On DIR and ‘Developmental-Behavioral’ Approaches to Intervention

It’s true: the central research in the field that is moving toward our work is not enamored enough of nor impressed enough by DIR to mention us. Perhaps a lot of that is because these researchers were ‘raised’ as behaviorists, not in developmental program much less psychoanalytic one, and perhaps some has to do with difficulty getting published if one mentions DIR (much as mentioning psychoanalytic work can preclude publication in many if not most psychology journals).

‘Developmental-behavioral’ is the term for blended approaches such as the ones we are working on at UCSD where, over about a decade now, people like marilee and I have been gradually moving the direction toward more understanding of developmental work. It is not easy – we are trying to change culture, and we do need more direct DIR based research to help us.

One of our tools is to press to have reflective process embedded into the approach, and we have gotten that. Getting this, however, means we are still at the beginning, in an expansion of an initial pilot program, and as all of know, reflective work takes time to develop, particularly in with people who, when they got into the work of helping children and families, did not anticipate nor desire such an approach.

We do not have enough people practicing DIR, and often families aren’t aware of it. We have a core of devoted practitioners, and an excellent but small body of direct research, and we continue to educate colleagues, and we MUST work for legislation to make practice of DIR possible.

Where is the good news? People come to DIR often when they are stuck or when they sense that the approach they are receiving is not what they want. We need to take and hold and help these families and continue to build our community.

Ideally people in the field, curricula, etc. would regularly approach work form what we understand to be a truly developmental perspective. I would argue that the fields of maternal-child care, early childhood education, infant mental mental health, and trauma care are, more and more, aligned with our work, pressing for reflective process, responsive caregiving, and if not so well defined as Floortime is, very much aware of and wanting to work with internal emotional processes and their power to help pull together communication, relationships, and developmental processes.

The trauma field, for instance, has a had a hard time here in California, limited to a few select type of treatment in state run programs. However pretty much every conference and publication is including and embracing care that reaches well beyond the behavioral manuals. There is still resistance at every step in that field too: clinicians who haven’t been trained in this way do not want to hear of nor risk asking clients about Adverse Childhood Experiences.

So our approach to provide better care needs to include training programs, research, and advocacy. Most of all, we need to keep working together, supporting each other, and problem solving….

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