This is day 4 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.
All of us humans may benefit from therapy at some point in our lives. Adoptees show up in therapy at higher rates than non-adopted people.
The statistics bear this out. According to the American Psychological Association, “Higher proportions of adopted persons attend therapy (17.71%) than nonadopted persons (8.76%; Miller et al., 2000), and some adopted individuals may struggle with certain issues as adults, such as loss and grief particularly during milestone events like marriage and childbirth (Nydam, 2007; Silverstein & Kaplan 1988); building and maintaining close relationships (Corder, 2012); distress over lack of genetic information; and issues with identity development (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2004).” There are several other studies listed at the APA link related to “clinical considerations for psychologists who see adult patients who were adopted during their childhood.”
Many adoptees and adoptive parents seek out therapists who are also adoptees. Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, a psychologist who is also an adoptee and adoptive parent, curates an incredibly valuable list of U.S.-based therapists who are also adoptees.
Anyone connected with adoption may want to find a therapist who, at a minimum, is adoption competent. The notion of “adoption competent” can be complex. It should be a baseline standard for anyone who works clinically with adopted people. The Center for Adoption Support and Education defines it this way: “An adoption competent mental health professional understands the nature of adoption as a form of family formation and the different types of adoption; the clinical issues that are associated with separation and loss and attachment; the common developmental challenges in the experience of adoption; and the characteristics and skills that make adoptive families successful.”
There is more to their definition; this link goes to C.A.S.E.’s Module on training adoption-competent therapists. (Transparency: Years ago, I worked for C.A.S.E., writing grants and occasionally participating on workshop panels. )
Therapists who work with adoptees should also be trauma-informed, another complex qualification. Many people don’t see the link between adoption and trauma, and that can be true for therapists as well. And “trauma-informed” can have many definitions, especially in relation to adoption.
Two final notes: One–if you’re an adoptive parent and your child is going to therapy, you should also go to therapy to learn what your child is going through, what they are learning in terms of strategies from the therapist, how you may inadvertently be contributing to the trauma, and how you can best support your child.
Two—This upcoming conference is the first of its kind, and will be amazing. “Expert Voices in Adoption” will take place online November 20. It will be “the only National Adoption Awareness Month event solely featuring the voices of adoptee clinicians.” The program will be hosted by Dr. Wirta-Leiker, mentioned above. I have registered, and I am sure many other folks have and will as well. It is an incredible opportunity for all of us.