Dr. Hughes and Dr. Becker-Weidman developed Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) as an attachment-centered treatment for foster children with trauma and attachments issues such as the reactive attachment disorder (RAD). As a family-driven treatment, dyadic therapy pays emphasis on relationships, attachment, and interactive responses.

Defining DDP

Relationships are pivotal in the holistic development and existence of every person from early childhood. Dr. Arthur, a key contributor in the development of DDP, noted that this psychotherapy was initially developed to assist emotionally traumatized children. DPP is founded on several reputed theories such as that of Daniel Stern and John Bowlby and the attachment theory. Its key objective being the facilitation of children’s development and maintenance of attachment-based interactions with their guardians.

One of the key pillars of dyadic therapy is parent-to-child relationship and how it interferes with the child’s subsequent social interactions.

The treatment is thus dual-dimensional with simultaneous learning sessions for both parents and children. Children are equipped with interpersonal and emotional relational skills while parents learn trauma-centered parenting. This approach providing a solid foundation for trust and security in the parent-to-child relationship.

What are the Fundamental Principles of DDP?

Dyadic therapy is structured around several fundamental doctrines and views as per below listing;

1. Dependency – emotional interactions of children and guardians fosters attachment as children safety both physically and psychologically. Such dependency will however be deemed healthy where it fosters safety, comfort, and a supportive environment. Ultimately, the children develop physically, emotionally, and cognitively.

2. Childhood Ordeals – these refer to ordeals experienced during childhood and interfere with the growth and development of the child. They may arise from abuse, neglect, or parental abandonment. Unfortunately, some childhood ordeals continue to affect the child and are evidenced by growth impairment and interpersonal conflicts.

3. Shared prejudices – the structural setup of relationships is such that both parties influence each other which may also be termed as inter-subjectivity due to shared occurrences.

4. Relational focus – dyadic therapy is a family-centered with laser focus on relational wellbeing.

Theories Contributing to DDP

There are several theoretical structures that form the basis of dyadic therapy such as shared biases otherwise termed as inter-subjectivity and the theory of attachment. Thus, the foundational blocks of DDP suggest that childhood traumatic experiences deter cognitive, physical, and emotional growth. This results in the children’s paradoxical interpretation of their interaction with their guardians who are a simultaneous representation of both safety and terror.

The child’s understanding and appreciation of their self-worth is thus distorted inhibiting their interpretation of the world around them.

Once such children are taken in by affectionate and attentive foster families, they tend to misinterpret the love and kindness they receive. Their responsiveness is usually inclined towards defiance and indifference, restricting their healing, and thriving in the new home. The key responsibility of dyadic therapists is to foster the development and sustenance of relationships. Parents acquire valuable insight on parenting traumatized children while children are furnished with adaptive skills for the new setup.

Relevance and Usefulness of DDP

The mandate of a dyadic therapist is to foster a thriving environment for parent-child relationship. The treatment is structured towards assisting keepers to be responsive and attentive to children. Its efficiency rides on the provision of a secure environment where the affected child has the liberty to reminisce on past and present events whether traumatic, distressful, or pushed aside.

As stated by Dr. Arthur, safety of DDP is dependent on the safeguarding of explored memories – events and emotions, through lack of judgement, sympathy, assurance, and unspoken attunement. A child attending therapy is bound provide a factual outline of personal experiences which allows them the opportunity to heal and develop stronger defense mechanisms.

Below are the benefits a significant number of families, particularly children, gain from the psychotherapy according to the DDP Network and similar readings;

  • Reduced controlled conduct
  • Strengthened interactions and bonding

  • Improved stress tolerance and emotional adaptation

  • Increased appreciation of emotional occurrences

  • Improved relational capabilities

  • Heightened feelings of protection and wellbeing with guardians

How DDP works

This method is designed around below techniques;

1. Assessment of parenting techniques and introduction of the PACE approach.

P – playful

A – accepting

C – curiosity

E – empathy

2. Practice and implementation of the lesson on the child having therapy and the investigation of parents’ dormant attachment reservations that a child’s response could trigger.

3. Monitoring of the guardian’s progress and inclusion of the child into subsequent sessions.

4. Therapist’s exemplification to parent of safe interactions with their child, ensuring the child is aware of their history, and emotional management.

5. Monitored theme discussions between the child and guardians to foster safe and secure interactions and the establishment of new perceptions.

6. Continuous monitoring of parents’ progress and readjustment where necessary. Sessions as concluded once the therapist is convinced of unmonitored self-mastery of the concepts and secure attachment of the child to their parent.

The Origin of DDP

In their line of work dealing with traumatized children and fostering families, Dr. Hughes and Dr. Arthur sought to develop a treatment method whose effects were more permanent. This quest saw them revisit the theory of attachment and found new insight on as to how when distressed, children with insecure attachment rarely sought their guardians. They then developed a customized parental approach to address such attachment concerns incorporating prior theoretical structures such as those of Bowlby and Stern. Their work laid the foundation for DDP gaining international acceptance as research institutions come up.

Limitations and Criticism of DDP

1. A key DDP limitation is its inclination towards adapting and fostering families yet there are a significant number or children with traumatized childhoods living with their abusive parents.

2. DDP is criticized for lacking the backing of random clinical tests to justify its efficiency. It, however, supports research methodologies that appreciate therapeutic interactions and their prediction of results. The DDPI is committed to the gathering of data for the promotion of its efficacy while other peer-reviews seek to affirm its effectiveness as an evidence-driven regime.

I hope this helps.

Warmly Tatjana