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What is DDP?

Our Psychotherapist and DDP informed practitioner, Sam Setchell, shares with us a brief overview of DDP, why it’s useful to support adoptive parents and foster carers and what the approach looks like.

What is DDP?

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy

Dr. Daniel A. Hughes, a Clinical Psychologist founded and developed Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), an attachment-focused therapy for the treatment of children who demonstrate ongoing problems related to attachment and trauma.

Typically an approach taken to support adoptive parents and foster carers a brief overview of the model can be found below

Key to the DDP process and framework are:

The intersubjective relationship, attitude of PACE and using an Affective-Reflective (A-R) dialogue. Establishing feelings of safety and security, co-constructing meaning, feeling safe and connected, increases attachment security and will help develop coherent narratives.

When would it be beneficial to take a DDP approach?

A DDP approach is typically taken to support adoptive parents and foster carers and to address difficulties in attachment (the child finds it hard to feel safe and secure with their parent/carer) and/or intersubjectivity (the child finds it hard to give and take in a relationship).

The child may struggle with normal, healthy parenting and may be afraid of ‘parents’ and develop a range of ways to manage those high levels of fear.

DDP can help children who have been hurt and/or neglected during their early years with their family and find it difficult to feel secure and safe in their new family.

Similarly, parents/carers may find it hard to manage difficult behaviours and struggle to connect emotionally with their child.

How does DDP as a therapy work?

Work with parents and carers aims to develop understanding of the child, it provides opportunity to learn different ways of understanding the difficulties that are being experienced by the child and the family/foster family as a whole. It also provides the space for the adults to explore their own attachment, histories and experiences and how these may be impacting dynamics. Increasing opportunities for the child to experience attunement (feeling connected and understood), is an important part of the process.

When appropriate, work with the parent/carer and child can happen together – the therapist is the communication bridge between the child and the carer/parent. The aim is to help the child feel understood and accepted and help the adult feel acknowledged and also understood - carers so often feel anxious at being blamed as ‘bad’ when things are tricky. The goal of the work is for the child, through the therapist, and relational experience with their carers/parents become more able to communicate their experiences, feel safe, connected and understood. This can help the child increase their regulation and emotional communication skills.

Ultimately the person or people caring for a child can have a big impact in the child’s therapeutic experience – using the principles of DDP can strengthen these important relationships and ultimately help the child to increase their feelings of safety, reduce distress, and buffer the impact of trauma.

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