Ah, I could easily answer a quick “yes” to that question, but I am not sure that would be helpful. Instead, I invite you to grab your favorite drink while I share the heart behind that yes.
When we were in the process of adopting our first daughter, we were encouraged, by our agency, to get established with a therapist as soon as we welcomed our child. We were already parents to two beautiful boys, but understanding that we would likely encounter issues that were a result of the trauma our future adopted child(ren) may have, we agreed and set out to contact a therapist who understood adoption. We have two adopted daughters. They are not biologically related to one other and their adoptions were almost two years apart. Our daughters had vastly different experiences in their lives before joining our family. That being said, we knew the importance of attachment, so we were diligent in securing a therapist who specialized in attachment and trauma.
We started therapy with weekly appointments when our first daughter arrived. She had been with us for about five days prior to our first session. I remember being struck by how different parenting her would be and knew I needed help. Parenting her has always been different. I remember crying in our therapist’s office, many times, expressing how I didn’t know how to connect or get through to her. It took time, but I finally realized that the reason we couldn’t connect was that she didn’t know how to connect or attach to another person. That realization opened my mind to the idea of therapeutic parenting and it has since been the way our household operates.
For over six years now, and we have maintained weekly therapy appointments for her nearly that entire time. When our second daughter was adopted, we set up appointments for her as well. We quickly discovered, for her, therapy would be needed occasionally. At times, she needs help working through hard things. We have also taken our biological boys to therapy. They have experienced a lot of trauma as a result of living with someone who has experienced a lot of trauma. It is a lot to manage for anyone and the need for them to have somewhere to go to help them sort out their feelings and emotions has been crucial to their development as well. Our sons and youngest daughter are all able to let us know when they need an appointment and they often only see our therapist a few times a year.
Personally, I have started seeing a therapist a few months ago. For the six and a half years I have taken my oldest daughter to therapy, I never once established myself with my own therapist. I am the primary caregiver for our family and I have been absorbing a tremendous amount of pain and trauma. Our daughter has a lot of pain from her birth mom and the result is anger toward me. That anger presents as emotional and physical abuse to me. It has taken a lot of time for me to understand that I am, in many ways, a shell of who I used to be. Now that I am in therapy, I have begun to see the many ways in which I have absorbed her pain. I am doing the hard work of caring for myself. I am committed. And, you know what, I am starting to feel the weight of the world being lifted off of my very tired shoulders. It is liberating.
We are fortunate to live in a time where seeking help through counseling is more and more commonplace. It is less stigmatized and often seen as a way in which healing can take place. Life is hard right now. We are in a pandemic and social media has taken over almost every area of life. It is a very intense time to be alive. I think it is safe to say that we all have a lot of factors that cause us stress and anxiety these days. Therapy is an amazing resource that you can utilize to help you understand yourself better and heal areas of your heart and mind that need healing.
If you are thinking about seeking counseling, it may be helpful to understand the different ways in which counseling may be beneficial for you.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a complicated condition and if you are around someone with PTSD, especially living with that person, you can also develop the condition. It is extremely important to be aware of what to look for and having someone outside of yourself who is able to help you heal is incredibly important.
Attachment and Trauma therapy are incredibly important for a family who is struggling to attach and connect with their adopted child. If a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect, they are likely going to struggle with attachment. Being able to have someone work with you to attach will be very helpful. If your child has Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), or has been moved from foster home/placement to foster home/placement one or more times, it can be very challenging to reach attachment. This therapy can help you gain attachment using techniques and creative solutions of which otherwise you may not be aware.
Does everyone need counseling, Yes! I sincerely believe that with my whole heart! However, it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. It is important to know how you or your child will find the most growth and healing. Therapy can be accomplished in a myriad of ways. When you are looking for a therapist, it is very important to meet with them and sort of interview them to see if they will be a good fit. Each therapist will have their own way of conducting appointments and will utilize different tools and systems to help their client grow. It is good to know what options are available and what types of therapy he or she typically offers.
The need for therapy may be a continual part of life or something that you just utilize as needed. Whatever it looks like for you and your family, is completely individualized. Try to remain open, remember to give yourself grace, and ask for help. Therapy is an opportunity for you to grow in compassion and understanding that can, in turn, produce a healthier and happier person. Keep in mind, not all therapy or therapists are made for everyone and taking time to seek out the right fit is crucial to the success you will find. Healing your heart and mind will be an invaluable gift for your entire family.
“You can not lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself” –Dr. Karyn Purvis
Becky Dell is a Staff Storyteller for adoption.com. Now married for over 20 years, her journey to motherhood started with a miscarriage, followed by the birth of her 2 biological sons, and brought to completion with the domestic adoptions of 2 daughters. You used to be able to find Becky baking cookies and playing trains with her two tiny sons, but now, you will find her learning to parent through the rough and rewarding world of adoption, attachment, and trauma. She is a fierce advocate for adoption and processes the many facets of adoption through written word.