About CPP

©2013 Lynn Johnson. Photo shared with permissions from Child First.

What is CPP?

Therapy for young children from birth through age five and their parents/caregivers

  • Supports family strengths and relationships
  • Helps families heal and grow after stressful experiences
  • Respects family and cultural values

Why is it important for

parents/caregivers to be involved in treatment? 

Caregivers are the most important people in their children's lives

  • Parents/caregivers know their children best and are central to their development
  • Stressful experiences affect the parent-child relationship
  • Young children rely on their parents/caregivers to feel safe

When difficult things happen, young children need parents and caregivers to help them . . . 

  • Make sense of what their family went through
  • Know what they can expect in the future
  • Learn to cope with challenging negative emotions

CPP may help when . . . 

  • Children have been through scary or painful events such as
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Separation
  • Serious medical procedures
  • Abuse or violence at home or in the community
  • Children show difficult behavior
  • Children have a change in placement or caregivers
  • Family members have physical health or mental health difficulties
  • Caregivers would like help with parenting and improving parent-child relationships

To understand ways children may show us they need help

What happens during CPP?

We work together through three stages

Stage 1: Getting to know the family

  • We spend time meeting alone with parents/caregivers to understand the family's
  • Need and challenges
  • Strengths and values
  • History and experiences
  • We may use questionnaires to make sure we don't miss anything
  • If needed, we connect families to resources and services
  • We make a plan for how CPP will help your family

Stage 2: Addressing the family's needs 

  • We usually meet once a week with the parent/caregiver and the child
  • If old enough, we first help children understand
  • Who we are
  • Why we are meeting
  • What we will do together
  • We often use toys because young children show feelings and thoughts through play
  • We may meet alone as adults

We help parents and children to 

  • Understand each other
  • Talk and play about difficult experiences
  • Respond to difficult feelings and behaviors
  • Create a family story that leads to healing

When children are very little, we help parents/caregivers understand

  • How what they've been through may affect their development and their relationships
  • Ways to help them feel safe
  • Ways to strengthen caregiver-child relationships as a way to help the child heal

Stage 3: Wrapping up and planning for the future

  • We celebrate changes families have made
  • We talk about how parents/caregivers made changes happen
  • We consider how endings and goodbyes may bring up different feelings
  • We talk about what will be needed in the future

How do we know if CPP helps . . .

From Parents and Other Caregivers

"You are the only one that explained how trauma is affecting my daughter, and I'm so grateful."

Adoptive Mother to her CPP Therapist

". . . he knows now that he can talk to me, he can come to me, [and] he can trust me . . . And he really truly believes that; in the beginning, he didn't. Big difference to the little boy who was afraid."

Anonymous Caregiver

"In time we started to see . . . it's ok we can trust people, to be honest in therapy, to talk about the bad things that happen to feel . . . our sparkle inside that we thought we lost; with help we are finding out just how bright our sparkle really is."

Anonymous Mother

"My 6 yr old grand-daughter is a survivor of child abuse, battered child syndrome. Thanks to our Child-Parent Psychotherapy sessions, I am able to recognize when she is having a "moment", as we call them now, and help her work through her feelings and bring her back to a state of calm. I have become more confident in my own abilities of being able to actually help her healing process. There are not enough ways to express how thankful we are for our Dr. Mark."


CPP Studies

There have been a number of studies, including five randomized control trials, that have looked at whether CPP is helpful to families. Together these studies show that CPP results in improvements in children's and parent's functioning and in the parent-child relationship. For more information, please visit our CPP Research page.

CPP has been included in the following registries of effective programs and practices: