Dyadic Developmental Psychology Workshop

February 03, 2012 9:47 AM | Anonymous

A Dan Hughes attachment and intersubjective model for working with foster, adoptive children and families

Presented by Mervin Maier, MFT

Whether an intern or therapist, you have all been presented at sometime or another with a child or teen that has been exposed to intrafamilial abuse, neglect, inadequate or unpredictable parenting, separation or loss of a primary caregiver. Many of these young people exhibit oppositional-defiant behaviors, have difficulty trusting adults, have problems controlling their emotions, and frequently try to control people and events in their lives. Most children that demonstrate this profile will not meet the criteria for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). They demonstrate what Dan Hughes, PhD and founder of Dyadic Developmental Psychology (DDP) calls an "attachment disturbance". Whether RAD or not at the core of these children's sense of self is shame. Their belief is that they are "bad" and "unlovable".

Probably most of you, like me, were trained to work with these young people by providing individual therapy. Play therapy with a child and talk therapy with a teen, with the occasional family or parenting session thrown in just for good measure. Utilizing this approach I struggled with children who cleverly controlled our therapy sessions. The impetus for them to do so was perfectly understandable. They were trying to avoid any contact with their personal histories that would get them in touch with their pain and suffering, lack of self worth, and of course shame. I felt frustrated, ineffective and believed that I rarely made a lasting connection with them. Unfortunately for those young people I hadn't yet happened upon a model that would help to provide them with a "safe harbor" to explore themselves.

DDP is a model of treatment that is consistent with the theories of attachment and intersubjectivity which creates a safe setting to explore, resolve, and integrate a wide range of memories and emotions. Through non-verbal and verbal attunement, reflective nonjudgmental dialogue, empathy, and plenty of reassurance the child/young person can join with the therapist and caretakers (that are in session) to co-regulate affect, as well as co-construct meaning to their lives. Through this work the child's level of trust grows, their level of attachment with their caregivers expands; their shame diminishes as do their behavioral problems. Parents/caregivers feel more connected and effective.

Mervin Maier, MA, MFT has been training with Dan Hughes since 2004 and is a "Certified Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy ® Therapist". In his practice Mervin serves children, teens, adults, and couples. He is currently working on certification in EFT for couples. In addition to attachment issues Mervin has specific expertise in trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning difficulties, anger management and spectrum disorders. Contact Mervin at mmaiermft@att.net.


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