Dyadic developmental psychotherapy was developed by Daniel Hughes. This form of therapy is an evidence-based, effective, and empirically validated treatment for children with complex trauma, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), and other disorders of attachment. It is an approach that is primarily family-focused. The various elements of dyadic developmental psychotherapy, such as a focus on relationships, attunement, intersubjectivity, and sensitive responsiveness are all well researched elements of effective treatments.
Traumatized Children and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
This form of psychotherapy was originally developed as a method of intervention for children who were experiencing emotional trauma as a result of severed caregiver, parental, or family bonds and relationships. Psychologist Daniel Hughes’ technique is formulated from various theories including attachment theory and the work of John Bowlby and Stern. Dyadic developmental psychotherapy embodies the approach of recognizing the communication of needs in infants as well as the process by which an infant and caregiver engage in mismatched communication.
What is Dyadic Developmental Therapy Like?
Dyadic developmental therapy is most effective when the therapist can provide a fully nurturing environment in which the child develops the freedom to engage in playful and curious actions, while feeling an accepting and empathic relationship with the therapist. The therapist is trained to identify and assess the child’s experiences, however subjective they may appear, and provide feedback and validation back to the child through various physical and emotional cues. Therapists who work with children in dyadic developmental therapy often use visual contact, subtle gestures or movements, intonation, facial expressions and touch to engage the child and affirm their experience. In addition, a therapist may also provide a narrative delivered in subjective autobiographical format to create co-constructs. Although the therapist works with the child through the use of these techniques and other varying methods, including cognitive behavioral exercises, the ultimate dyad that must be achieved is that of the parent-child dyad. If the parent or caregiver is able to, and if the child is able to participate in his own therapy with the parent present, that is the preferred method of treatment when possible.