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5 Questions to Ask a Potential Adoption Therapist as an Adoptee

The adoption journey is a unique experience. Very few people in our society know what it’s like, whether that’s from the perspective of an adoptee, birth parent or adoptive parent.

If you’ve walked through the journey as an adoptee, then you understand how difficult it can be to explain adoption to someone else, and even more so the complicated, long-lasting emotions you are left with.

Professional therapy can be a great resource. If you’re spending a lot of time and emotional energy processing your experiences and identity as it relates to adoption, a therapist may be able to help you find avenues for growth and healing.

However, that’s only going to happen if you find the right therapist. And finding a therapist equipped to discuss adoption isn’t always easy.

There are only a handful of therapists that specialize in adoption. Many more work with children and families, but this doesn’t mean that they are prepared to be your guide to processing adoption. Understanding mental health and trauma does not directly correlate to understanding adoption.

How can you find the right therapist to unpack your adoption history? While this personal choice will ultimately be up to you, we’ve come up with a list of helpful questions to ask and qualities to look for in any prospective therapist.

Questions to Ask a Therapist as an Adoptee

Your search for a therapist will hinge specifically on what you are struggling with the most. You may deal daily with depression, anxiety, attachment disorders, sensory processing challenges or any host of other mental health needs that make life more difficult.

If you believe that your history of adoption is at the heart of your struggles, then finding an adoption-competent therapist is a must. Here are a few questions to ask (and answers to look for) that should help determine if the professional you are talking to is really prepared to provide the counseling you are looking for:

How much of your caseload involves working with adoptees?

If you’re going to be the only adoptee this therapist is working/has worked with, then you may want to look elsewhere. It’s a red flag if their response involves brushing this off, as if your unique experience can benefit from the same approach as any other patient.

Have you ever worked with adoptive parents or birth parents?

Experience with the varying perspective of people in the adoption triad can create a better understanding of adoption as a whole, which should benefit you.

What is your understanding of early childhood attachment challenges as they relate to adoption? 

Attachment theories are not the same as a general understanding of trauma. Any therapist you would like to see should have studied supplemental materials (such as TBRI developed by Karyn Purvis Institute) to better understand early childhood attachment challenges and their long-lasting effects.

Can you tell me a bit about your knowledge of Racial Identity Models, structural inequities, and racial identity issues in light of transracial adoption?

Has the potential therapist taken time to study and understand theories of race, social inequities in American society, and unique challenges of race and identity for children in transracial families? This type of knowledge isn’t the same as other areas of expertise required for general therapy practice.

How do you bring families — both biological and adoptive — into treatment?

While not a question that everyone will need to ask, it’s a good topic to bring up if you feel that session with your adoptive or biological parents could be helpful. It will also help you get a feeling for the therapist’s understanding of open adoption relationships.

Find Adoption Counseling

Hopefully these questions help you start a conversation with a potential counselor. Think of other questions you would like to ask, as well as the things you are looking for in the answers.

If you’re ready to begin your searching for adoption counseling, you could begin with our guide to finding an adoption counselor.

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