Why Adoption Competent Therapy Matters

Why Adoption Competent Therapy Matters

Adoption is a lifelong journey with complex emotional, psychological, and social dynamics that require specialized understanding and support. Adoption competent therapy matters to all impacted by adoption, including adoptees, birth families, and adoptive families. Everyone deserves an option for therapy that is tailored to their unique experiences and stories.

Benefits of Adoption Competent Therapy

Adoption competent therapy is therapy rooted in the understanding of what adoption is, its significance throughout a person’s life, and how it impacts individuals and families.

Therapists with this specialized training can provide targeted strategies that address specific adoption-related issues. They also provide a supportive space where clients can find understanding and validation in their unique experiences, including adoption.

Therapists can provide support for all members of the adoption constellation, and offer a family systems approach, addressing family dynamics and challenges. Adoption competent therapy helps mitigate the effects of trauma, improves attachment, and promotes identity development. This therapy helps promote understanding of one’s self, story, and future in a setting where the client doesn’t have to explain to the therapist why adoption is significant.

Unique Challenges Faced by Adoptees

Adoptees face unique challenges including:

  • Identity: Struggles with identity formation and understanding personal history.
  • Attachment and Trust: Difficulties in forming secure attachments due to early trauma or disrupted caregiving.
  • Grief and Loss: Processing feelings of loss related to birth family, culture, or previous homes.
  • Ambiguous Loss: Navigating loss related to one’s history, family, and relationships, made more challenging due to unknowns, lack of information, and uncertainties.
  • Trauma: Higher prevalence of early trauma and related mental health and psychological impacts.

Key Components of Adoption Competent Therapy

  • Specialized Training for Therapists: Importance of therapists receiving training in adoption issues, trauma-informed care, and cultural awareness.
  • Focus on Attachment Theory: Emphasizing the development of secure attachments within adoptive families.
  • Trauma-Informed Care: Understanding and addressing the impacts of trauma on behavior and emotional regulation.
  • Support for Identity Formation: Assisting adoptees in exploring and integrating their identities.
  • Family-Centered Approach: Involving adoptive parents and siblings in the therapeutic process.


  • Mental and Emotional Well-Being: Reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues.
  • Stronger Family Bonds: Improved communication and emotional connection within the family unit.
  • Resilience and Coping Skills: Enhanced ability to cope with adoption-related challenges and broader life stressors.
  • Identity Development: Support for navigating and developing one’s identity, and understanding of one’s adoption story.

Why Adoption Competent Therapy Matters

Adoption competent therapy is a valuable and much needed resource in the support of those impacted by adoption. Adoption competent therapy is essential for addressing the unique and complex needs of adoptees and their families, promoting mental health, and fostering healthy family dynamics. Adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents and families can all benefit from meeting with an adoption competent therapist focused on supporting them in navigating adoption-related challenges from an understanding, compassionate and supportive lens.

Looking for adoption competent therapy? Learn More About ACI’s Therapeutic Services Program

06.20.24 by Claire Dixon, ACI Clinical Director and Therapist

Claire Dixon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago. She completed the Training for Adoption Competency program through CASE (Center for Adoption Support and Education). She has training in trauma-informed therapy, attachment-focused therapy, play therapy and adoption-competent therapy. In her current role Claire is the Clinical Director and Therapist of ACI’s Therapeutic Services Program and oversees the international home study program. Adoption has been an important part of Claire’s life, as her younger sister was adopted from China as an infant.