On a Thursday in early August, psychologist Steven Kurtz is preparing one of his clients, Maria, for a therapy session. A calm, cheerful woman with long, dark hair, Maria has been in training at the Child Mind Institute in New York City with her six-year-old son, Ryan (not his real name), for months to ready him for this day. Her goal seems simple: to coax Ryan to obey a simple command. But Ryan does not take direction well.
Maria and Ryan are undertaking a brand of parent training called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) designed to correct oppositional behavior in children. Until now, Maria has let Ryan pick their activities. Today, for the first time, Maria will choose something to do.