skip to main content

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

This form of CBT involves creating “playful, accepting, curious and empathic” environments, where therapists can focus on children’s subjective experiences. Through eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, voice and touch, therapists help the child regulate emotions and—together with the parent—construct an alternative autobiographical narrative. With a different understanding, the child can start to heal past trauma and find safety within current relationships.

    • DDP’s “dyad” refers to the child’s relationship with the parent or caregiver, who optimally is an active presence in treatment.
    • Treatment aims to improve the child-parent dyad by using an “affective-reflective (a-r) dialogue” or conversation and interactions (using puppets or drawing) about feelings and thoughts. 
    • With child and parent, the therapist explores aspects of the child’s life—safe and traumatic, past and present—toward building new awareness of the “dyad” relationship, with trust and respect on both sides. 


DDP begins with the therapist working with parents/caregivers, who have agreed to their role in the therapeutic process:

  • The therapist helps parents explore their own attachment histories and how their child might challenge them, while remaining empathetic to their child. 
  • Once parents are ready, the child joins sessions. The therapist feeds back what s/he is learning from the child, while helping the child recognize emotional changes and comfortably maintain these. 
  • The therapist helps the child talk to parents or tells parents what the child might like to tell them. Themes may emerge, such as the child saying, “Nobody loves me.” The therapist then leads the child to connect with this experience on a deeper emotional level. 
  • Treatment ends when:
    • The therapist and parent think the child is developing “attachment security” within the family.
    • Family members can continue the process at home, remaining emotionally available and connected without the therapist’s help.

Expected changes following treatment

As children heal from past trauma, they become more emotionally healthy. Following DDP treatment, the child may: 

    • Better understand emotional experiences
    • Feel safer and more secure with their parents
    • Regulate emotions more easily
    • Manage stress better
    • Reduce controlling behaviors
    • Find relationships easier

Learn more about CFI’s treatment options for PTSD and trauma-related concerns…



Stay in Touch