Child Behavioral Therapy now being offered at Searcy HRA Clinic
Health Resource of Arkansas (HRA) Clinic in Searcy now offers a new innovative therapy designed to help parents struggling with children who have behavioral issues. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a short-term behavior management program for young children with emotional and behavioral disorders that focuses on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship and changing how the parent and child interact, according to Certified PCIT Therapist Anita Rutledge. "The program uses a family approach," she explained. "Children and their caregivers are seen together. Our focus is on coaching the caregivers in application of specific therapy skills. PCIT teaches caregivers how to manage their child's difficult behaviors, while increasing their positive behaviors. "Behavior problems among young children are fairly common. When addressed early, these problems can be effectively treated," she said. "Some children are just harder to parent than others. Many times, the parents of these children find themselves increasingly frustrated, which causes tension between them and the child, and often the rest of the family." Brandy Mitchel, PFH Clinical Director and Vice President of Treatment Services, said they are excited to be able to offer these services to their communities in Arkansas. "There has been a gap in mental health treatment for this age group for many years," Mitchel said. "To have a clinician trained in a treatment program such as PCIT will be a significant step in the treating the mental health needs of our infant and child populations in the state of Arkansas." The program is designed for children between the ages of 2 and 7 years old. Rutledge said the prime time for a child to receive treatment is before they enter a school program. Students who enter school with behavioral issues often face social and learning challenges, she added. During a therapy session, the therapist watches the parents interact with their child from an observation room using a two-way mirror. The therapist then coaches the parent using an earpiece, providing them with guidance and encouragement to improve the interaction. Rutledge is one of only about two dozen licensed therapists trained in PCIT Therapy in the state of Arkansas. She received her training at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) through the university's ARBEST (Arkansas Building Effective Services for Trauma) program. She said the intensive training program included hand-on skills training which allowed them to observe therapy sessions and then practice the skills on actual clients. The infrastructure changes and materials required to provide this therapy approach was provided through a grant from the Arkansas Division of Human Services. As part of their preparations to begin offering the program, the Searcy clinic set up a special room equipped with two-way mirrors, educational, age appropriate toys, and technology that allows the therapist and the parent to communicate during the session. PFH has plans to add additional PCIT Therapy programs throughout the service area.