Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy is so named as is based on the premise that the development of children and youth is dependent upon and highly influenced by the nature of the parent-child relationship. Such a relationship, especially with regard to the child’s attachment security and emotional development, requires ongoing, dyadic (reciprocal) experiences between parent and child. The parent is attuned to the child’s subjective experience, makes sense of those experiences, and communicates them back to the child. This is done with playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy. These interactions are contingent, i.e., when the parent initiates an interaction, the child’s response determines the parent’s subsequent action based on the the feedback of the child’s subjective experience of the first action. In that way, the parent constantly fine-tunes his/her interactions to best fit the needs of the child. The primary context in which such dyadic interchanges occur is one of real and felt safety. Without such actual and perceived safety, the child’s neurological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral functioning is compromised.
When a child’s early attachment history consists of abuse, neglect, and/or multiple placements, s/he has failed to experience the dyadic interaction that are necessary for normal development and s/he often has a reduced readiness and ability to participate in such experiences. Many children, when placed in a foster or adoptive home that provides appropriate parenting, are able to learn, day by day, how to engage in and benefit from the he dyadic experiences provided by the new parent. Other children, have been much more traumatized and compromised in those aspects of their development that require these dyadic experiences, have much greater difficulty responding to their new parents. For these children, specialized parenting and treatment is often required.
Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman is a leading practitioner of DDP.