All About Therapy For Older Adopted Children

Therapy may be right for you and your child.

Shannon Hicks February 08, 2017
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Are you considering pursuing therapy for a child who joined your family through adoption? Working with a trained therapist can reap huge benefits for many, many children. Here are a few things to consider as you are making your decision:

It’s likely covered by insurance

Mental health services are partially or fully covered by many insurance plans. Read the fine print on your child’s plan (or call and talk to a representative) and find out what providers are covered.

Don’t settle for the first name on the list

Your child’s insurance may cover services provided by several (or many) therapists in your area. If you are willing to pay out of pocket, you will have even more choices. Don’t pick a provider at random. Ask around (if you are part of an adoption support group, these referrals can be particularly helpful). Read reviews. Then call and set up an initial appointment with several providers. Often, the first session will be provided at a reduced cost (sometimes providers waive their fee). This is your chance to ask questions and make an informed decision for your child and your family.

Credentials matter

In my opinion, finding an adoption competent therapist is a huge deal for children who were adopted. Not all therapists who work with children (even if they are registered play therapists) have experience working with children from hard places. Look for a therapist who has extensive training or experience (or both) in working with children dealing with grief and loss issues. Bonus points if they have adoption-specific training or experience (or both).

Chemistry matters too

When I was looking for a therapist for a child placed in my home, I interviewed several very competent practitioners. A few I ruled out right away because I suspected that their demeanor would not work well with this particular child. Ultimately, the therapist that I chose was a great fit for us because of her direct way of communicating and her behavioral expectations during the therapy session. The child made a great deal of progress working with this therapist.

Give it time

As parents (and, I think, particularly as parents by adoption), we are “fixers.” We are on a constant search for the right method, the right technique, the right combination of strategies that will help our kids. Therapy is not a magic pill. It won’t work miracles in an hour (although I can think of many worse ways to spend an hour than relaxing in a waiting room while I know my child is in a safe place with an adult who is working hard to help them). Progress takes time… sometimes what seems like a really long time. If you trust your therapist, your child and your instincts, hang in there and give it time.

A caveat: truly, trust your instincts. Sometimes a therapist and a child are not a good fit for each other, and it’s perfectly fine to move on. After several months of weekly sessions with a child in my care, both the child and I were frustrated with how things were going (or really, weren’t going) in therapy. We found another therapist who was a better fit, and things improved a lot at our house.

It works if you work it

Therapy is a two-way street (I know this from personal experience!). Even the best therapist has a tough time if a child is purposely dishonest or refuses to communicate. Do what you can to make therapy a positive experience for your child. Encourage her to speak honestly with her therapist and assure her that no topics are “off limits” in therapy. Model talking about the hard parts of life in an honest and age-appropriate way. And if you have a story about how therapy helped you personally, consider sharing it with the child.

Adoptive parents, what would you add to this list? What other factors should be considered when you are thinking about therapy for your children?

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Shannon Hicks

Shannon is mom to two amazing kids who joined her family through foster care adoption. She is passionate about advocating for children through her writing and her job as a kindergarten teacher. You can read more from her at Adoption, Grace and Life.


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