave me hope.

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