Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

What is Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)?

DDP is a therapeutic approach aimed at helping children and adolescents who are experiencing emotional, behavioural or interpersonal difficulties linked with a history of broken, traumatic or otherwise difficult family relationships. The approach was developed by American Psychologist Daniel Hughes.

DDP is grounded in Attachment Theory. A secure attachment with at least one primary caregiver (e.g. parent) is known to be essential for a child's normal psychological development. Separation from familiar caregivers, and/or trauma during early life, may lead to attachment insecurity which can severely impact on emotional, intellectual, social and physical development. This is sometimes known as Developmental Trauma, or Attachment Disorder/difficulties.

DDP can be an effective therapeutic approach for Developmental Trauma, where exposure to repeated traumatic events (abuse, neglect) may have severely affected childhood development and secure attachment bonds. It is aimed at repairing attachment trauma and strengthening attachment relationships.

How does DDP Work?

In DDP, the relationship with the caregiver/s (e.g. parent/s) is seen as key to therapeutic change and, where possible includes the presence of a primary caregiver in therapy. The therapist usually works with the caregiver/s first, before asking the child to join therapy, in order that the caregiver/s are fully prepared in using PLACE (see below) and to ensure they have had the chance to explore their caregiving experiences first.

In therapy, the therapist and the caregiver/s (e.g. parent/s) help the child make sense of their present and past experiences ("co-construction"), whilst staying emotionally regulated ("co-regulation"). They do this through use of: Playfulness, Love, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy (PLACE). Dialogues in therapy are "affective-reflective". This means that conversation explores feeling as well as thinking.   Whilst a child's behaviour may change as a result of the therapy, DDP sessions are not focused on trying to change behaviour e.g. through discipline. Instead, they are focused on helping the child connect with their experiences on an emotionally deep level. The therapist will use different techniques to assist exploration of the child's inner world, including: talking to the child, talking about the child (to caregiver/s in front of the child) and talking for the child (to caregiver/s). The therapist will chose the topic of conversation based on what the child 'brings' to the session.

Sometimes DDP may be used in conjunction with other therapeutic techniques including: Theraplay, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), Psychodynamic Therapy, Schema Therapy and different creative therapies.

How can DDP help?

Through the caregiver/s' and therapist's intersubjectivity, the child gains a different understanding of his/her experiences which helps heal the trauma of the past and enables the child to cope better with emotional events in the future. The use of PLACE gives the child positive relationship experiences and facilitates healthy ways of interacting within the family, thereby increasing attachment security.

Is this the Right Approach for my Circumstances?

Assessment will be required to discuss the most appropriate therapeutic approach for each individual. Please contact us for further information.


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