Families that have been created through adoption or kinship care have unique challenges that are not always addressed in traditional therapy settings. Choosing an adoption competent therapist that understands the unique needs of adopted/kinship children is important to successful treatment. Therapy is a personal process and only you can judge if a therapist is the right fit for your family. The information provided below may help you in exploring which therapist and method of payment is best for your family.
Questions To Ask Potential Adoption Competent Therapists
Is this person a licensed mental health professional or being supervised by a licensed mental health professional?
Therapists should be licensed professionals in their field, or at a minimum, have a masters degree in their field and be supervised by a licensed professional in their field. For more information about licensed therapist in the state of California, visit www.bbs.ca.gov.
Have they taken specific course work or received specialized training to increase competency when working with adoptive or kinship families? If not, are they willing to learn about unfamiliar foster care, adoption and kinship care issues?
A response of no to this question is a major red flag. There are a variety of trainings, books and learning materials that can assist therapists in becoming more competent to work with families who have unique adoption/kinship needs. For example, training programs like our, 'Training For Adoption Competency' or 'TAC' for short. TAC offers professional training to mental health therapists who will be working with children and families in adoption. See our full list of past TAC program graduates.
What is their experience working with adoptive or kinship families? Do they appear to understand some of the unique issues of adoptive and kinship families, such as disrupted attachment, grief and loss, separation from birth parents, multiple moves, transition from foster care to adoption and identity questions?
If a therapist does not have experience or training in understanding the core issues of adoption/kinship children and their families, they may not take into account the child's earlier experiences, leading to inaccurate diagnosis and treatment. Adoption competent therapists will understand both the joys and challenges of parenting a child with attachment, disruptive and/or trauma history.
Do they see the needs of adopted/kinship children and families as unique?
Children living in foster, adopted or kinship families may have experienced disrupted attachment, loss and trauma and possibly exhibit behaviors that are challenging for caregivers. You will feel most comfortable with a therapist who recognizes this. Therapists who don't recognize the importance of a child's history will not be able to assist them in integrating their past and present family situations. A competent therapist will understand both the joys and challenges of parenting a child with attachment disruption and/or trauma history.
How do they include the parents and caregivers into their therapy?
An adoption competent therapist knows that children and teens shouldn't be treated without significant input from the parents and other significant family members. Parent involvement is crucial to the success of treatment. This might include several sessions with just the parents, to ensure they have proper tools to support their child.
Are they willing to consult with other professionals your child may be working with, such as occupational therapists special education teachers, psychiatrists, etc. to provide the next treatment plan for your child/family?
It takes a team of professionals to help a child that has trauma, behavioral and attachment challenges. A therapist that works in isolation may not have all of the tools needed to help your child/family reach their clinical goals.