What is an Adoption Competent Mental Health Practice?

If you are a person who has experienced adoption, be it an adoptee or an adoptive parent, you will want a professional who has been trained in adoption competency.  But, what exactly does “adoption competency” mean?

Adoption is nothing new, and it was happening during Bible times.  Adoption in America has looked differently through the ages.  And, while we have made many great improvements and learned from old practices and beliefs, we still are improving with laws, policies, and processes as time goes on and we learn more.  An adoption competent therapist will be familiar with the early adoption roots, like orphan trains, baby farming, and placing out and they will understand where beliefs have come from and been woven into our society’s way of thinking about adoption.  An adoption competent therapist will also understand the ways that adoption has evolved has impacted specific populations, such as African American or Black, Native Americans, and children from other countries.

An adoption competent therapist knows that most adoptive parents are successful in parenting their children, and they also know that adopted families have an elevated need for mental health services due to various reasons.  They also know there is a huge lack of awareness around adoption issues, and this is a part of the mental health problem when serving families.  Adoptive families, both the parents, children and even other members of the family, have such as host of complex issues surrounding the adoption.  Parents may not even always understand the implications of children’s adverse experiences or their own issues, such as grief, that are compiled into the situation.  An adoption competent therapist will explore all these avenues with the family, together and individually.

Finally, an adoption competent mental health service providers knows what is helpful to adoptive families and what isn’t, unlike other mental health providers who may have very limited training or experience working with adoptive family issues.  A therapist will have specific clinical work prior to adoption, during the process, and after finalization that they adhere too, with some flexibility, of course.  Follow along with the blog posts, as the next blog post will cover the Adoption Competent Practice Principles.

Working with Grief

Even though grief is an experience that no one wants to go through, it is something that everyone will eventually.  Grief is always hard, but sometimes it is also complicated.  Sometimes people can get through the tough experiences with their natural supports and skills they have already.  However, sometimes people need more help with their grief experiences.  Sometimes they need help getting unstuck.  There are ways a therapist can help.  When working with a child or adult who has complicated or traumatic grief, there are certain things a therapist will likely do to help.  First, a therapist will provide grief psychoeducation.  While the stages of grief are well known, sometimes it helps if the client understands that there is no normal process of going through the stages as everyone experiences them differently.  It also helps for children and adults to work through the variety of feelings and thoughts they are having as well.  Secondly, the therapist will likely help the client with resolving ambivalent feelings about the deceased.  While this is often very difficult, for various reasons, it is necessary to identify both things that will be missed and things that won’t be missed.  Someone experiencing grief may also be grieving things that might have occurred in the future but now they know will not.  A therapist may help the client anticipate loss reminders or trauma reminders.  Another aspect of processing grief that the therapist will likely assist with is preserving positive memories of the deceased. The therapist will likely have many activities that he or she can use with the child, adult, or with the entire family.  Lastly, the therapist will help their client to redefine the relationship with the deceased as well as committing to the present relationships.  This is a difficult thing for those suffering from complicated grief, as they may feel that moving on is a betrayal to the deceased.  Sometimes grief is more than what a person can cope with on their own, and when this is the case, a therapist can help.

Thought Interruption and Positive Imagery

Every one has those pesky, intrusive and negative thoughts running through their minds every now and then.  Other than being negative and annoying, those intrusive thoughts can actually impact how you feel and behave.  Luckily, you can employ coping skills, such as thought interruption and positive imagery, to help!

Thought interruption simply means thought stopping.  Everyone has negative and unhelpful, and sometimes untrue thoughts that just pop right into your head.  Think of those negative thoughts as bad channels on your television.  You have control over those, because you can change the channel.  Apply that to your negative thoughts.  As soon as you realize you are watching those negative channels, or listening to those negative thoughts, you can change it with a click of the remote!  Since we don’t really have a remote control with positive channels, we have to create them.  Just make happy images.  You want to have these positive channels planned out ahead of time, just like the menu on your television programing.  I like to use my happy place, the beach.  You can think of your happy place; a happy event, like Christmas or your birthday; or a happy moment, such as hitting a home run in a baseball game.  You can create a safe space if needed.  With your positive channels planned out, you’ll be able to switch channels next time you have those negative and intrusive thoughts!

Good luck using your new coping skills and becoming more in charge of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Happy channel surfing!


Summer Coping Skill # 3

The week went by fast, but I didn’t forget to post a coping skill this week! Guided imagery is a coping skill that you can use to help you relax when experiencing stress and anxiety. There are many different kinds of guided imagery, so try out a few different ones to see what you like! I have made a YouTube video (see below) with guided imagery at the beach, my happy spot! Hope you enjoy! You can like and save the video to listen to again and again! Feel free to share it, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming videos! Be on the look out for all the summer coping skills to come. Here is the link to the guided imagery:

Summer Coping Skills #2

Welcome back to the Summer Coping Skills blog (or vlog).  This week I met up with an awesome school counselor, Anna Harrell,  who shares about the sadness of loosing someone you love and how she helps her students and family members with that.  Her niece even shows us several deep breathing techniques that she uses to help her when she is feeling sad and talks about other great coping skills she uses to  help her with her grief.  Check out this week’s Summer Coping Skills here:


Be sure to come back next week to check out the third week of the Summer Coping Skills series, because I will have another awesome guest to share some skills she teaches others to cope based on her area of expertise.  You don’t want to miss it!

Summer Coping Skill #1

Hello! For summer of 2021, I will be posting several videos with coping skills.  For the first summer coping skill, I am sharing my favorite- a mindfulness activity.  I love it because you can literally do it anywhere.  It doesn’t matter if you are sitting in a classroom waiting to present in front of other students or if you are feeling frustrated while a line of customers pile up on you at works, because no one knows you are doing it (if you do it silently in your head) and it is very quick.  It is also great because it utilizes the five senses, making it great for kids as well as adults.  We talk about other situations where you may use the coping skill in our video.  Watch the video to find out how to use this coping skill to help you become grounded and more regulated.

May is National Foster Care Month

May is coming to a quick close, but were you aware that it was National Foster Care Month?  Not sure how to celebrate?  Here are  a few ideas:

Support foster families by offering to provide meals, clothing, books, or other needs

Support agencies who place foster children by donating items or your time

Support children who have been in foster care or are in foster care by allowing them to grieve, understanding that they are in a hard place, and being non-judgmental towards them

Also consider praying about ways you can support foster children.  Maybe you can talk to someone who has been or is a foster parent.  Find out more about what local agencies offer for those considering fostering.

If you are not sure if becoming a foster or adoptive parent is right for you, or if you know that it is right but feel that it would be beneficial to have some much needed preparation prior to taking the plunge, consider attending pre-adoption counseling sessions.  Pre-adoption or pre-foster counseling sessions help you to work through your expectations and explore how those expectations may and may not be met in various ways, which helps you not feel disappointment (in yourself, a spouse, a family member, or the child), helps you grieve, and helps you continue building a positive relationship with your child.  Sessions also help you explore your parenting styles, attachment styles, love languages, and your working model for what family is.  Affection, discipline, and many other things that you think about when it comes to parenting can look very different with a child from hard places.  If you are interested in scheduling pre-adoption or pre-fostering counseling sessions, please contact me.  Many married couples attended pre-marital counseling, and so this type of counseling is the same concept, except it prepares you to open your home, heart, and life to a child.

Social Media Impact on Teens

After recently having come off of Facebook during the time of Lent, I am feeling much better about myself and seeking less validation from others as a result.  There have been numerous studies conducted to show that the increased amounts of social media have a positive correlation to increased amounts of anxiety and depression, for both teens and adults.  My God-daughter wrote the following empirical analysis on social media impact on teens, and I am very thankful that she shared it with me so that I could add on my website’s blog.  I think that anyone who has a teenager should read this, and everyone of all ages should reflect on the impact that social media usage has on them personally and with the relationships they have with others.  Enjoy the read!  And, thank you Ms. Ariayana Harrell  for writing this- such an important topic- and for sharing with me and my readers!

Here is the link: