By Carol Lozier
Families experience great joy as they welcome newly adopted or foster children into their lives. When a child comes home, parents might start counseling right away or the need may not arise until a later time, such as adolescence. Identifying the right therapist can be a challenging task, especially if a parent is not familiar with the counseling field. This article gives parents direction on choosing the right adoption counselor for their child. There are many factors to consider, from insurance and office location, to the therapist’s degree and training. Any reputable therapist will be happy to answer questions about themselves and their practice. Some questions to ask the prospective therapist include:
Do you have a masters’ degree (or greater) in a counseling related field? Counseling related fields include: psychology, social work, psychiatry, and marriage and family therapy.
Do you have a license to practice independently? Each state and degree have different requirements, but a license indicates the therapist passed state boards showing competency in their degree.
When did you finish your counseling degree? It is preferable for the therapist to have completed their degree more than five years ago. Of course, more experience is desirable.
Do you take my insurance? If the therapist is in-network with your insurance, call the company to request benefit information and an authorization (if needed). If the therapist is out-of- network, call the company to determine your benefits. You will want to ask about your deductible, co-pays, co-insurance, and requirement for authorization.
How many years have you worked with foster and adopted children? An effective counselor will have at least two to three years expertise in the area of foster care or adoptions. And ideally, 30% to 50% of the therapist’s practice should be with foster or adopted children.
What is the location of your practice? Ask about location as it can make a difference in your choice.
As the parent, will I stay in the room during my child’s sessions? Typically, an adoption therapist keeps parents in the therapy session with the child. The parent remains in the room for information and attachment opportunities.
How were you trained to work in this area? There are many acceptable treatment models, including: Theraplay, Narrative therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and Dyadic Developmental therapy. Research whichever model the therapist uses so that you are familiar with the process and know what to expect in sessions.
What additional training do you have that augments your chosen model? It is suggested that therapists have additional training in: individual therapy with children and adults, family therapy, child development, trauma work, and cognitive and behavior therapy.
Will we meet alone with you in the first session or do we bring our child? A general rule of thumb is parents attend the first session alone unless the child is an adolescent, then the child may accompany the parents.
These last questions are for the family to ask themselves after the first visit or two: Do we feel this therapist is a positive and comfortable fit for our family? Is the counselor open to our questions about the therapy process? You want to be able to answer “Yes” to both of these questions, as the therapeutic relationship is interactive and built on trust and respect.