CMU opens one of few parent/child training and research centers in country, expanding parent-child interaction therapy services

Center launched with $375,000 grant from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Center for Children, Families and Communities

Central Michigan University’s new Center for Children, Families and Communities expands parent-child interaction therapy services to families in need throughout the state. PCIT is an innovative method to help families with young children experiencing behavior problems learn healthy ways to interact.

The center is one of a few parent/child training locations in the country. It was launched this fall with a $375,000 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The center utilizes state-of-the-art technology to provide real-time coaching to parents to help them learn and practice healthy discipline techniques and enhance their parent-child relationships.

Psychology faculty members Larissa Niec and Ignacio Acevedo are co-directors of the center, leading the PCIT therapy and providing real-world training for CMU undergraduate and graduate students. Opening the center also allows greater opportunities to conduct externally funded research.

“Creating this center significantly increases our capacity for research and training,” said Niec. “Now we’re competing with more research intensive schools like Duke, University of Southern California and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“We’re working to teach parents to interact with their children in healthy ways,” said Niec. “Historically that’s been done by meeting with the parents, talking about problems and suggesting skills to work on at home. Now with the use of technology we can be involved in real-time parent/child coaching sessions and help them learn and practice skills. And we can monitor the results and make immediate adjustments.”

As many as 35 graduate and undergraduate students each year will gain firsthand knowledge of PCIT and use of cutting-edge technology in the field to help facilitate therapy.

“Having a facility like this with new clients coming through the door really allows for us as first-year students to get involved in opportunities in a clinical setting,” said Jacob White, clinical psychology doctoral candidate from Shelby, Mich. “This typically wouldn’t happen until the second year or later, it really gives you a jump-start.”

Additionally, the center provides PCIT training to professionals in the field throughout the state and across the U.S., expanding the use of the innovative therapy.

“With our telehealth system we can provide training and follow-up consultations to more professionals,” said Niec. “This allows us to further the reach of PCIT therapy to communities beyond the region, even globally.”

The center is located adjacent to CMU’s campus at 2480 West Campus Drive, Suite B100.

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