Dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP)

Dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP)

DDP was first developed in America by Dan Hughes. It is an attachment-focused therapy aimed at helping children and young people who have experienced problems in their early lives including developmental trauma, abuse, neglect and inconsistent parenting.

The guiding principles are playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy (PACE).

It consists of two main components:

1. Work with the parents/carers:

The therapist helps the carers to build on their natural parenting style in a way that takes into account the attachment needs of the child. During the course of the work the parent/carer will have an opportunity to learn different ways of understanding the problems presented by the child, new strategies that they may use with the child and an increased awareness of their own attachment histories and how these may impact on the child.

2. Work with the parent/carer and the child:

The goal of the work is for the child, through the therapist, to communicate their experiences, to feel safe, connected and understood. When a child feels understood at a deep level they are far more able to change behaviours that have brought them to attention to seek help.

Goals for work with the parent/carer:

  • To maintain a positive family atmosphere with opportunities for the child to experience attunement (feeling connected and understood).

  • To provide emotional support when the child is stressed, building their ability to regulate their emotions.

  • To help the child develop emotional communication, building their ability to reflect upon themselves and others.

  • To provide discipline with empathy.

  • To provide quick responses to behaviour followed by relationship repair.

How will the work with the carer and child happen?

The therapist is a communication bridge between the child and the carer/parent. By paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal communication, they help the child to feel understood and accepted and help the adult feel acknowledged and also understood - carers so often feel anxious at being blamed as ‘bad parents’. They are encouraged not to reason or problem-solve with the child at this stage but to listen and validate.

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