Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) aims to support the development of the attachment relationship with the parents or caretaker with their child(ren). It is a therapy that supports the growth of deeper emotional connections and trust in key close relationships. This therapy is mostly used for children who have been adopted, in foster care or in kinship care, but can be used for birth families where attachment difficulties have developed.

In sessions, your therapist will want to get to know you and about your family, find out about your child from you, before meeting with your child or other family members. This will normally mean meeting several times at least, depending on your family situation, which will be discussed in depth.  Sometimes your therapist may want to talk to other important people who know your family such as a social worker, to gather additional information or request reports which will be done with your consent. The purpose of the first meetings will also be focused on preparing you for the work with children, so you can be fully actively involved.

One of the key ideas with this way of working is understanding the effects of ‘Developmental Trauma’ – Bessel van der Kolk, which is trauma in your child’s life that has affected their sense of safety or trust in key relationships. The impact affects their developmental progress and can be contextualized in the therapy.  Your therapist may also talk with you about any of your own life experiences that might be relevant. This is because parenting a child can bring up forgotten feelings or memories from your own past, often in unexpected ways.

In sessions, you and your therapist work together to help your child feel as emotionally safe as is possible. For children who find it hard to trust adults, this is important to help with building relationships, making sense of what has happened in the week and thinking about how your child coped with and adapted to his or her past experiences.

Your therapist will explore with your child events of your child’s life – both past and present – in a way that is intended to help your child remain open and engaged in the conversation, rather than become defensive.

Your therapist may ask you to try other ways of wondering about things during meetings. These might include:

  • Paying games
  • Therapeutic stories
  • Nurturing activities – i.e. Theraplay games
  • Music and movement – i.e. expressive tools / relaxation tools
  • Drawing and arts expressive tools
  • Psycho-education – making sense of their feelings / normalizing experience
  • Using creative activities, such as puppets, play-doh or sand-tray work
  • Using toys or puppets
  • Drama
  • Feeling cards to think about feelings

When activities like these are included, the aims are the same. Your therapist will be trying to help you and your child to add words to their experiences.