Counselling and mental health support
Adoptees and mental health
Adoption can impact people in a number of different ways, and no two people have exactly the same experience or reaction.
One of the most difficult challenges for adoptees can be balancing two very different feelings at the same time - for example, feeling grateful to your adoptive family and happy with your life, but also feeling grief about the life and family that you might have had.
Another example may be feeling grateful to your biological family for the life that they gave you, but also anger for having given you up and made one of the most profoundly life changing choices of your life in which you had no say.
Psychological impacts of adoption
If babies are given secure, loving, consistent relationships and environments from infancy, they develop secure attachments. This results in the general beliefs that the world is a safe place and people are trustworthy, and it forms a blueprint for relationships for the rest of their lives.
Having a major disruption to this at a young age, like adoption, can predispose:
a need to please others to gain acceptance
distrust of others
difficulties with relationships
and many other social and emotional symptoms.
Importantly, these can occur without us even being able to remember our adoption experience and what it meant for us at the time. Not everyone will experience this, and it's possible that these beliefs can be changed. There are many adoptees who have a good relationship with their adoptive families and enjoy their life, through to people who have difficult or estranged relationships with their adoptive families and many difficulties in their relationships and functioning - and they might recognise some of the difficulties listed above and may benefit from talking to someone about them.
Plus, many international adoptees have since had other experiences that have impacted our mental health that unfortunately come with being an adoptee:
being an ethnic minority but not “fitting in” with either culture
comments or jokes about adoption and “real” families
difficulties with identity and self-esteem
racism and ignorance
a general lack of understanding from adoptive families and other people in our lives
the message that adoption is a joyful event and adoptees should be grateful for the choice that was made for them
challenges that come from birth family search, whether it is successful or not.
International adoption is a unique experience that comes with several very valid difficulties that have varying impacts on us, and this can also vary depending on our stage in life. For example, many adolescent adoptees experience difficulties with identity formation, while adoptees who have their own children can re-experience grief related to their own relinquishment.
Many adoptees have also developed patterns where they deny their own needs and please others, perhaps as a way to gain acceptance where adoption may be seen as the ultimate rejection, however well-meant and whatever the circumstances were at the time.
There are many stories of adoptees suffering alone, denying their needs, putting on a “brave face”, putting off talking to someone, and unfortunately, adoptee suicide attempts and completions are higher than the general population.
You don’t have to be “crazy” to talk to a professional support about these experiences and how you feel, and it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you.
We don’t blame combat veterans for seeking support for their trauma where their sense of security in the world was shattered, so why blame ourselves for seeking support for ours?
KAIAN have put together a list of counselling mental health services below that specialise in adoptee
If you are an adoptee counselling or mental health support services and would like to be added to the list, or know of one, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A leading provider of relationship support services for individuals, families and communities.
Benevolent Society (NSW and QLD)
The Benevolent Society offers a range of community support services, including affordable counselling sessions for people affected by adoption.
A counselling, guidance and information support for all people affected by adoption, whether adoptees, their families or professionals in the field.
This Victorian Adoption Network provides information and support.
Post-Adoption Support Services (PASS)
Part of Relationships SA, PASS provides counselling and assistance to adoptees intersed in conducting a birth family search.
Adoption Research and Counselling Service Inc (ARCS)
Provides counselling, support and information to adoptees and their families.
Clinical psychologist with 30 years experience in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults.
Psychologist specialist in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, adults and families.
Dr Carly Reid
A clinical psychologist with personal experience of being a Korean Australian
adoptee and a committee member of KAIAN. Email Carly at email@example.com