Adoption is a mix of both gains and losses. Some adoptees feel the loss acutely, while others do not. Some adoptees also carry the scars and hurt from pre-adoption abuse and neglect. Some struggle to attach to their new parents, and some parents struggle to attach to their new children.
Help is available. Therapists trained in adoption issues can work with children and with families to help smooth out the bumps that sometimes accompany adoption.
How to Find an Adoption Therapist
Finding a counselor that is competent and trained to handle adoption-related mental health issues is a challenge. Here are some suggestions:
- Center for Adoption Support and Education – CASE offers a Training for Adoption Competency for therapists, which focuses on 18 areas of knowledge, values, and skills that are critical to adoption-competent mental health services. They provide a directory for therapists that have been trained in their TAC program.
- The Karyn Purvis Institute for Child Development – They are well-known for their Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) model of parenting and attachment-building with adopted and foster kids. Their TBRI Practitioner list is updated frequently and searchable by region.
- Adoptee-Therapist Directory – a list by beyond words psychological services, LLC, of licensed U.S. mental health professionals who identify as adoptees & work with adoptees/adoptive families in a variety of public & private settings.
- The Child Welfare Information Gateway – This site, run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, offers a wide variety of resources for adoption, foster care, and other child welfare issues. You can search for resources in your area. They also offer this guide to finding and working with an adoption therapist. It includes information on different types of therapy and additional tips for choosing a therapist.
- Adopt US Kids – The national organization is known for increasing awareness of the needs of children and teens in foster care, including the need for permanence. To that end, they have a page of supports for adoptive parents, including information on mental health resources.
- The ARC Framework – ARC is a collaborative initiative funded in part by National Child Traumatic Stress Network. **Please note that ARC’s Find a Provider search tool is not currently working. We will update when the tool is restored.
- Contact the local child welfare agency in your county and ask who they recommend. These governmental agencies go by different names in different states (Department of Social Services, Department for Children and Families, etc.)
You can seek also “word of mouth” recommendations that come from sources you can trust. Some of those sources might be:
- Fellow adoptive and foster parents
- Adoption agency, home study agency, or social worker
- Family doctor or pediatrician
- Children’s hospital
- Adoption clinic
- School counselor or guidance team
You might find that conversations with these sources will lead you to other suggestions, and you should be able to compile a sizeable list for your starting point.
How To Find an A Therapist For a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused
If you are looking for an adoption therapist that specializes in working with kids who have been sexually abused, Dr. Jennifer offered the following additional considerations in a Creating a Family radio show on Helping Children Heal from Sexual Abuse:
- Look for a therapist who is both adoption-competent and trained and experienced in working with young, pre- and school-aged children. Educational experience in child development will be very helpful.
- Consider searching for an RPT – An RPT is a Registered Play Therapist. RPT’s are mental health professionals who have completed extensive additional training and supervision in play therapy (Keep in mind, depending upon the age of the child, play therapy might be more helpful than traditional talk therapy.)
- Ask the potential therapist if he or she has both childhood trauma AND sexual abuse training and experience and with what ages.
- Ask the therapist if he or she collaborates with other medical, mental health, and school professionals if need be and share some examples of how that works.
- Sound out the therapist to see if he or she is family-focused? Does he or she understand and treat the impacts of this abuse on the family unit? Is he or she willing to help you become educated allies to your child(ren)?
Interviewing an Adoption Therapist to Find the Right Fit
Finally, these resources can help you craft a thorough interview to find the right fit for you and your adopted child.
- A Guide to Selecting An Adoption Or Foster Therapist (guided questions to ask when looking for a therapist, written by a therapist)
- Finding an Adoption-Competent Therapist (1 hr. radio show with a guest expert)
- 10 Reasons for Parents to be in Child’s Therapy Session (tip sheet for parents from a therapist’s perspective)
Creating a Family has many additional resources on finding an adoption therapist. A few we think you will find particularly helpful are:
- Therapists: Parents Should Be With Their Kids for Adoptive or Foster Therapy Sessions (guest article)
- How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Adopted/Foster Kids (article)
- Tips for Finding an Adoption-Competent Therapist (article)
- Helping Children Heal from Sexual Abuse (1 hr. podcast w/ guest expert)
- Talking About Adoption at Different Ages and Developmental Stages (1 hr. podcast w/ guest expert)
- Parenting Abused and Neglected Kids (1 hr. podcast w/ guest expert)
- Transitioning Home: The First Months Post Adoption (1 hr. podcast w/ guest experts)
Many more Creating a Family interviews with experts, blogs, and fact sheets on adoption therapy can be found at the icons below
Image credit: Matas Petrikas