Interventions: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy & Family Interaction Program


Front row, left to right: Tanya Hawes, Melissa Harahan

Back row, left to right: Kelli Swan, Dr. Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Dr. Haley Webb, Jess Kerin



Click Utrecht_PCIT_talk_2019 to Download a Keynote Address given  in Utrecht, The Netherlands in July 2019


The Family Interaction Program (FIP) was established in 2002 at Griffith University, School of Psychology, Gold Coast. FIP was formed with the purpose of assisting families with children who have behavioural problems, such as rule-breaking, defiance, and aggression. FIP was also founded with the aim of reducing the risk of child maltreatment in families, receiving funding from the Department of Communities, Child Safety, and Disability Services since 2003. All of our services incorporate research to examine the acceptability and effectiveness of its programs.

The Family Interaction Program currently offers three free programs for children and families, with each program aiming to improve the quality of relationships between caregivers and their children.


Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)shutterstock_99298661

PCIT is a 12-week program for children between the ages of 1 and 6 years who have significant problems with their behaviour at home or at school. Parents and children attend for 1-hour weekly.

PCIT involves direct coaching by a therapist as parents and children play together. This coaching guides parents in the direct practice of positive parenting techniques. Through this direct practice, therapist and parent work together to enhance the quality of the parent-child relationship, which results in a reduction in children’s tantrums and aggressive behaviours.

The program has two phases: Phase 1 focuses on strengthening the parent-child bond, increasing effective parenting skills, improving child social skills and decreasing behaviour problems.  Phase 2 focuses on parents’ behaviour management techniques within the context of positive parent-child interactions.

Our research has shown that parents report decreases in stress levels in themselves and disruptive behaviours in their children and they are able to build better relationships with their children.


An Evaluation of Parent Child Interaction Therapy With and Without Motivational Enhancement to Reduce Attrition

Thomas et al 2017 PCIT, a meta-analysis



Circle of Security Parenting (DVD) Program (COS)


COS is an 8-week program for parents of children between the ages of 1 and 6 years. COS is conducted individually with parents/carers to assist in developing a positive, loving and satisfying relationship with their child.

COS is a unique relationship-based parent education program that teaches caregivers how to foster a secure relationship with their children. COS teaches the core ideas of attachment theory, with the aim of boosting the parent-child attachment relationship by assisting the caregiver to understand their children’s needs and behaviours.

The program facilitates reductions in parents’ psychological distress (e.g., depression, stress) and improvements in their parenting sensitivity. For children, there are improvements in externalising (aggression, opposition, defiance) and internalising (anxiety, depression) problems, as well as improvements in peer and other relationships.



Lionshead Roaring49555_SMJPG_20140318212143045

SYN*APPS is a 10-week program for children aged 7 to 12 years who have excessive anger and explosive behaviours. Parents also participate. During SYN*APPS, psychologists help parents and children with managing their emotions and developing better problem solving skills. FIP is currently offering SYN*APPS to families who are connected with the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.

Outcomes include better management of frustration and inflexibility and improved family communication.



FIP 15th Anniversary Party

6 December 2018

Pictured front left to right: Maddy Burns, Elia Jade-Polak,  Dr. Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck, Missy Wotton, Erinn Munro-Lee, Victoria Hambour, Shawna Campbell

Pictured back left to right: Juliane Pariz, Alex Gardner, Dale Rowland, Leah Hendersen, Mark Scholes, Brett Parton, Kellie Swan, Tanya Hawes


FIP Supervisors, Staff & Trainees

Professor Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck is the Lead Researcher and Director of the Family Interaction Program. The programs are conducted by a team of therapists with years of experience working with child emotional and behavioural problems, and parenting stress and tense family relationships.

The FIP team is made up of registered psychologists, intern psychologists completing their post graduate training, and research assistants.


  • Maddy Burns
  • Victoria HambourIMG_1494
  • Tanya Hawes
  • Nina Horan
  • Jessica Kerin
  • Quinten Lekas
  • Erinn Munro-Lee
  • Juliane Pariz
  • Elia-Jade Polak
  • Julia Rudolph
  • Kellie Swan
  • Dr. Haley Webb
  • Melissa Wotton

Family Interaction Program Contact:

Ph: (07) 56789105 / (07) 56789115
Fx: (07) 56780404

A special thanks to the families involved in the Family Interaction Program, who have shared their lives with us briefly, taught us so much and continue to encourage each other through their experiences.



New Accreditation! Congrats to the GU Psychology Clincs!


Pictured left to right: Director Griffith Health Clinics, Dr. Dianne Shanley (Director, Psychology Clinics), Dr. David Neumann (Acting Head of School, School of Applied Psychology)

FIP Open Clinic Days

The Family Interaction Program hosted an Open Clinic, Friday 4th August, 2017.
We welcomed professionals from a range of government, private and not-for-profit organisations around the Gold Coast.
Visitors were treated to a scrumptious morning tea, as well as live demonstrations of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, and a presentation on the therapeutic outcomes and research outputs from work over the years by the Family Interaction Program.
We enjoyed learning more about the many brilliant therapeutic and support services available to families on the Gold Coast.
A sincere thank you to all who participated and helped make this a thoroughly enjoyable event!



Presentation about the Family Interaction Program to the Community-Safety-Symposium-2015


Selected Media

Thomas - GCB



Research Publications

  1. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Kerin, J., & Webb, H. J., Gardner, A., Mastro, S., Swan, K. (2018). Better emotion regulation and reflective functioning in parents: Two additional positive outcomes of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. Behavior Therapy.
  2. Thomas, R., Abell, B., Webb, H. J., Avdagic, E., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2017). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 140(3) e20170352.
  3. Webb, H. J., Thomas, R., McGregor, L., Avdagic, E., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2017). An evaluation of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with and without a motivational enhancement to reduce attrition. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 46, 537-550. doi:10.1080/15374416.2016.1247357.
  4. Modecki, K., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Guerra, N. (2017). Coping, emotion regulation, and decision making: Modifiable targets for prevention and intervention with at-risk adolescents, Child Development, 88, 417-426. doi:10.1111/cdev.12734
  5. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Webb, H. J., Pepping, C. A., Swan, K., Merlo, O., Skinner, E. A., Avdagic, E., & Dunbar, M. (2017). Review: Caregiver-child attachment, emotion regulation, and coping with stress. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 4, 74-93. doi:10.1177/0165025415618276 Rae_Mel
  6. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J, & Skinner, E. A. (2016). The development of coping and regulation: Implications for psychopathology and resilience. In D. Cicchetti (Ed.) Developmental psychopathology (3rd Ed., Vol. 4, pp. 485-544). New York: Wiley.
  7. Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Thomas, R., Hendrickson, K., Avdagic, E., Webb, H., & McGregor, L. (2013). Maternal emotional distress and children’s internalizing and externalizing in families at high risk of child abuse: Child gender moderates parenting sensitivity as a mediator, Infant and Child Development, 22, 480-500. doi: 10.1002/icd.1804 (IF = 1.2)
  8. Thomas, R., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2012). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: An evidence-based treatment for child abuse, Child Maltreatment, 17, 253-266. (IF = 2.7)
  9. Thomas, R., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2011). Accumulating evidence for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy in the prevention of child maltreatment. Child Development, 82, 177-192. (IF = 4.2)
  10. Scholes, M., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Thomas, R. (2011). Can caregiver depression keep a good parenting intervention down? The case of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. In H. D. Friedman & P. K. Revera (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Abnormal Psychology (chapter 5), New York: NOVA Science Publishers, Inc.
  11. Scholes, M., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Thomas, R. (2009). Can depression keep a good parenting program down? The case of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. In H. D. Friedman & P. K. Revera (Eds.), Recent Advances in Abnormal Psychology (chapter 4), New York: NOVA Science Publishers, Inc.
  12. Thomas, R., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2007). Behavioral outcomes of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and Triple P – Positive Parenting Program: A review and meta-analysis, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 475-495. IF=2.31.
  13. Anthonysamy, A., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2007). Peer status and the behaviors of maltreated children and their classmates in the early years of school, Child Abuse and Neglect, 31, 971-991.