Dan Hughes, a Clinical Psychologist, created Dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP) as a treatment for families with adopted or fostered childrenwho had experienced neglect and abuse in their birth families and suffered fromsignificant developmental trauma.
DDP is a therapeutic model which combines Psychotherapy & Parenting, focusingon the importance of the quality within the relationship between child/youngp erson & carer/parent with emphasis on safety and connection. There is so much to unpack in this model but below are some key topics to give a little flavour of what it’s all about!
The DDP model unpicks the difficulties children and young people present with because of developmental trauma. Developmentally traumatized children learn to survive and navigate their everyday life without safety, security or healthy connections. This is often done without the stability of a responsible adult due to growing up an environment which includes physical or sexual abuse, emotional harm or neglect. As a result, these children present with behaviours rooted in fear, shame, developmental delay and pain which relays in unhealthy ways such as self- harming, self-sabotaging, emotional outbursts, withdrawal/isolating, etc.
As dyadic means between 2 people, intersubjectivity is a key term in DDP based on reciprocity dynamics: “I impact you and you impact me”. With this in mind, the DDP model centres a great deal of its strategies and teachings around a concept called
PACE– Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. The DDP approach believes that this combination of affection, enables healing and creates psychological safety.
PLAYFUL – being playful creates an open and approachable atmosphere.
ACCEPTANCE – acknowledges and validates the child/young person’s internal experience and sense of self.
CURIOSITY – in the stance of wondering WHY? Or WHAT is driving the behaviours/feelings of the child, leads to a path of understanding. Dialogue and thought opens up to think more and find solutions than to react to the situation. Using phrases like “I’ve noticed that…” Or “I wonder why you…”
EMPATHY – creates capacity to imagine what the child/young person is feeling and is shared, letting the other know they are being understood and are not alone in their feelings. This can be demonstrated through letting them know how their story/behaviour/ feeling that they’ve shared has impacted you eg. “I can see how hurt you feel and hearing about this painful experience, makes me feel so sad to know you have gone through this. It must have been so difficult for you”.
Another little nugget that the DDP model highlights, is a concept of “Blocked Care”, addressing when it becomes challenging to continue giving care to a child/young person because of the lack of response that their giving when support/care/help is provided for them. The model acknowledges that this feeling of “wanting to give up” is a normal response but highlights that the child’s/young person’s lack of response to care given, comes from a place of the distorted ways in which they’ve learnt to relate, with the unconscious intention of controlling the others’ emotions via evoking/projecting feelings of anger, inadequacy or hopelessness. When Blocked Care is acknowledged as a normal response to the child/young person’s behaviour rather than a state of being or a sign to throw in the towel, it becomes a lot easier to address and recover from!
In short, the DDP model is very experiential and worth exploring when it comes to working through the trust process that takes place when building the relationship between a carer/parent and child/young person.
Here at Ascent Fostering, we train all our staff and carers in the DDP model. The PACE concept has become second nature to our foster carers who have been able to engage with their young people in a positive and constructive way.
Find out more about DDP
If you live in South London and want to learn more about Fostering, we’d love to hear from you. Either click on the link and we’ll call you back or call us on 0203 757 0070.