Baden, A.L., Kitchen, A., Mazza, J.R., Harrington, E.S., & White, E.E. (2017). Addressing adoption in counseling: A study of adult adoptees’ counseling satisfaction. Families in Society, 98(3), 209–216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.2017.98.26.
Higher proportions of adopted persons have been found to attend therapy (17.71%) more than nonadopted persons (8.76%; Miller et al., 2000), however, little is known about the counseling needs and experiences of adult adoptees. This study sought to explore adult adoptees’ reasons for seeking treatment, their mental health service preferences, their satisfaction with the therapy they received, and their perception of how much emphasis was placed on adoption during their treatment.
Using a mixed-methods design, 118 adult adoptees aged 18 to 78 years old (M=44, SD=13) participated in an online survey completing questions regarding their demographics, adoption history, reasons for seeking counseling and reports of those experiences, and ratings of their relationships with significant others. Participants also completed measures regarding their satisfaction with therapy, adoptive identity status, and self-esteem.
Participants reported seeking therapy for a variety of reasons with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and family issues each reported by at least 50% of respondents. Adoption competence was ranked as the most important factor in choosing a therapist (24% ranked it as the highest factor), followed by other specialty areas of competence, personal recommendation, and type of degree or license. The majority of participants sought therapy with psychologists, but social workers and other credentialed therapists were also seen.
With regards to satisfaction with therapy, those individuals who rated their therapists as emphasizing adoption to any degree from somewhat to completely had significantly higher levels of satisfaction than those whose therapist gave it no emphasis. When asked what participants found to be most helpful in therapy, the two most common responses were validation and empathy, and a focus on issues of racial/ethnic, sexual, and adoptive identities.
Interestingly, adoptees’ satisfaction with their relationships with their birth mothers (or lack thereof) also predicted satisfaction with therapy. Contact with birth mothers alone was not predictive nor had all participants made contact with their birth mothers. It seems that for adoptees who seek therapy, they may assess the success of their counseling more highly when they feel higher levels of satisfaction or comfort with whatever relationship or lack of relationship they have with their birth mothers.