How Therapy Can Benefit The Whole Family During Adoption

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adopted mom with adopted son

Adoption is a unique experience for each child and family.

It is a rewarding journey filled with love, joy, connection, and strength.

But, it's also a complex process that can feel frustrating, challenging, and confusing, which can leave children and families feeling emotionally drained and dealing with mental health issues.

This is where adoption therapy and its benefits can help.

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In the United States, there are about 135,000 adoptions that occur each year.

Over half of adoptions are facilitated through the United States child welfare (a.k.a. the foster care) system, with 15 percent being facilitated through voluntary or private adoption services and 2 percent facilitated through countries outside of the U.S.

Each of these systems has differing procedures and practices, not to mention that each state may have different rules for their child welfare system, making it a truly unique experience for each child and family going through the process.

This can bring unforeseen stressors for couples and families that, if are not managed or resolved, can negatively impact relationships and family dynamics.

There are several reasons a child may be placed for adoption.

Unfortunately, many children have experienced abuse and neglect, resulting in trauma that can impact their behavior, development, academic performance, and ability to form trusting relationships or secure attachments.

It's important to note that this is certainly not the case for every child and all of their experiences are different.

But, as adopted children grow older, research suggests that they face several challenges, regardless of the differences in their experiences prior to adoption, which include feelings of loss or grief, issues with identity, and self-esteem.

There are 3 types of therapy that benefit the children and adoptive families involved in an adoption.

1. Family therapy

This is a form of treatment that addresses specific issues impacting family functioning.

It includes multiple members of the family and relies on the participation of those members to improve relationships and meet family mental health goals.

Whether your family is thinking about adoption or has already adopted, family therapy is beneficial.

Prior to adoption, working with a qualified therapist can help the family facilitate communication about this important decision.

Its benefits include:

  • Improved communication and problem-solving
  • Building healthy family dynamics
  • Reducing conflict

Therapists can help identify communication deficiencies and teach effective communication skills that will allow parents and other family members to address their concerns, rather than build resentment or suppress feelings that can potentially lead to relationship difficulties in the future.

Additionally, family therapy will prepare the family to resolve issues that might arise around finances, childcare duties, family values, and routines.

Bringing a child into a family can certainly change the dynamics between parents and siblings.

Family therapy can help the family adapt to that change and learn coping skills that will build healthy relationships among each member.

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2. Child/Play therapy

This is a form of treatment for children facilitated by a therapist that uses evidence-based techniques during play.

Its benefits include:

  • Developing social skills and relational skills with the family
  • Developing self-expression skills and improve self-esteem
  • Developing acceptance of self and others

During play therapy, children learn communication skills, self-expression, and problem-solving skills that can improve behavior.

If an adopted child has experienced trauma or abuse, play therapy can help the child identify and express emotions.

When a child is able to identify their feelings and express them openly, it allows the child and family to communicate better. Parents gain better insight into their adoptive child’s inner world and shed light on how parents can address their needs.

Working on these concerns while in play therapy can help adoptive children form stronger bonds with adoptive parents.

3. Individual therapy.

This is a form of treatment suited for most age groups (adolescents through adulthood).

This type of therapy utilizes a variety of evidence-based therapeutic techniques that best suit your individual needs.

Its benefits include:

  • Developing coping skills for feelings of loss or grief
  • Developing coping skills for symptoms of trauma or abuse
  • Improving boundaries, communication, and relationships
  • Improving self-esteem

Family members can engage in individual therapy or play therapy and family therapy simultaneously. Therapy’s focus differs in the family versus individual settings.

In individual sessions, you are able to explore issues and concerns that impact how you feel about yourself and how you function on a daily basis.

As adoptees grow older, they may feel a loss or disconnection from their biological parents, culture, or even siblings that they have been separated from.

This can understandably impact identity development as adoptees may have experience with different cultures from their adoptive families.

In individual therapy, adoptees can explore how culture affects their personal beliefs and helps to build a strong sense of self.

Adoptees may even have contact with their biological or birth family through open private adoptions or choose to reach out to them in the future.

This can be a confusing time for both children and adults as they navigate these relationships.

Working with a therapist can help adoptees set appropriate boundaries and improve communication skills to engage these complex relationships confidently.

Individual therapy also creates a safe space for individuals to process emotions and learn coping skills. this is an excellent option for adoptees who have experienced trauma.

Adoption therapy helps take care of everyone's mental health issues during the process.

Although the process of adopting and being adopted is unique to the individual and family, a therapist can serve as a professional who can support many of the stressors and concerns that can arise within those dynamics.

The benefits of therapy are plentiful for adoptive children, adoptive adults, and adoptive families, so everyone should take advantage of these mental health professionals and their expertise.

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Dr. Leda Kaveh is a licensed clinical psychologist and the owner/director of Washington Psychological Wellness. If you want to learn more about family therapy, contact them today!

This article was originally published at Washington Psychological Wellness. Reprinted with permission from the author.