Adoption is complicated…it’s defined by joy and loss all tangled up together. Being an adoptive parent can be challenging. Growing up as an adoptee can be challenging. Sometimes adoptive families need more support than friends and family can provide. In these situations, therapy can be a great choice. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering therapy as an adoptive family:
Know your options
Therapy can be expensive, but there are several ways to keep the cost manageable. If you are considering foster adoption or older child adoption, learn about the options available through your employer’s benefit programs. Often therapy is partially or fully covered if you choose an in-network provider. If your child has medical assistance, she may also qualify for mental health services from specific providers. If you are considering foster adoption, you may want to find an adoption-competent therapist and advocate to have his services covered as part of an adoption subsidy agreement. If you are adopting through an agency, check to see if they offer post-adoption support. Finally, if none of these options are available to you, look for a therapist who offers services on a sliding fee scale based on your income. Mental health is important. Good therapy is well worth the financial investment.
Ask fellow foster or adoptive parents for suggestions before you start interviewing therapists. You can do your research online, but there is no substitute for word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied clients. Education and experience matter, but don’t rule out a therapist simply because he or she doesn’t specialize in working with adoptive families. Choose several therapists to interview and make a list of questions before you go. Ask about the therapist’s experience working with adoptive families or helping clients with grief and loss work. After the interviews, think through the pros and cons of working with each therapist (consider experience, personality, therapeutic approaches, cost and location), and trust your intuition.
It works if you work it
Therapy is hard work, but I believe in the power of tackling this work with an experienced guide because I’ve seen the difference it has made in my own family. Therapy has given us a safe space to share even the hardest parts of our stories. It has also provided us with many practical strategies to process emotions, manage behaviors and improve communication. Don’t just “take your kid to therapy.” Trust the process. Participate in the process. Talk about how your experiences in therapy are helping you learn and grow.
Breaking up is hard to do
While I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact an effective therapist can have on a family, the truth is I’ve had to fire a therapist, too. There are times when, despite your best efforts, things are just not working out. That’s okay. Again, trust your intuition, and make the decisions that are best for your family. And don’t let one not-so-great experience define how you view the therapeutic process. Keep asking and interviewing until you find a therapist who is a great match for your family.
Have you participated in therapy as an adoptive family? What advice do you have for other adoptive parents?