Dip, Don’t Dive

As a psychotherapist, I often find myself “defending” my vocation. Why? Society as a whole continues to view therapy as negative.  If you’re in therapy, there must be something wrong with you.  If you’re in therapy, you must be “crazy.”  If you’re in therapy, you must have had a bad childhood.  If you’re in therapy, you must not know how to handle your own problems.  If you’re in therapy, you’re weak.  I would challenge this thought process by simply stating that it takes a pretty strong person to pick up the phone and ask for help. 

There are so many other areas of our lives in which we deem it “okay” to ask for help.  If your child is struggling academically, you might look into hiring a tutor or signing up for an after-school program.  If your child needs to learn how to swim, you would most likely start “Googling” local swim lessons.  If your child is sick, you pick up the phone and make a doctor appointment. 

Often, however, we neglect or dismiss our mental health needs.  We tend to become

embarrassed or ashamed of our feelings and decide to squash them down.  When parents detect a behavior change in their children, they may question whether or not they need to talk to a professional. But so often, they ignore their thoughts out of fear. It’s quite common to feel hesitant about therapy. We fear what we do not know.

You may have even sought out services in the past, but received inadequate help and refused to go again. But don’t let one bad experience prevent you from seeking services when you — or your child — need them. 

Finding the right therapist — particularly an adoption-competent therapist — can be challenging. Here are a few tips to consider when seeking out clinical services for your family or your child. The first list is about finding a competent therapist in general and the second list is about finding an adoption-competent therapist.

Finding a Therapist

  1. Dip your toes, don’t dive.  Make a phone call and seek out a consultation before moving forward too quickly.

  2. Ask friends who might be experiencing similar circumstances if they know of any good resources or referrals.

  3. Think about the main reason you are seeking services and find someone who specializes in that area.For instance, if you think that adoption might be a factor for your child or your family, find someone who has extensive experience in the field.

  4. Interview the therapist about their background, their degree and their theoretical framework.

  5. Inform the therapist that you are looking for the right “fit” and need to feel comfortable before moving forward with regular sessions.Let them know that you might “interview” a few different therapists.If the therapist is offended by this and reacts negatively, this might not be the therapist for you! Most therapists would be impressed that you are taking your time with this.

  6. No therapist can specialize in “everything,” so feel free to ask them how often they work with the specific area of concern for which you are seeking services.

  7. Make sure you are working with a licensed therapist (LCSW, LCPC, LMFT, etc.) and do a quick check to see if they have ever had any complaints filed against them.     RDW_6310cropsmall

Finding an Adoption-Competent Therapist

  1. Ask them if they have ever received any post-graduate training in attachment, trauma or adoption.Some examples are: TBRI ®, DDP ®, Theraplay ®, ARC, EMDR.

  2. Ask them if they have ever read the book “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier.

  3. Inquire about their thoughts on adoption as trauma, openness in adoption and if they view adoption as a lifelong journey.

  4. Ask them if they have ever worked in child welfare — whether the public or private system —worked as a homestudy worker or if they have a personal connection to adoption.

  5. Finding a therapist who has a personal connection to adoption can definitely be a benefit but it can also be challenging.At times, a therapist who is personally connected may subconsciously allow their personal point of view to interfere with the work that needs to be done in therapy.However, there are numerous therapists who are also adoptees, adoptive parents or birth parents and do amazing clinical work.

  6. Consider numbers #1-7 in the previous list.



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