Throughout my career, I have worked with several adult adoptees, children that have been adopted, expectant mothers, birth mothers, and parents of adopted children. I adopted my son as a single woman and count several adoptees and adoptive parents among my friends, mentors, and clients. While not all concerns relate back to adoption, it is important to work with someone who understands the impact that adoption can have on an individual and a family. It is especially important for children to work with a therapist that will work with the entire family and not allow him or herself to become an attachment figure for the child.
Whether your concerns are directly related to adoption or not, a professional that fully understands all that is involved with adoption and the emotional triggers that can impact an individual even years later will best serve those in the adoption community. Most counselors and social workers are never provided specific adoption training and many families find that a therapist who is not trained in adoption competency can do more harm than good. To this end, I was honored to be asked to be a contributing author in Adoption Therapy, Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues.
Counseling for Adoptees
Adoption is such a life-altering event and experience that it can impact so many different life areas. The impact continues throughout life with repeated echos and adoption cannot be understood as a one-time event. At times, it can take an experienced adoption therapist to help connect other areas of life where you may be stuck or frustrated back to adoption. I love working with adult adoptees on a variety of issues from career to relationships to emotional regulation to birth parent search and reunion. Developmental trauma and early "hard places" is often an important factor in understanding adoptees - whether adults or children. Encouraging adoptees through their emotional journey, equipping them with resources and information, and empowering them to be who they need to be is some of my favorite work.
Counseling for Adoptive Families and Adoptive Parents
Counseling for adoptive parents may be centered on child and family issues or may be centered on parental issues. I believe, as Dr. Wayne Duehn has said, that "parents are the true healers of children." I love working with adoptive parents, encouraging them through the difficult parts of parents, equipping them with resources, information, and training, and empowering them to become the "primary therapist" for their children. Parents create the environment for their children and have a much greater impact than any therapist ever could. To be the best parent that you can be, you may need to work through the stress of parenting or process your own hurts and fears. Adoptive parents often appreciate that my experience has allowed me to travel to their child's country of origin and/or orphanage or other similar places. Being in those places with children in need of families gives me a unique perspective on current struggles the adoptive families may be facing.
I approach each family situation individually. I want to meet with the parents first to candidly understand the situation and concerns. With the parents, we explore treatment approaches and options and determine if and how often meeting with the children will be helpful. I rarely see children individually because I do not want to become an attachment figure but rather support the child's attachment to their parents and support the parents as the "primary therapist". In some instances, particularly with teens, we may agree that individual appointments will be beneficial.
Lifebook work can be a helpful approach when working with adoptive families. Even children as young as eight years old have found emotional benefit in working through a Lifebook, while it has also made discussing adoption issues easier for both children and parents. Parents often feel better knowing I am there to observe and facilitate the discussion. It is recommended that Lifebook work be done in a neutral space rather than the family home.
Counseling for Birth Parents
Birth parents and grandparents can often feel forgotten in the world of adoption. The complex grief involved when your child has been adopted by another family often requires additional support. Navigating both open and closed adoptions can be difficult and complicated for birth parents. While counseling can feel like exposing a wound for some birth parents, it can also be important in healing.
As a found member of MLJ Adoptions, Inc., in Indianapolis, Indiana, I helped create and supervise the Adoption Preparation, Support Services, and Expectant Care programs. I have also served as an independent expectant care provider in private adoptions and inter-state compact situations. I believe it is essential that expectant mothers are able to fully explore all of their options and have an advocate in making this extremely important decision for themselves and their child.
My Adoption Experience
In addition to my varied experience as an adoption therapist, I am an adoptive parent and have worked in various adoption agencies. I was a founding member of MLJ Adoptions where I served for seven years as Vice President of Social Services. MLJ started as both an international and domestic adoption agency, but dropped the domestic adoption program after two years to focus solely on international adoption. I served as the Interim Vice President of PR, Outreach, and Communications for KidsFirst Adoption Services, which focused more heavily on domestic adoption. I continue to serve as a Young Professionals Advisory Board member for The Villages, Indiana’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency, serving over 1,400 children and their families each day, including a very strong foster care and adoption program. I am or have been a member of NACAC, Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS), and the Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc. I adopted an older child as a single woman through an international pilot program which has been one of the most difficult and most rewarding things I have ever done. My parenting experience includes adoptive, step, kinship, and grandparenting with both single motherhood and coparenting in a blended family.
Individuals or families impacted by adoption who would like to work with an experienced and trained counselor, may schedule now: