Guidance from a licensed therapist can be invaluable throughout the lifelong adoption journey. Even in the most ideal adoption situations, adoption triad members — birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees — may experience varying degrees of trauma, loss and other difficult emotions.
An adoption-competent therapist can guide all parties through these emotions in a safe and healthy way.
But, as popular as adoption is, there tends to be a small number of appropriately licensed professionals to choose from. How do you ensure the therapist you choose can provide the best counseling for your specific adoption needs?
The best place to start: the Directory of Adoption Competent Professionals. Once you’ve picked out a few, ask these questions to narrow down your options.
1. What kind of adoption training or certification do you have?
This should be your first question to any prospective adoption therapist. Adoption is a complicated process, as are its long-lasting effects. Not just any therapist can provide the nuanced support adoption triad members deserve.
Look for a therapist who has completed accredited training in trauma-based adoption issues. This training could include:
- Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)
- Trauma-specific therapy approaches
- Child development
- Attachment theories
- Attachment-friendly discipline
- Grief & loss
- Racial Identity Models
2. How many years of experience do you have treating adoption triad members?
While certification and training are important, it can’t measure up to professional experience. The longer a professional has worked with adoption clients, the more situations and stories they’ve seen — and the better they can respond to your own.
Everyone’s adoption and trauma are different. But, the more a professional has worked with similar situations, the better help they can provide for your needs.
3. What are your personal views on adoption?
A good therapist can separate their personal views from their work. But, this question can reveal some red flags if a therapist is too forthcoming — or their answer doesn’t address the realities of modern adoption.
Be wary of professionals who claim adoption is beautiful without addressing the complicated emotions involved. Similarly, a professional with clear anti-adoption views should give you pause. Ideally, you want an adoption therapist who has a balanced, well-education opinion the potential joys and challenges of adoption.
If a professional’s answer doesn’t indicate that, it may show they aren’t the right fit for you.
4. What is your personal experience with adoption?
Personal experience with adoption can play just as important a role as professional experience. If your therapist has friends and family members who have experienced adoption, your therapist may be able to relate to and understand your situation better. Everyone has a different adoption experience; if your therapist solely knows their patients’ experiences, they might develop a skewed understanding of modern adoption.
5. How do you approach adoption-specific trauma?
Professional therapists can take several approaches, like:
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Play therapy
- Behavior modification
- Cognitive therapy
- Attachment-focused therapy
- And trauma-informed therapy
The last is incredibly important in adoption-competent counseling. A therapist should be able to guide their patient through trauma-informed therapy, recognizing the difference between adoption-specific and -non-specific effects.
What does that mean? A therapist should not assume that every challenge in a patient’s life is directly related to their adoption, just as they should not automatically assume challenges are not related to the adoption. Instead, they should use their training to find the difference between these two categories — and implement proper therapy approaches.
Find out which approach a prospective therapist takes and keep that in mind as you make your final decision.
6. How many of your current clients are adoptees/birth parents/adoptive parents?
Ideally, your chosen therapist should work with adoption triad members frequently in any given day. For the best adoption-specific therapy, look for a professional whose caseload is at least 50% birth parents, adoptive parents or adoptees. The higher that ratio, the likelier it is you will receive quality, experienced care.
7. How do you talk about race and adoption with kids?
Race cannot be overlooked in adoption-competent counseling. With so many people adopting across racial lines, a therapist should be familiar with the unique challenges of transracial adoption.
Avoid any professionals who promote the concept of “colorblindness” and “assimilation.” Look for a therapist who will honor and celebrate what makes an adoption triad member unique, including race and culture. If you’re looking for a therapist for your transracially adopted child, this is a wonderful opportunity to add a racial mirror to their life.
These questions are a great place to start, but they’re certainly not the only ones to ask when searching for an adoption-competent therapist. Take your time to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with. Your trust in this professional will determine the success in your counseling journey.
Remember: If you’re a birth parent who worked with American Adoptions, you always have free access to counseling from our social workers. They can also provide references to other professionals if you want a more local choice. Reach out to your adoption specialist anytime for more information and guidance.