Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Research, Training, and Clinical Considerations

Christopher K. Owen1, *, Corey C. Lieneman1, Cheryl B. McNeil1
1 Department of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown WV 26506, United States

© 2020 Owen et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Dept. of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506; United States; Tel: +4843568535; Email:


This research briefly promotes the inclusion of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a continuum of empirically-supported ASD treatments. PCIT is a manualized, short-term intervention that improves child compliance and the caregiver-child bond, and is an empirically-supported treatment backed by over 40 years of research. Caregivers are often unprepared to handle the needs of children with ASD presenting with comorbid behavioral problems. As a result, families frequently require mental health services for their children on the autism spectrum; however, access to empirically supported treatments for these families is limited. Furthermore, many mental health providers feel unequipped to treat this special population. Families with children on the autism spectrum are in desperate need of quality, time-limited, evidence-based treatments targeting disruptive behaviors. PCIT is a well-established treatment for disruptive behaviors that represents a promising treatment for complementing other evidenced-based ASD services. Research shows that after PCIT, children with ASD demonstrate improvements in disruptive behavior, social awareness, adaptability, and positive affect. Currently, the PCIT-ASD literature provides a case for conducting PCIT with preschool children who are in the higher functioning range of the autism spectrum (Levels 1 and 2) and display comorbid behavioral problems. Providing PCIT clinicians with training about the special needs of children with ASD could lead to improved access to services for this population. This paper accomplishes the following objectives: 1) Provides an overview of PCIT, 2) Summarizes the PCIT-ASD research, 3) Reviews PCIT-ASD clinical considerations and training requirements, and 3) Suggests future directions for PCIT-ASD research.

Keywords: : Autism spectrum disorder, Externalizing behavior problems, Behavioral parent training, Parent-child interaction therapy, Caregiver-child bond, Empirically-supported treatment.