Dyadic therapy is when parent and infant or young child are treated together. It is designed to address a variety of factors, such as the parent’s health and needs, the baby’s health and needs, as well as their relationship and overall family system. This all takes place within an understanding of their culture.

A skilled dyadic therapist will be able to help a parent and young child get back into sync while improving their relationship. During sessions, the therapist will first observe how the parent perceives their child, as well as how they understand and respond to the behavior of the child. They will listen as the parent explains their child’s behavior with an open mind and in a safe environment.

How Can Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Help Families?

DDP helps children who have been hurt or neglected within their families during their early years. Children who have been traumatized by these experiences don’t feel safe and secure within their families, sometimes referred to as developmental trauma, according to the DDP Network.

Sometimes the way children are parented in the present reminds them of how they were parented in the past. They may no longer be subjected to neglect, but they may think they will be in the future. As a result, these young kids struggle with normal, healthy parenting, developing way to manage this fear.

In turn, parents find it difficult to properly manage the child’s behavior and even connect emotionally to them. Resulting difficulties can include:

  • Attachment difficulties: Children don’t feel safe or secure in the presence of their parents.
  • Intersubjectivity difficulties: Children can’t properly give and take in their relationships.

Dynamic Developmental Psychotherapy emphasizes non-verbal processes rather than verbal content to address past trauma in a safe environment. Relying on strong eye contact, tone of voice, movement, and touch, DDP can help children who have been through severe trauma create stronger barriers to deal with that mistreatment. This can be very beneficial especially since these children may have a difficult time talking about said turmoil.

As you can imagine, this form of therapy relies heavily on the use of empathy to help instill a secondary mental interpretation of past traumatic events, says Theravive. Forming a more autobiographical narrative helps the child relate to others, particularly parents, while forming relationships based on trust.

The main goals of this approach are to identify and explore behavior. Therapists often use the child’s natural curiosity to find meaning and accept the behavior. Once the child’s behavior has been normalized, the breakthrough will be shared with the caregiver. This is actually an ongoing experience between parent and child that can take place over many months. The end goal is to   find new representations to help the child reinterpret past trauma, with the help of the parent or other caregiver.

Realizing the Potential of the Parent/Child Relationship

Both the therapist and parent can observe the young child together, with the therapist then reinforcing perceptions that are attuned to the child. Sometimes the therapist notes that the parent’s perceptions appear distorted, and can therefore create a safe space for the parent to time some time and reflect.

The therapist can explore alternative interpretations to the parent about their child’s behavior, providing a natural corrective experience that it helpful yet not judgmental.

A parent’s perceptions may be distorted due to their own needs being neglected when they were a child. In that case, the dyadic therapist helps them identify current feelings from past relationships to shift the narrative and form positive ideas instead – not only about themselves but their relationship with their child as well.

At its core, dyadic therapy helps parents come to terms with their own psychological and practical needs so they can then become more in sync with their children. Hopefully, this can lead to a lifetime of successful, happy relationships as a family. The first step to attaining emotional regulation and secure attachment begins with a high-quality parent/child relationship – particularly in the first two years of brain development.

There’s little doubt that dyadic therapy can change the lives of so many within the familial unit. However, it’s important to note that dyadic therapy doesn’t just benefit kids who have been through trauma or crisis. It can also be initiated by parents who simply want to better their relationship with their child.

Make an Appointment With Growing Together Preventive & Psychological Services

Located in Danville, CA, Growing Together Preventive & Psychological Services specializes in dyadic therapy. Our engaged, experienced parent/child therapists can help you understand the verbal and non-verbal communication in your relationship and equip you with more effective ways to meet each other’s relational needs.