A commonly heard suggestion when faced with post adoption surrender trauma is “get therapy”. Many of us who have done this, or attempted to, know the value (or not) of taking such an action. I shared on my Facebook recently that I sought therapy for myself less than year after my daughter was born and surrendered. I was struggling with a desire to kill myself, experiencing nightmares and hallucinations. I used to find myself in the middle of the night sleep walking looking for a baby that I heard crying. So very cliche but sadly true in my case. I most often woke under the small bistro table I had in my studio apartment with my table cloth wrapped around me as a blanket. Exhausted, frightened of my own feelings and struggling, I sought the help of psychiatrist. His name was Dr. Bush. Following a lengthy free consult, during which he regularly turned his head this way and that while grimacing strangely, he informed me that he could not treat me. He matter of factly stated that he could not understand why I was having a problem and frankly thought I should be “grateful that someone adopted the child born to a woman like me”. He suggested I was seeking attention and that I should just “get over it” and “get on with my life”. He stated that if I insisted on my “seeking attention” he could refer me to a student he was mentoring. His name was Stan.
I saw Stan for a few weeks. He was nice enough in that I believe he was sincerely trying to understand, wanted to help, but he had no frame for my experience. Like Dr. Bush before him he was conditioned to believe adoption was a good thing. He could not grasp why I was not happy to be rid of my child and able to go on with my life. He focused on my parents, my alchoholic father, my social anxiety. These topics were all very valid but were not, at that time, the root cause of my difficulties. I wanted to, needed to, talk about my daughter and what had happened to me and her. He wanted me to move on and go elsewhere. Eventually I did – without him.
The general consensus with my adoptee friends and first mothers is that the majority of psycho therapists have no skill at treating adoption trauma. Like my friends Dr. Bush and Stan, most therapists we have encountered have ingested massive quantities of Adoption is A Good Thing flavored Koolaid. As such, they struggle with helping us deal with our grief and trauma. After nearly 20 years I did find one excellent therapist. Why did it take so long? What can be done to help mothers find qualified therapists? Is therapy the answer? How about the fact that many therapy professionals specializing in adoption matters are also impacted by adoption being either an adoptive parent, adoptee or in some cases a first parent? Is being a member of the triad a help or a hinderance when it comes to treating clients with adoption issues? As a client, do you prefer to have a therapist that has first hand experience? Or do you worry they may have a bias?
Personally, I found myself uncomfortable with the idea that my therapist might be a member of the triad. I realized, eventually, that what I needed was a therapist highly skilled with grief and trauma therapy.
How about you? If you were treated by a psychotherapist, how did it go? Were they knowledgeable in adoption? Grief? Trauma? Were they a member of the triad?
Most importantly, what suggestions do you have for current or future psychotherapists in their treatment of adoption traumatized individuals?