FAQ: Inside the Mind of Your Counselor

Hello!! It can feel a bit strange to begin working with someone you’ve just met, right? Here are some questions that have been important for families to know about me as they consider choosing an adoption-informed therapist/counselor. Read along, and at the end you’ll get to let me know what I’ve missed!

1. Could you share a specific case example of layers you observe and areas you specialize in when you support adoptive/foster/kinship families (e.g., a 10-year-old adopted at birth finds out his biological mother is pregnant and needs help to understand why his “real mom” didn’t “keep him” and is struggling to adapt to this transition)?

I recognize all of the above layers as important pieces to consider when working with families on the adoption and permanency spectrum. Parents need support as much as the children, I try so hard to guide and affirm parents without “targeting” them, so that they feel me joining, that they would see me wholeheartedly rooting for them. As an adult adoptee, I also give space for ambiguous loss, developmental/complex trauma, academic concerns, challenges with peers, the complicated dimensions of identity development and the components of race, ethnicity, and privilege that shape our experiences as members of a “host-culture” narrative. I hold this professionally, but also personally. Before, during, and after reuniting with my birth mother in Korea, I faced a breadth and depth of emotions and was very fortunate to have had an abundance of formal and informal support established in my personal community.

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I do realize that can be difficult to access, and now even as I face rejection in my attempts to visit Korea again, I’m focused on helping families navigate the needs of everyone involved; the “constellation” of voices represented in the adoption/foster/kinship journey. 

2. What’s your approach to exploring race and culture with transracial or transcultural adoptive/foster and kinship families?

I’ve written somewhat extensively about my approach here and here.  I think what helps guide my thinking is that I’m still learning; I approach this as a student. I grew up in the 80s, and I wrestle with the idea that issues from then either a) continue to be issues now or b) have evolved into newer, more complicated issues in the 21st century, individually and uniquely as well as generally and globally.  I think race, ethnicity, culture and identity matter, they have a significant impact on the family experience, and it’s our calling as public servants to hold these matters delicately yet with an informed compassion that would cry with someone while at the same time advocate for them at the state capital.

3. How do you invite/integrate caregivers into the therapeutic process?

Carefully. Faithfully. Respectfully. Consistently. These are ideas that come to mind. Caregivers are so important! I love the idea that I’m not the hero. It’s not about me. A question I ask myself is, “What are they looking for, what’s their goal, what’s important to them, what’s their fear and desire, and how do I join them as a helper, a guide, a person who might co-create a plan with them and cheer for them as they decide to carry it out?”

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I often tell caregivers they have the furthest reach into their child’s life. Sure, the family meets with me 50 minutes once per week. But before and after (and during!) it’s their show. Yes, we as clinicians have training and insight and a “lens” through which we can serve them, but I think it’s empowering for the family to know they are the main decision-makers and participants in their healing and growth. I’m just a witness, perhaps even a needy recipient of the same grace and comfort that I hope to herald and provide.

4. You’ve mentioned “psychoeducation” in previous posts. What’s that and how do you provide it for adoptive/foster/kinship care parent(s) (e.g., books, websites, other professionals or services, handouts, trainings, etc.):

I personally keep these in my back pocket. Additionally, I’ve received training from the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative – it’s a privilege for me to speak from that clinically informed posture when serving adoptive/foster/kinship families.

5. Could you talk about the types of supportive resources you help identify for families – how do you assist families who want to connect with to those supports? (e.g., mental health case management for children, support groups, other services, etc.).

My clinical experience has helped me understand the broad selection of resources available to families within local and regional communities. I’m often recommending support like county services, special education, OT, ST, med management, evaluations, case management, social groups, psycho ed. books/film/articles, research, trainings like Circle of Security, Dr. Ross Greene, Dan Siegal, Karyn Purvis, Heather Forbes, etc.

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We’re at a moment in history where there’s an explosion of solid adoption-informed professionals putting their work online via film and blog and even YouTube (e.g., Angela Tucker, Bessel van der Kolk, Katie Naftzger, JaeRan Kim, Sarah Park Dahlen, etc.).

I’ve also learned this process can feel so complex and bureaucratic that families sometimes feel stuck and have no clue where to start. Sometimes I write out links in email or we talk over the phone, we also look online in session together when families feel overwhelmed by the whole process. The good news is we’re a multi-disciplinary professional (and personal!) community.

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There are folks out there this very hour who are highly trained and skilled and passionate about navigating these systemic tasks; I reach out to them often and pull them into our support team. 

Q&A

How does that fit for you? Did we cover everything? What additional information would be helpful for you as you consider choosing your adoption-informed therapist?

Send me your questions and I’ll personally respond within 24 hours.

 

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