Sara-Jane Hardman and Jean Roe Mauro, LCSW 
Article Title
Selecting a Therapist 
Posted Date

From the time, our beautiful 7-month-old baby, arrived in our home we had concerns about her. But it was so early that we ignored our instincts and went on with our lives. It would have been wiser to have asked for help right at the beginning as we were unprepared for what lay ahead. She was such a serious baby, rarely laughing or smiling. She didn’t like to be cuddled and pushed herself away from us when we would try to hold her. We went from those early days to a somewhat later time when she was biting, lying and frequently disobedient. We later witnessed unexplainable hoarding, playing with matches and then a pattern of more dangerous behaviors. There may come a time in your child’s development when you feel the need to seek professional help in raising her. Perhaps she has early disturbing behaviors like biting, or lying or stealing. Perhaps she is having problems in school or you may find she is having difficulty making or holding on to friends. You may come to this decision to seek help on your own or it may be recommended by a teacher or close relative or someone else. A few friendly suggestions here: If you are concerned about anything, get help. Don’t let friendly neighbors talk you out of it or wait to “see how things develop.” If there is a problem it will only become magnified if it is not dealt with early on. Once your child is in therapy and getting help from a competent professional, stick with it. Don’t discontinue it because things are going better. This may be just a short term effect which will need sustained reinforcement with a trained professional. There is nothing wrong with a child’s long term use of professional services, and if you find someone you are all comfortable with and who understands what is to be achieved it can only enhance your parenting experience by giving you access to good advice and the professional guidance of someone who is dedicated to your family’s welfare. If you don’t feel that assurance look for help elsewhere. While it often feels daunting to find an ethical and highly experienced therapist, one who is well equipped to work with adoption issues, there are reliable guidelines to follow.

Selecting a Therapist:

  • Be aware that most therapists have neither the training nor experience to deal with issues of attachment.
  • Resist the temptation to stop therapy when things seem to be getting better. Untreated attachment problems can lead to the development of unhealthy behavioral problems which become harder to treat in later years.
  • Choose a therapist who is familiar with the developmental implications of adoption and childhood attachment.
  • Select a therapist who is willing to communicate with you on a continuing basis.

Sources for Referral:

    Word of mouth with other adoptive parents Other therapists Schools- Guidance Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers Evaluators: Educational, Psychoeducational, and Home study Pediatricians Neurologists Educational Remediators CHADD Support groups focused on ADD or learning disabilities

Information to Provide for Therapist:

    Age at time of adoption Early background information-birthparents, prenatal care, medical and genetic information, substance use, early child rearing conditions Developments and changes after child is brought home Meeting of developmental milestones from birth to time therapy is begun (sitting up, giving up bottle, crawling, talking, walking etc.)

Questions to Ask:

  • Does the therapist appear to be open minded, creative, a good listener and observer and willing to learn new techniques?
  • How will the child be assessed? This process may take quite a while and can not be done in one session.
  • Does the therapist understand the unique issues related to adoption such as bonding, attachment, and the effects of changing caregivers?
  • Does the therapist have access to other resources such as educational attorneys and consultants?
  • Is the therapist willing to treat the problem in a way that is appropriate for the age of the child? In the early years therapy may focus on parenting skills required for the child with attachment disorders since the early interaction between parent and child is critical. As the child matures, therapy will possibly involve direct therapy between the child and the therapist.
  • Does the therapist have an understanding of the behavioral implications related to ADD and learning disabilities and the ability to diagnose these conditions or refer for diagnosis?
  • Is the therapist capable of assessing an older child for attachment issues which have not been recognized in younger years?

In selecting the best therapist it is important that you have confidence in your ability to take the lead by asking the questions that are important to you and your family. You know your child better than anyone else, and it will be your responsibility to teach the professional about your child. This is key to making an accurate evaluation and developing a plan for treatment.

The authors, Hardman, Sara-Jane and Mauro, Jean Roe, LCSW, have recently published their book "If I Love My Child Enough"
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