Introduction: Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based parent management training program for the treatment of childhood disruptive behaviour disorders (DBDs). In Australia, however, due to a lack of services in regional, rural and remote areas, the program is not accessible to all families who might benefit. Preliminary evidence demonstrates that telehealth technologies can be leveraged to deliver PCIT via internet (I-PCIT) to urban families. It is not known, however, to what extent I-PCIT is acceptable and effective for regional and remote families, who are traditionally underserved and face a range of stressors unique to living outside major cities. The current study represents the first qualitative investigation into the experience of I-PCIT for rural or regional Australian families.
Method: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 parents who were living in regional, rural and remote areas of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, and who were referred to an I-PCIT program for treatment of DBD in a child aged 2-4 years.
Results: Thematic analysis yielded two pre-treatment themes, ‘Motivation for seeking treatment’ and ‘Barriers to previous service access’. Three overarching themes were identified in post-treatment interviews, namely ‘Positive Outcomes’; ‘Valuable Program Components and Challenges’; and ‘Acceptability of Internet-Delivery’.
Discussion: Results demonstrate that consumers from regional, rural and remote NSW view I-PCIT as an acceptable and effective treatment of childhood DBD, bolstering preliminary evidence about the utility of internet technologies to deliver the high-quality results of PCIT. While internet connection issues were a hindrance to treatment for some participants, all parents reported meaningful positive outcomes for both child and parents. The study highlights that I-PCIT effectively expands the reach of mental health services to Australian communities that previously could not access clinic-based parenting services.