Adoptive parents’ experiences of dyadic developmental psychotherapy


Understanding the experiences of parents receiving DDP with their children is important and has implications for practice and further research.

This is the first qualitative study of parents receiving DDP and this article outlines how parents experienced DDP as different to other approaches, how it felt effective, what the role of the parent and therapist felt like with pointers for further quantitative research and implications for clinical practice.


Dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP) is an attachment-focused therapy frequently used with adoptive and foster families. While the evidence base for DDP is building, national guidance has called for further trials and qualitative evidence. This study aimed to understand the experience of adoptive parents who have completed DDP therapy. Semi-structured interviews with 12 adoptive parents were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Four superordinate themes were identified: (1) increased understanding, (2) ‘It’s a different method of parenting generally’, (3) the DDP journey and (4) ‘It’s a shared kind of experience you go through and come out together’. Parents felt they had increased insight into their child’s mind and how to better support their child. They felt DDP was a good fit to their unique situations and it appeared to promote acceptance. The DDP journey started with parents feeling uncertainty and questioning the effectiveness of DDP. However, generally parents became committed to the therapy once they saw change and expressed fear and sadness at ending. Parents acknowledged the dyadic nature of DDP, feeling it helped build trust and security and supported co-regulation. Parents also acknowledged the therapist’s role in conveying the core DDP principles. Further implications for practice and research are highlighted.

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© SAGE, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Dr Ben Gurney-Smith is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and DDP practitioner who leads a therapy service for an adoption agency and works with a residential provision; both organisations have DDP as ‘their beating heart’. He has published research in the areas of mindfulness, DDP, parenting stress in adoption and has collaborated with Dr Jon Baylin in bringing brain based parenting into practice.

He is the Research Coordinator in the UK for the DDP Institute (DDPI) and has a professional and personal ambition to see DDP properly evaluated as a therapy. He is a collaborator on a grant funded application with Prof. Helen Minnis (University of Glasgow) for a randomised trial of DDP therapy and has produced guidance with Dr Sian Phillips on the measurement of change in DDP for the DDPI.

Megan Wingfield is a Clinical Psychologist working in a Community Mental Health Team in Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at the Oxford Institute of Clinical Psychology in 2017. She has enjoyed working with a focus on attachment-based interventions and also has a keen interest in neuropsychology/biology.


In: Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry

DOI: 10.1177/1359104518807737

Publisher: SAGE (Oct 2018)

Website: Adoptive parents’ experiences of dyadic developmental psychotherapy

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