I have a very small private practice and it was created out of my selfish desire to continue working in adoption while being a mother. The decision to work was something I grappled with for a long time. After all, I don’t get to do this mothering thing intensely for long. My boys are getting bigger and spending more and more time at school. So, I tentatively put out my shingle wondering if anyone would want to come and talk to me. Using my title of “mother” as my compass, I carved a patchwork of “work days” and have found myself surprisingly busy. I was hoping for just two regular clients. Instead, I am called upon to do workshops, share my story and counsel parents who are worried they aren’t doing enough for their kids. I get to meet amazing kids and grown up adoptees who allow me to travel with them as they figure themselves out. By not making money my primary goal of life, my work has allowed me to be with people at their most vulnerable and at the end of the day, they are willing to pay. I do realize I am privileged in being able to accept most anything as payment as I am not the primary income earner for our family.
What I have learned over the years of private practice work is that the task of asking for help is a brave one. And I wish more people did it. Not because I am an authority on life, their life, but because the act of sharing and “coming to play” figuring out where adoption fits into one’s life is not an easy act at all. Being able to illuminate patterns that aren’t so effective anymore or offer permission to say the stuff they dared never to say aloud are moments of true magic. Normalizing those crazy making thoughts about how they feel ab0ut being adopted and the struggles they have with their family, relationships and themselves soothes in the most profound way.
The other lesson I am learning is that being adopted and working as a therapist for another adopted person can be invaluable. It is no secret I am adopted. It is THE reason most people come to me in the first place. Whether the person is a Korean adoptee or another has little relevance. Just that I am adopted. We choose our therapist for a myriad of reasons notwithstanding the very human connection we feel in the room. And I don’t believe you have to be adopted to be an amazing clinician for another who is. But for the many who seek me out, my willingness to be an “out” adoptee therapist can serve as a benchmark of the kind of counsel they seek. It allows for a different comfort level and openness without the stress that they need to educate the person who is hearing their most intimate thoughts.
One of the biggest woes of adoption agencies is that they will be out of the business of creating families the way they used to. And while no one disputes the severe derth of post adoption services, the excuse remains, “there is no money in post adoption.” I can’t wrap my head around that. Just how much money are they expecting? It strikes me odd that money is the fall back reason for not providing the most crucial service to our families and especially our kids. My thought then is, if more agencies provided services like groups, birth search support, workshops on parenting and navigating the adoption continuum, people will come. If the approach was the very practical understanding that adoption can add a truly complex layer onto life’s ordinary milestones, more people would want to hear about that. If the idea that “adoption is an event” could be banished and if they paid more attention to the “ever after” part of the adoption story, more families might stay connected and there might be fewer adoptees growing up feeling so very alone. I know there are people reading this who would believe me to be incredbibly naive. There are places that do just about all of the above struggling to keep open. I would counter, that our culture does not permit for such broad perspectives on adoption just yet. We criticize other countries for not keeping up with the changes in their societal culture. In this area, I think we are just the same.