As an adoptive parent, one of the best things you can do for your adoptee is invest in and encourage counseling. Choosing to go to counseling can feel like a big decision for adoptees, but it is an important one. Almost all adoption stories will be laced with layers and variations of trauma and attachment struggles that adoptees will be forced to navigate and hopefully overcome at some point in their life. For transracial adoptees, the added component of racial differences with their families can reinforce some of these trauma and attachment struggles, which is why counseling is so valuable.
Why invest in counseling?
Counseling provides a safe, intentional space for adoptees to work through all the hard components and feelings associated with their adoption. Additionally, adoptees can process and work through these feelings with someone trained to facilitate that process and hold space. Research shows that adopted individuals are at a higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and are at a four times greater risk of dying by suicide. Additionally, many adoptees may struggle with developing and maintaining secure and healthy attachment styles. Counseling provides an opportunity for adoptees to overcome many of these challenges.
How do you talk about counseling with your child?
Counseling should not necessarily start if your child is struggling. Adoptees can benefit from starting counseling as early as elementary school. Even if home is a safe place for your child to talk about their adoption and they seem to be open to processing and sharing with you, they can still benefit from counseling. The bottom line is that all adoptees can benefit from counseling.
Talking with your adoptee about counseling should start with acknowledging your own limitations as an adoptive parent. You can start by sharing that you understand adoption is hard and complicated and that not all feelings surrounding adoption are positive. Explain that you want your child to have a safe place to process and work through those feelings with someone that is trained to do so. Furthermore, ensure your child understands it is normal to not be able to process everything related to their adoption with their parents, and it is perfectly acceptable to need additional outside support. Lastly, emphasize the benefits counseling for adoptees.
Even if your child turns counseling down or seems disinterested, bringing it up again at some point in the future is appropriate.
What are the benefits of counseling for adoptees?
Counseling provides adoptees with the opportunity to overcome trauma and learn to develop and seek out secure attachment in others, which can increase feelings of belonging and connection. It can also help adoptees identify and form language for their feelings so they can better learn how to ask for and advocate for their needs. Counseling can also assist adoptees in creating a positive self-identity and work through issues related to self esteem and worthiness. Lastly, it can keep adoptees safe and provide them with the tools they need to protect and care for their mental health.
What kind of counseling is best for adoptees?
Therapy for complex developmental trauma, which most adoptees will have, can be incredibly beneficial. Below are a few common therapeutic modalities that can be used alongside traditional talk therapy for individuals that have experienced trauma.
For these specific modalities, you will need to find a counselor trained or certified in implementing these.
Regardless of how well your adoptee seems to be navigating their adoption story, they can always benefit from counseling. As an adoptive parent, encouraging your adoptee to start counseling is significant as they may need your support. Even if starting these conversations feels uncomfortable or hard, having them is better than not and it is one way you can care for your adoptee well.
By: Ramya Gruneisen