Counseling adopted adults is often multi-faceted. The longing for authentic connection with their true self and with others can be particularly profound and poignant for adoptees. Yet since the adopteeʼs earliest experience was of separation and loss, there may also be an intense fear of this longed for connection. The old notion that infants adopted at birth were essentially a “blank slate”, and merely needed to be placed in a loving home, now seems extremely naive.
The critical point that has long been overlooked is that adoptees suffer from trauma. While trauma is not unique to adoptees, it occurs much earlier than it does for most people; before the development of a “pre-trauma self”. Adoptees can feel as if their trauma is at a cellular level, as if their entire “self” developed around the trauma, and we now know that in many ways this is true.
Therapists traditionally have not recognized that much of what appears to be “personality” is actually post-traumatic coping behavior. Because adoptees have experienced this all their lives, they often feel it to be a normal state. Since this trauma is preverbal, and precognitive, even if weʼre vaguely aware something is amiss, we have no language with which to express or even think about it as adults.
This is the level at which we will begin our work. Itʼs a path of discovery, encompassing many levels of inquiry. We begin with our natural curiosity. Somatic sensing, EMDR, and emotional attunement guide us to the parts of ourselves we lost contact with long ago. When we acknowledge the full extent of our wounds, we can begin to heal and create new neural pathways. Ultimately, what needs to be understood is that your true self resides within you, waiting to emerge, and with that emergence lies the freedom and connection you seek.
Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness, Betty Jean Lifton
The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, Nancy Newton Verrier
Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up, Nancy Newton Verrier
Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues, Anthology edited by Laura Dennis
Adoption Healing: A Path to Recovery, Joe Soll
Not Remembered, Never Forgotten, Robert Hafetz
Adoption Wisdom: A Guide to the Issues and Feelings of Adoption, Marlou Russell, Ph.D.
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, Dani Shaprio
By Blood, Ellen Ullman
You Remind Me of Me, Dan Chaon
Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver
The Illusion of Separateness, Simon Van Booy
Lola, California, Edie Meidav
The Beautiful Unseen: Variations on Fog and Forgetting, Kyle Boelte
Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, T. Geronimo Johnson
Famous Adopted People: A Novel by Alice Stephens
Three Identical Strangers (2018)
Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story (2009)
For the Life of Me (2010)
Mother and Child (2009)
Secrets & Lies (1996)
The Light Between Oceans (2017)
Father Unknown (2015)
My Other Mother (2015)
Family of Strangers (2008)
Then She Found Me (2007)
Casa de los Babys (2003)
Fruit Fly (2009)
The Waiting City (2009)
Strange Relations (2002)
Flirting with Disaster (1996)
Antwone Fisher (2003)
Lovely and Amazing (2001)