Adoption and Attachment Counseling

Adoption involves complex relationships and emotions among those involved, including the adoptee, the adoptive parent(s), and birth parents. Adopted children understand adoption in different ways, depending upon their developmental age and stage, and their understanding changes over the life span. It is important that children have as much information about their adoption as possible to help them incorporate their cultural heritage into their identity as they strive to integrate their biological and adoptive roots.

The dynamics involved in adoption are complicated and it is beneficial for all involved to communicate about these issues. It is often easier to share the joy and blessings involved than it is to explore the loss, grief, confusion, sadness, anger, rage, and fear of further abandonment that may accompany adoption. For some, this kind of communication comes easy, for others, it is more difficult. Sometimes children express these emotions through their behavior and it can be difficult for the adoptive parent to help the child process these emotions because they are an integral part of it.

Deer Creek clinicians work with families created by adoption to learn ways to identify and process these complex dynamics; to explore and understand the possible behavioral manifestations and emotional outbursts; to help the family talk openly talk about adoption and the adoptee’s biological family and early beginnings; and to consider options for learning more about the biological family. As the process deepens, the clinician helps the family explore and understand the depth of the fear, anger, grief, and shame that may be involved and means for healing. The clinician works with the family members together; assigns readings; and helps create activities to practice and incorporate into the family’s daily routines.

Attachment is a term that describes the state and quality of an individual’s emotional ties to another person (Becker-Weidman, Arthur; Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy: The Theory, Creating Capacity for Attachment, 2005). The capacity to become attached or become emotionally tied with another occurs in infancy as the child develops an attuned, reciprocal relationship with at least one primary caregiver. Usually infants become attached to sensitive and responsive adults who remain as consistent caregivers for many months during the first two years. A primary goal of the attachment process is to provide a secure base from which the child can explore the outside world and return for nurturance, reassurance, and refueling. For some adopted children, this normal developmental process has been interrupted by early abuse and trauma or by the adoption process. When this occurs, the adoptive parents must become the responsive, sensitive, and attuned attachment figure, replacing those the infant has lost.

Deer Creek clinicians work with the parent(s) and child during each session to learn and practice interactions, communication, and activities that help facilitate attachment. The clinician creates a safe place and guides the parent(s) and child to learn to tolerate and validate the emotions that arise. During the sessions, the parent learns how to attune with the child, regardless of the emotion, and with the connection established therein, helps the child learn to regulate the emotional expression. The clinician guides the parent and child in establishing and maintaining eye contact, speaking with each other, acknowledging and naming emotions, and thereby processing the early concerns that make this kind of attunement difficult for the child. The therapist also organizes the sessions to include breaks from such intimacy and intensity through the establishment of a playful and fun environment, and other activities that teach self-regulation.