WNC health care group goes high-tech to help parents with troubled children

The Mountain Child Advocacy Center in Asheville is using Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, a high-tech approach to help parents and troubled children. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

New age family therapy has come to the Mountain Child Advocacy Center in Asheville. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a high-tech approach to help parents and troubled children.

“You learn new techniques, you know, you’re never too old to learn something new,” said Diane Allen, whose 5-year-old grandson has serious behavioral issues.

Something new is what Allen needed.

“Whatever he could do to express his anger, he would do it, and it was hard to get that in control,” said Allen, who is her grandson’s primary caregiver.

That’s why Allen agreed to try PCIT.

The child and adult sit in a room, interacting with a set of toys. In another room, a child therapist watches through the lens of a camera and listens.

The adult caregiver is equipped with an earphone, taking commands from the therapist, who coaches based on behaviors and interactions.

“It is kind of weird, you know, like you know you’ve always got somebody in your ear or somebody on your shoulder,” Allen said.

“I’m just the coach. I’m just the support for them,” PCIT therapist Angela Austin said.

Austin is set up with her laptop and headphones in the other room.

“I can both see and hear them, so I can provide that in the moment, like as soon as something happens, I can provide them guidance,” Austin said.

Mountain Child Advocacy Center executive director Geoff Sidoli said that’s what makes PCIT so effective.

“This really works with the parent, in what we call in-vivo, in real life,” Sidoli said. “Actually working with them on specific issues and teaching them how to deal with their child in as natural situation as possible.”

Allen and her grandson are among the first graduates here. She is a true believer.

“It’s good to know it really works, that positive reinforcement is the key,” Allen said.

There is only a handful of local groups providing PCIT, and the Mountain Child Advocacy Center would like to expand its new program.

The nonprofit is also recruiting families and needs donations to make it all possible.

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