With the passing of three adoptees by suicide in just three weeks, I decided this list is much needed for adoptees and adoptive parents. Adoption trauma is a topic that we need to start taking seriously. Adoptees are four times more like to attempt suicide than non-adoptees, yet adoptees rarely receive the mental health therapy they need. Many adoptees are suffering in silence unable to break away from depression and anxiety because the trauma was never validated nor was therapy made available.
I believe all adoptees and adoptive parents should have a relationship with a therapist that specializes in adoption trauma and attachment. Trauma is tricky; it can show up in early childhood years to adult years. It is important adoptees have the support of a therapist, family, and friends to talk with to work through thoughts of suicide, depression, and anxiety. No adoptee should suffer in silence.
If you are unable to see a therapist or would like to better understand adoption trauma personally or for your child, I have compiled a list of adoption trauma books for you to gain a thorough understanding of adoption trauma.
Below I selected a list of therapists that are active in the adoptee community and specialize in adoption trauma. Those labeled with an asterisk * are adoptees.
For a list of mental health professionals who identify as adoptees please visit the adoptee-therapist directory created by Beyond Words Psychological Services.
If you would like to be added to I Am Adopted’s directory of adoption trauma therapist, please leave a comment with your contact information and link to your services page.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an integrative therapy that is effective in helping people get “un-stuck.” EMDR therapy is proven to be the most rapid and effective psychological treatment for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and is fast becoming the treatment of choice for anxiety, depression and many other symptoms.
“While my experience as an adoptee informs my work it doesn’t define it. Each person has a unique adoption story and our work will be collaborative in nature. My work with clients reveals that many adopted children have similar anxieties and many adults who were adopted share common themes in their relationships. I strive to provide education and awareness and tailored interventions so that this generation of adoptees can connect the dots of their story and have an integrated and well-balanced life.
I work with adoptees, adoptive families, foster youth, first/birth parents and prospective adoptive parents. I offer coaching specifically for Adoptive Parents who have questions and concerns related to parenting adopted children.”
Lesli Johnson is train and certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR is an integrative therapy that is effective in helping people get “un-stuck.” EMDR therapy is proven to be the most rapid and effective psychological treatment for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and is fast becoming the treatment of choice for anxiety, depression and many other symptoms.
EMDR therapy is useful for: adoption/attachment, grief/loss, separation trauma, depression, PTSD to name a few often related to adoption.
Lesli Johnson is located in Pasadena and Beverly Hills, CA. Teleconferencing is available.
“I specialize in illness and grief because as an adoptee I know loss in my bones. The best way I’ve found to heal from loss is through meaning.
Pamela Cordano is a psychotherapist who specializes in illness and grief. For twenty years she has worked with individuals, couples, families and groups using a relational and somatic approach. Inspired by Viktor Frankl, she is passionate about the power of identifying and embodying what is meaningful, which allows for increased vitality and new possibilities. She leads a weekly Meaning Group in her private practice and teaches MeaningWork workshops locally and abroad.
Pamela Cordano is located in Davis, California.
“Jeanette’s desire to become a child therapist with a special focus on adopted and foster care issues derived from her own experience of being adopted and moving through the foster care system. Her personal experience has informed her education and provided insight into the unique stresses involved with these issues.
Because of Jeanette’s life experience she can more easily connect and relate to the children and teens she works with. She is an exceptional child-care worker who is dedicated to helping each of her clients reach their full potential through mental health therapy and make the difficult journey from despair towards resiliency and hope.
Jeanette Yoffe is located in Los Angeles, California.
As the parent of two teens and a tween, both by birth and adoption – adoption-related issues are a special area of focus. Maureen holds an M.A. from Antioch University. She also completed the Family Training Program at the Southern California Counseling Center and co-facilitates the monthly Adopt Salon Pacific Palisades Family Support Group.
She works with parents, adolescents and kids offering an opportunity to resolve conflict, alleviate distress and lay the groundwork for successfully negotiating life’s inevitable challenges and the ever-shifting dynamic of parent/child relationships.
Maureen Donley’s is located in Los Angeles, California.
As the mother of two young children adopted through foster care, she understands first hand the complex issues involved for all in the process. Her focus in family and individual therapy is on healing early life trauma and helping to build healthy, loving relationships. She also helps guide those who are currently considering adoption as a way to build their family. Ledette grew up in Colombia, and in addition to being able to conduct therapy in fluent Spanish, she understands the cultural differences around foster care and adoption in the Hispanic community.
Ledette Gambini’s is located in Los Angeles, California.
Casey provides child, family, and adult psychotherapy for adoption, foster care, parenting, trauma, depression, ADHD, anger, anxiety, and attachment issues. She creates a safe and supportive environment to nurture all families. Drawing from a lifetime of personal experience, Casey offers compassionate understanding and specialized support to all members of the adoption constellation.
Casey Jones is located in Los Angeles, California.
You deserve to work with a professional who understands the complexities of adoption. I have a literal lifetime of experience with adoption – as an international and transracial adoptee from India, adoptive parent to a son from Ethiopia, and professional specializing in foster and adoption work with families.
I work with child, teen, and adult adoptees from international, domestic, and foster care adoptions who are struggling with areas such as trauma, grief, loss, racial/ethnic/cultural identity, life transitions, and relationships. I offer a combination of individual counseling, trauma counseling (EMDR), family therapy, parent coaching/education, and play therapy to meet your unique needs
Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is located in Denver, CO and offers a complimentary consultation.
“I am an adoptee with over two decades of experience counseling adoptees. I believe that having questions or concerns about being adopted is normal. While not every issue experienced by an adoptee is connected to being adopted, many are. What’s important is letting yourself explore what’s about being adopted and what isn’t. I will never dismiss or silence you about your adoption experience.”
Karen Caffrey uses Somatic Experiences for Trauma. Somatic Experiencing® is a system of healing techniques designed to help you calm down after a stressful event(s), as well as relieve the symptoms of ongoing and chronic stress. Nature has beautifully designed your nervous systems to be able to do this. Your ability to respond to stressful events and then calm down is called “resilience”.
Karen Caffrey is located in Hartford, CT.
Visit her website to receive a free 15-minute phone consultation.
“My specializations within the field of mental health have been developed through a combination of formal education, clinical experience, personal life experiences, and the experiences of those I love. I enjoy treating a wide range of issues and have a great deal of patience with the slow and sometimes uncertain process of healing deep wounds. My approach to counseling addresses the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that contribute to a person’s overall functioning. I find that a comprehensive approach that acknowledges the multidimensional nature of people and relationships typically yields equally comprehensive results. ”
Melissa Richards specializes in Adoption, trauma, depression, grief, anxiety, anger, adolescents (ages 14+), bipolar disorders, coping skills, compulsive behaviors, eating disorders, divorce, relationship issues, self-image, self-harming.
Melissa Richards is located in Miami, FL. Teleconferencing is available.
Suzanne M. Clark is located in Atlanta, GA
Krista Woods, M.S.W, LCSW, (formerly McCoy) is the primary therapist and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is well-known and respected in the field of foster care, adoption and mental health. She continues to publish articles on issues relating to adoption and foster care; and provides training across the US and abroad to prospective adoptive parents and adoption professionals and birth parents. She is often called up as a subject matter expert on adoption-related issues.
She also has a personal connection with adoption. She is a biracial (African-American/Caucasian), transracial adoptee. She was briefly placed in foster care at birth and then adopted through the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She has met several members of her birth family and continues to make new connections. She also has several other family members who joined their family by adoption.
Specialty topics of training and therapy include a variety of adoption issues: transracial adoption, foster care/foster to adoption, openness in adoption, search and reunions, adoption through the lifespan, kinship care as well as the affects grief and loss on all members of the adoption triad.
Krista Wood’s is located in Homewood, Illinois.
Kay provides therapy for individuals, couples, and families. She is passionate about building connections between people. Kay has extensive experience with attachment issues. She specializes in working with adopted children and their families. Kay uses a combination of approaches, including: Theraplay, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Trust-Based Relational Therapy, Brain Gym, EMDR, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Kay also does public speaking about adoption and parenting issues.
Kay has been married for 31 years. She has 4 teenage and young adult children, 2 by birth and 2 by adoption.
Kay Holler is located in Chicago, IL
Mandy Jones is a LCSW in Evanston, IL (just north of Chicago). I have provided both home- and office-based services for adoptive families. I’m a Certified Theraplay Therapist and Trainer. Theraplay is great for adoptive families, as it provides a framework for creating secure attachment.
I make it my goal to help families celebrate their successes and work through their struggles. Adoptive families experience some unique struggles that require special care and attention. Whether struggles arise when your child is 2 weeks, 2 years, 12 years, or 25 years old, I’m here to help. I believe in creating a collaborative relationship with parents to improve relationships and help children overcome their obstacles.
Mandy Jones is located in Evanston, IL
Throughout my career, I have worked with several adult adoptees, children that have been adopted, expectant mothers, birth mothers, and parents of adopted children. I adopted my son as a single woman and count several adoptees and adoptive parents among my friends, mentors, and clients. While not all concerns relate back to adoption, it is important to work with someone who understands the impact that adoption can have on an individual and a family. It is especially important for children to work with a therapist that will work with the entire family and not allow him or herself to become an attachment figure for the child.
Whether your concerns are directly related to adoption or not, a professional that fully understands all that is involved with adoption and the emotional triggers that can impact an individual even years later will best serve those in the adoption community. Most counselors and social workers are never provided specific adoption training and many families find that a therapist who is not trained in adoption competency can do more harm than good.
Brook Randolph is located in Indianapolis, IN. Teleconferencing is available.
“Specializing in trauma; and adoptive and foster kids, teens, and adults. In my private practice, I offer individual, family, and group therapy. Nearly all of the time, I see children and teens with attachment issues (RAD) in a family therapy setting. I also offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills groups with kids and teens.
Over the years, I have studied numerous treatment modalities (types of therapy) including:
Karyn Purvis’ Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)
Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model (NMT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Several of the modalities are for specializing in trauma, and the others are to provide a child, teen, or adult with skills for daily life . . . managing emotions, social skills, and tolerating life’s frustrating moments.”
Carol Lozier is located in Louisville, KY.
Dr. Pavao has done extensive training, both nationally and internationally. She is a lecturer in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and she has consulted with various public and private child welfare agencies, adoption agencies, schools, and community groups, as well as probate and family court judges, lawyers, and clergy. Additionally, she has worked closely with individuals and families touched by adoption, foster care, and other complex blended family constructions.
She has developed models for treatment and for training using her systemic, intergenerational, and developmental framework, The Normative Crises in the Development of the Adoptive Family, and her book, The Family of Adoption(Beacon Press), has received high acclaim.
Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao has worked for forty years in the fields of adoption and complex families, child welfare, family therapy, organizational development, and family systems, through consulting, training, and designing programs and interventions for schools, businesses, corporations, and non-profit agencies.
Dr. Pavao can help you to identify alternative sources of wisdom, such as spiritual traditions and the self-help and human potential theories, and to bring a range of specialized approaches, from narrative and cognitive-behavioral coaching to cognitive coaching for executives, parents, athletes, artists, musicians, young adults, and teens who are in need of identity focus and framing.
Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao is located in Cambridge, MA
The experience of being adopted can hit adoptees like a ton of bricks. When it does surface, it is often linked with other life stresses and transitions with those who matter.
For more than 15 years, I’ve been passionate about helping individuals and families change their lives. My life as a Korean-Adoptee enriches and informs my work, but it doesn’t dominate it. Along with overarching themes, it’s the nuances of the details that make each family unique.
Extensive experience leading groups for therapeutic, psycho-ed and support groups for adoptive parents, Asian adoptees, clinicians, and adolescent girls.
Katie Naftzger’s is located in Newton, Massachusettes.
I received specialized knowledge and training providing psychotherapy to children and adolescents using Play Therapy, Art Therapy, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Most of my experience has been helping foster and adopted children and adolescents that have experienced complex trauma and loss. I specialize in treating adolescents and adults who display high-risk behaviors by utilizing evidenced-based, empathic, and individualized treatment.
Prior to working in my own private practice, I was employed in a community mental health setting where I received specialized training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Family Psychoeducation, Trauma-Focused interventions. I help people recover from anxiety and depression, problems in their relationships, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trauma, addictions, and women’s issues.
Melissa K Nicolson is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Michelle Newman is located in Traverse City, MI. She accepts Medicaid insurances as well.
Using collaboration and transparency I support and empower clients through a wide range of challenges. Empowering clients, identifying their own resources, creating new narratives and understanding to shift cycles of interaction all work to help people seeking help to shift from places of being stuck to getting unstuck. I offer a highly personalized and integrated contemporary approach tailored to each of my clients’ individual needs. Together, we will identify solution-oriented paths to strengthen relationships, face the challenges of life today while personal growth and goals they’re striving for.
Treatment specialization includes:
Linda Wachtel is located in Tenafly, NJ
Amanda Baden, Ph.D* – Transracial Adoption.net
She was adopted from Hong Kong and raised in a transracially adoptive family. Her experiences both personally and professionally have lead her to focus her research and clinical practice on adoption triad members, transracial/international adoption issues, racial and cultural identity, and multicultural counseling competence. Dr. Baden has written extensively on adoption issues including having created a model of identity for transracial and international adoptees called the Cultural-Racial Identity Model.
Dr. Baden’s clinical specializations include counseling adoption triad members, transracial adoptees, and individuals having multiracial backgrounds. She lives in New York City and is a licensed psychologist with a clinical practice in Manhattan.
Some of my clients have been:
Dr. Amanda Baden is located in Manhattan, NY
Jennifer Griesbach is a psychotherapist providing therapy for adopted adults in New York City. She is trained as a gestalt therapist and in EMDR and works with the body and our pre- and non-verbal experience of trauma as a way to get to the heart of the person’s adoption experience while being sensitive to the effects of trauma and issues in adoptee development.
If you feel like you have been going in circles around issues that might be related to you having joined your family through adoption, or you are not functioning as well as you actually could if you could sort through it all, Jennifer Griesbach would like to speak with you.
As a specialist in this area Jennifer Griesbach has found that her adopted adult clients have been able to sort through these questions and many others in the supportive environment of therapy and have been able to move forward with their lives.
Jennider Griesback is located in New York City, NY
Susan Branco PhD, LPC, LCPC, NCC, ACS – Adoption Therapist.Org
Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Maryland with more than 15 years experience providing mental health counseling services for diverse populations with treatment needs ranging from severe mental illness to mild adjustment issues. Regardless of the populations she serves, Susan strongly believes every person possesses innate strengths and resiliency. She does not adhere to a pathological model of treatment. Rather, she works diligently with her clients to build a trusting relationship, to identify their core strengths, and to collaboratively develop a plan to address where they feel challenged.
Dr. Susan Branco office is located in Falls Church, VA
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor who provides therapy to children through adults. I work with adopted and foster care children as well as the adoption / foster parents. I have specialized training in substance abuse, trauma, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), play therapy, and Mindfulness. I also have training in Theraplay and Circle of Security which are attachment-based approaches to increase attachment and awareness.
Compassionate Counseling, LLC is a Christian and Veteran-owned small business. As a Christian, I also offer spiritual guidance based on Biblical principles to anyone who desires to enhance the therapeutic process with spiritual growth.
I am also an adoptive mother of 2 whom has learned a lot through the parenting of her children which I consider as a strength in combination with my professional training as I help others heal and grow.
Elizabeth Taylor is located in Fredericksburg, VA
Jaclyn Skalnik, LCSW, is the founder of Adoption Wellness and is also a transracial, internationally adopted person.
She has assisted adoptive families throughout their adoption process for nearly two decades. She has presented at global conferences on matters concerning adoption and is passionate about counseling adopted persons and adoptive families seeking support. Other professional experiences include international adoption-related travel throughout Asia and Latin America, homeland travel with adoptive families, and advocating on behalf of children who deserve permanency in a loving, healthy family.
Jaclyn is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a trained Hague Accreditation reviewer for the Council on Accreditation, a member of the National Association of Social Workers, a World of Diversity trainer, adoptive family homeland journey social worker and has facilitated international birth-family searches and reunions.
Adoption Wellness provides one-on-one, child-focused play therapy for adopted youth as well as one-on-one counseling for adult adoptees and others connected to adoption (adoptive parents, siblings, grandparents, significant others, spouses). Topics of specialty include:
Jaclyn Skalnik office is located in Pewaukee, WI
Dr. Wilson is an associate professor of Pediatrics in the division of Child Development at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She is the staff psychologist within the International Adoption Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In this role, she provides support to families at all stages of their adoption journeys, including pre-adoption education, initial consultation following a child’s immigration, school-age assessment, and child/family therapy. She is an adjunct staff to the Wisconsin-based TIES program, a heritage travel experience for children and families.
Though her clinical specialty is in the unique psychosocial development of children adopted internationally, she also has clinical expertise in the mental health needs within domestic adoption and foster care.
Dr. Wilson’s offices are located in Brookfield, WI, and Milwaukee, WI
Outside of the U.S
I use a holistic framework for addressing emotional difficulties, approaching them from the idea that emotions are often stored in the body. This mind-body approach allows us to complete unfinished business and facilitate deep long-lasting healing.
I draw on my qualifications as a registered psychologist, an initiatic art therapist, a life coach, and a certified Soul Art® Guide, along with my personal experience as one who has walked through the shadows many times.
Issues you might choose to address include anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, recovery from abuse and adverse childhood experiences (including adoption), improving communication, body image issues and life transitions.
I work with those who are recovering from trauma, struggling with transitions, and remembering who they are.
Healing involves honouring all our feelings, even the so-called ‘bad’ ones. When we do this, our outer circumstances start to align with who we are inside.
Leanne Chapman is located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia or via Skype (or similar program)
Do you have a therapist recommendation that you would like to add? Or are you a therapist that specializes in adoption trauma? Please post your recommendations in the comment section.
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