5 MOST USEFUL PIECES OF KNOWLEDGE FOR THERAPISTS
It’s extremely important to find the right therapist for your child. Of course, the hard part is finding a therapist who has experience and training to work with trauma, and children and teens from hard places.
This post will be one of many intended to educate therapists on the specialization of adopted and foster children and teens. A therapist in this specialization typically has many years of experience, and I’d like to stream line that for those who already have solid counseling skills.
Additionally, if your family is working with a therapist and you have great rapport, direct them to this website and my books to learn additional ways to help your child!
In my opinion, the most effective therapists in this specialization have training and knowledge in the areas of:
The Lifelong Issues of Adoption
Individual and family therapy
Let’s take a brief look at each of these; in the near future I will post detailed articles on each of these topics.
1. THE SEVEN CORE ISSUES OF ADOPTION: Deborah Silverstein and Sharon Roszia identified the Seven Core Issues of Adoption. As therapists, we need to consider these challenges as a child grows and matures. The lifelong issues of adoption include: rejection, grief, control, intimacy, guilt and shame, loss and identity.
2. ATTACHMENT: There are two types of attachment: Secure and Insecure. Under the Insecure attachment, exist three types: Ambivalent, Avoidant, and Disorganized. It is crucial for therapists to understand and be able to identify these styles in the child’s relationships, and within the family during therapy sessions. Read more about attachment styles in The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: How to Heal Your Child’s Trauma and Loss.
3. TRAUMA: Most adopted and foster children/teens have a level of trauma due to their early abandonment. Others may have significant levels of trauma from physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect, and multiple placement moves. The child’s trauma has to be addressed in order for the child to heal and in turn, their behavior improve. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is one effective method to resolve past trauma. Learn specific techniques and strategies to heal a child’s trauma in The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: How to Heal Your Child’s Trauma and Loss.
4. CHILD BEHAVIOR: An adoption therapist must be acquainted with child behavior to determine age appropriate behaviors and useful behavior management strategies. Traditional parenting strategies are not beneficial for kids with early deprivation or abandonment; it usually doesn’t work. Instead, parents need to discipline from a therapeutic parenting model. For example, time-outs in a distant room trigger abandonment issues for children whereas time-ins next to mom or dad create a consequence without erupting feelings of loss.
5. INDIVIDUAL AND FAMILY THERAPY: In traditional therapy, the therapist meets alone with a child, and then at a separate time with the parents. In session with an adoptive or foster family, the therapist utilizes a family therapy approach and meets with parents and child together.
Additionally, if the family is not in session together, the therapist is likely to miss the small dynamics in the parent-child attachment. This can influence the therapist to see the child’s behavior within the average range, and mistakenly blame the parents for the child’s behavior problems. Unfortunately, this is a common error and leaves parents feeling misunderstood, criticized and powerless to receive the help their family needs.
Come back for the detailed articles on each of these topics. I’ll be posting them soon!!
I’d love your feedback, questions, or comments. Please leave them in the comment box below.
Carol Lozier is a therapist, author, and blogger specializing in trauma; and adoptive and foster kids, teens, and adults. Ms. Lozier is in private practice in Louisville, KY.