Parents & Carers

Blue Sails Psychology has worked with hundreds of families over the years who are caring for traumatised children.

We understand the frustrations of trying to parent a child who refuses to be parented and wants to be in control; the isolation that can develop when friends and family don’t ‘get it’; and how hard it can be to hear, “mine do that too”, when you’re living with complex trauma.

All families are of course different, but there are common experiences which unite those parenting trauma, whether it is in young children, school age children, or teens. We offer a number of services that can help.

Our services are commissioned in several ways, but nearly always through a social worker. If you are an adoptive parent or special guardian, you should approach your own agency, or Adopt South West to discuss referral.

Currently adopters and special guardians are usually eligible to access funding for therapy and support through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) and your social worker will talk to you about this.

If you are a foster carer then your agency may have it’s own supports available and your social worker will know about this, or can contact us or another similar agency to enquire about additional help.

What we can offer


It can sometimes be helpful just to have time and space to think and talk about what’s going on at home. A psychological consultation offers a chance to bring your expertise about your child and talk about it with someone who can bring expertise about attachment, trauma and child development. Putting these together can help to make sense of your child’s behaviour.

More understanding can increase patience, empathy, and lead to new ideas about how to handle things. Consultations can be a one-off, or sometimes an ongoing package of regular meetings.

Therapeutic Parenting support and training

Traumatised children do not always respond to typical parenting approaches in the way we might hope. Even the best parent would be likely to find that their interventions didn’t work out like they thought they would.

A child’s feelings of ‘badness’ and shame can mean that even positive approaches like praise and rewards can trigger anger, physical outbursts, and escalation of behaviour. A child who never learned to trust adults in their earliest weeks and months of life, will find it hard to let you be safely in control and trust in your parenting.

Therapeutic Parenting aims to recognise the impact of early trauma and adapt parenting approaches accordingly, with a strong focus on PACE (Developed by Dan Hughes).

Blue Sails Psychology provides one to one sessions to develop Therapeutic Parenting skills (usually as part of a package of several sessions), as well as training for groups of Adopters (using Kim Golding’s ‘Nurturing Attachments’ programme). This training is provided through Adopt South West and if you’re interested, and live in the area, you should contact them.

The course changed the way I thought about my son and his behaviour. I practice PACE every single day, my son’s behaviour has changed, I’ve changed, without the course I really don’t think I could have coped nor could my son have.

A parent following a ‘Therapeutic Parenting’ course

I came into this with some reservations, but the course has changed my mindset and approaches.

We are starting to see some positive changes, which is fantastic. Thank you so much.

A parent following a ‘Therapeutic Parenting’ course

What is PACE?

PACE is a way of being which aims to build good relationships and to help a child begin to feel safe. PACE is not just a strategy, but is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that communicates openness, engagement and reliability.

PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy; all features of good relationships. With consistent PACE a child can learn, over time, to feel less shame and to begin to think and talk about their emotions and behaviour. They begin to allow the parent to help them regulate and can eventually learn to regulate themselves better through this process.

This approach is based on replication of many of the features of a good parent-infant relationship, which many traumatised children did not experience. You can find a good summary of what PACE is on the DDP Network PACE page.


At Blue Sails we offer a range of therapeutic interventions specific to attachment and early trauma. Currently most of our therapeutic work is based on the DDP model (Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy); again developed by Dan Hughes.

DDP is a therapy which builds on PACE and aims to support the building and strengthening of attachment relationships with parents. It also supports children to process their early traumatic experiences within the safety of the relationships with their parents.

Parents are key to change within DDP and you will spend a significant number of sessions developing Therapeutic Parenting skills as part of this therapy. You can find out more about this approach, and whether it may be suitable for your family on the DDP Network website.


Blue Sails Psychology can also offer specialist psychological assessments. These can be useful where a child’s behaviour is difficult to understand, or where those working with the family (such as school and others) would benefit from a deeper understanding of the child’s behaviour in the context of early trauma.

Assessments can also help clarify a child and family’s therapeutic needs and make specific recommendations about this. If you think assessment might be helpful to you, you should contact your social worker, or Adopt South West, for an initial conversation about this. They will help and guide you in thinking about your needs and in making referrals to Blue Sails or other appropriate agencies.

Sources of helpful information

DDP Network

A useful source of information for both parents and professionals about what DDP is, whether it might be helpful to you, and where you can find a qualified DDP professional.

Scottish Attachment in Action (SAIA)

An organisation committed to helping everyone to understand the importance of attachment, through training and sharing of information. A great source of resources.


An organisation committed to supporting traumatised children to be supported in recovery within their communities, particularly within schools. Another great source of resources, particularly relevant to education settings.

Adopt South West

If you are based in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth or Torbay, have adopted your children and are interested in support for your family then do make contact with ASW, from whom we receive most of our referrals.

Beacon House

A specialist therapeutic service and trauma team whose website is a great source of information. They have a wonderful resources page, particularly good for parents and teachers.

How to be referred

Please contact your Social Worker, who will enquire about commissioning our services. If you are an adoptive parent or special guardian, please approach your own agency, or Adopt South West to discuss referral.