Therapy for Adoption
Adoption has long been understood as a loving, healing endeavor, and this is undoubtedly true. A child needs a home, and a couple unselfishly opens their arms and hearts to this exciting adventure. There is so much to celebrate in every adoption: the creation of a family, the life-saving love of parents for an infant or child, and the new and healing bonds that fulfill deeply held desires for home, family, connection, and love.
Many adoptive parents find that their young children accept their identity as an adopted child easily, and can even feel special in their designation as a chosen child. All seems well, and the adoption is successful. While this is true, some uphill battles may still be ahead.
The adolescent years are challenging for all teens and parents, but adopted teens face their own unique struggles. We are just now beginning, in the counseling profession, to fully understand what this is all about, and to be able to offer help and support to those struggling in this developmental period.
Suddenly, a happy, peaceful, and contented child becomes surly, angry, and uncommunicative. An adopted teen may feel “ I was adopted by a loving family, why don’t I feel better?, or “Why am I not just grateful for all that I have?” Adoptive parents may ask themselves “ If I love my adopted child so completely as my own, why are they so unhappy?” or “What am I doing wrong?” The answer is you are doing nothing wrong. Adoption is more complicated than we had previously believed.
There is so much that counselors and healing professionals are still learning about attachments, how they are formed and sustained, and the lifelong impact that adoption can have on those who are adopted, as well as on all those around them.
Current scientific research in neurobiology and attachment has shown that infants and children experience significant trauma when separated from their birth mothers and families. Even those who are adopted in infancy, rather than having no memory of their birth mothers, as was previously thought, can carry a deep and painful wound of loss and separation that can be hard to put into words.
This is often experienced for those who are adopted as a persistent feeling of lack, emptiness or unworthiness that is deeply felt, and difficult to understand. It is so confusing that many in the adoption community call this “Adoption Fog”. It can be expressed as anger or acting out during the teenage years, and it feels unexplainable for the child, and scary, worrisome, or frustrating for parents. Equally as important to notice, are the over-compliant or perfectionist teens, who put intense pressure on themselves to succeed and achieve. They often carry similar wounds that are hard to express.
It’s All a Little Bit Overwhelming – How Could You Help?
Because science has given us new information and insights, we have new ways of offering help and support for all these adoption issues. Understanding the complexities of adoption is a big part of creating a happy adoption story, and this is where adoption-focused therapy can help.
At Upliftme, we are attuned to the latest research in neurobiology and attachment, so we are uniquely equipped to help manage the specific needs of adopting families. We understand the challenges, care about the adoption experience for all those involved, and are committed to help each person who is touched by adoption to feel strong, empowered, and fully themselves in every way.
We offer individual therapy for children, teens, and young adults, as they navigate their developing identity and self- esteem, family therapy for the entire family system, and also educational, informative sessions for parents who are considering adoption, or who have adopted an infant or child.
Multi-cultural adoptions carry their own specific challenges, and we are able to offer help and support in this area as well. Gathering all the current information that is available, getting some tools for yourself as a parent, while at the same time having a resource for questions, support and understanding can be a huge help before, during and after the profound transitions of adoption. We can be there for you through all of it.
Even Though There Is So Much Love, There Is Also Trauma
All the current research in attachment illustrates that there is a deep communication between babies and their mothers from the first moments of life. This communication actually begins even in the womb. Babies know their mother’s voice, her smell, her heartbeat……even before they are born. When babies or young children are separated from this comfort and familiarity, a trauma has occurred.
All is not lost though! Our deeper understanding of this dynamic presents us with new ways to help and heal these wounds like never before. Adoption is crucial for the emotional health of babies and children who have been relinquished, however, adoption alone is often not enough. Many adopted individuals need to grieve and process this traumatic loss, and it can be hard to do. Both the celebration of the life-giving aspects of adoption, and the acknowledgement and processing of the losses that have occurred are necessary for true healing to take place.
There are many ways to heal these wounds, and each person and family is unique. We are equipped to find a way to meet each individual and families’ needs. It is our greatest joy.
It can be hard to get a handle on all the complexities that are a part of an adoption story. It can feel scary and overwhelming, like there are no words to describe it. That is often how traumatic wounds present themselves when they have occurred early in life. We can help untangle the knots of stress and worry. We can help ease the struggles that come up along the way, and we can meet each challenge with compassion and hope.
We Are Uniquely Positioned To Help
Understanding the needs and struggles of adopted kids, especially in the teenage years, is a passion of ours. We strive to educate and assist adopting families about all the challenges that may lie ahead, so that each family is able to fully experience the love and joy of creating a family. Reach out to us today to get started. We will help all those touched by adoption grow into their truest selves, so that they can share close connections and healthy relationships.
Beth Carter, LPCC – ask us how Beth can help you with your questions and concerns around adoption.