Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

Are you longing to connect with your teenager? Do you feel like your child’s problem behaviors are negatively impacting your relationship? Parenting can be especially difficult when a child or teen is going through a tough season. DDP incorporates strategies that keep the parent-child relationship at the forefront of therapy.

What is DDP?

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) is an attachment-based therapy. DDP is largely based on relationship and connection rather than problem-solving. Key relationships are developed between the client and therapist. The parent-child relationship is then highlighted as the therapist provides co-regulation and exploration of feelings throughout therapy. The heart of DDP is the PACE model which
integrates playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy. In many therapies problematic behavior is the focus; within DDP parents are assisted in understanding the impact of their previous life experiences and how they impact the current parent-child relationship. The child benefits from DDP Therapy by experiencing increased safety and security with his or her parent. DDP can be utilized as a framework and often combines well with other interventions. Therefore, DDP is an excellent stand-alone therapy or can be utilized to enhance other therapies and parenting support.  This information was adapted from training materials provided by Dan Hughes and Courtney Rennicke,Ph.D.


Additional information:

The therapist helps the child’s relationship with their parents.  They do this by talking with the child using an affective-reflective (a-r) dialogue. This is a conversation that involves feeling as well as thinking. The therapist explores all aspects of the child’s life; safe and traumatic; present and past. In this way the child experiences healing of past trauma and achieves safety within current relationships. The conversations and interactions (verbal and non-verbal) within the therapy room are all based on PACE. This means that the therapist will be playful, accepting, curious, and empathic.   They will talk in a way that is like telling a story rather than giving a lecture. 

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy therefore involves the child and parents working together with the therapist. The child gains relationship experience which helps her to grow and heal emotionally. Family members develop healthy patterns of relating and communicating. This in turn leads to less feelings of fear, shame, or need to control within the family. Family members become open to each other’s inner life as well as their outward behavior. The child is helped to respond to current experiences and memories of past experiences flexibly instead of through rigid and repetitive responses.

Who Does DDP Help?

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) can help children who have been hurt and/or neglected within their families in their early years, but also can be helpful within any family that has attachment or relational problems. Children can be traumatized by these experiences and find it difficult to feel safe and secure within their new family structure. This is sometimes called developmental trauma. It is not unusual that the experience of being parented in the present reminds children of the way they were parented in the past. Even though they are no longer being hurt or neglected the children feel as though they are or think that they might in the future. This means that children struggle with normal, healthy parenting. 

Written by Step by Step Counseling therapists and adapted from DDP network (2019) https://ddpnetwork.org/about-ddp/dyadic-developmental-psychotherapy/