5 MOST USEFUL PIECES OF KNOWLEDGE FOR THERAPISTS

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 lifelong-adoption-issueknowledge in the areas of:
The Lifelong Issues of Adoption
Attachment
Trauma
Child behavior
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.

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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.

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First Blog Post!

5 TIPS TO TEACH YOUR CHILD TO DISCUSS FEELINGS

“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”

–Audre Lorde

When I initially meet and evaluate a child, I am first looking at their a ability to identify and express emotion. The skill of communicating feelings is the foundation for any healthy attachment; and in healing past loss, abandonment or trauma.

Anytime your child shares his or her feelings, you are a participant in his/her inner world, and in those moments they are allowing you to understand their joys, sorrows, fears, and frustrations. Those are often prime times to build secure (healthy) attachment.

There are many reasons why children have limited emotional skills: a past history of neglect or abuse; a parent who believes the child is too young to learn emotional language; the child may not like to share feelings; or the parents themselves may not be gifted in this area. No matter the cause, you and your child can learn steps to improve emotional expression. This is an area of practice and anyone can improve these skills. Let me share some specific strategies:

5-tips1. Teach your child the primary feeling words: happy, sad, mad, scared and loving. Write each feeling word on a piece of paper, and go over them with your child. (For elementary age and younger, draw a feeling face picture next to the corresponding feeling word.) Post the paper in an eye-catching spot in your home like the fridge or the back of a door.

2. Help your child learn which facial expression matches each feeling word. For example, on your face show your child a smile and raised eyebrows display happy feelings whereas a furrowed brow and tight mouth display mad feelings. Make it a game! Take turns showing a feeling face; allow the other person to guess which feeling face is demonstrated. To keep your child’s attention, keep score and award a small prize or treat to the winner.

3. Encourage your child to express his or her feelings. Include verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. Some nonverbal ways to share feelings include: writing, painting, or drawing. Many families implement a special alone time with their child to talk about feelings. As you begin the practice, ask your child to complete a sentence, such as: Today I feel happy/sad/mad/scared because . . .

4. Ask your child to communicate his feelings in the moment. When you notice your child experiencing feelings ask, “How are you feeling?” or simply, “What’s going on? It seems like something’s bothering you?” If he or she is unsure point it out to him/her, ie: “I see your big smile, are you happy?”

5. Give Positive reinforcement for sharing. Even if your child isn’t accurate at first, recognize his or her attempts with praise. Remember, just like any new skill, time and practice improve performance.

I discuss these skills more in depth as well as additional strategies in chapter 9 of my book, The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: How to Heal Your Child’s Trauma and Loss.

I’d love to hear your comments, questions, or requests for new blog posts!

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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.