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This is an intensive parenting program for individual families. It is a hands on approach providing a direct here and now experience.

The approach is based on sound psychological principles including, Social Learning Theory and Attachment Theory. It is an approach recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. NICE reviews current evidence for treatments and makes recommendations with the aim of improving healthcare and healthy living.

Parent-Child Game (PCG) enables the parent to interact directly with their child whilst being observed and coached by the therapist.

It focuses on reducing challenging behaviours in children as well as fostering improved attachment and bonding through strengthening the parent–child relationship.

The approach models the use of positive strategies which reduces the parents’ experience of criticism and the feeling of being judged. This helps the parent to feel empowered, focusing on their skill development.  

The approach breaks down the strategies used by parents into simpler component parts. The work is collaborative with parents being able to observe directly and reflect upon their own parenting behaviours through video feedback of the sessions. This enables parents to gain a better understanding of their own behaviours and how their children respond.

The therapist aims to help parents to interact with their child in a way that will result in the child’s cooperation. This is done by focusing on the parents use of child-centred behaviours through the medium of play rather than child-directive behaviours.

The PCG occurs in two phases of work. The initial phase is called the Child-Game which focuses on the parent developing their child-centred skills. These sessions involves 10 minutes guided play between the parent and child.

The second phase is called the Parents-Game. This phase of work is to focus on helping the parent in the use of child directive strategies for those occasions when more direct intervention such as commands are required.

The model is effective for families who are experiencing severe and/or long standing behaviour and relationships problems with their children.

It targets families with children between the ages of 18 months to 8 years or similar developmental level.

It has been effective where other approaches, such a parent skills training groups have not been helpful.


The PCG has been used for over forty years with research showing its effectiveness in working with troubled children and their parents.

The techniques were originally developed by child psychologist Connie Kauf and developed into the Parent-Child Game by Professors Forehand and McMahon in the USA before being taken forward by Sue Jenner and colleagues at the Maudsley Hospital London in the 1980s.

Therapy - Parent-Child Game



Systemic therapy

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy


Dyadic Development Psychotherapy

Parent-Child Game


Child-Centred Behaviours  

Child-Directive Behaviours

These are the ones which meet a child’s emotional needs. They also give them a positive experience such as when they are praised.

These strategies have a number of benefits:

  • enhance the child’s play
  • improve concentration
  • improve exploring and learning
  • improve self-esteem
  • Improve the bond with the parent.

These are strategies that demand a response from the child or impose a restriction on their behaviour.

These include commands, criticism and negative looks.

Child-Directed behaviours can lead to:

  • Increased confrontations
  • limited play
  • reduced concentration
  • increased anger and frustration
  • increased distress in the child
  • limit the bond with the parent