A SYSTEMIC APPROACH
The post-adoption support provided by Rainbow Family Therapy Services is based on a systemic approach i.e. a relational approach to human and family problems. It focuses on how key relationships shape our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world and how people in a system inevitably influence each other.
As a systemic therapist, I am interested in the new adoptive family’s identity and children’s development within it, shaped, as it is, by key relationships and experiences, past and present;
- Birth families (parents, brothers & sisters, grandparents and wider family)
- Friends (new and from the past)
- School life (teachers, peers, sports, bullying)
- The “care” system (child protection, social workers, short & long term foster carers, managers and reviews)
- The adoptive family (parental relationships, other children in the family, extended family, family friends, support network, new ways of thinking and talking.)
Therefore, in order to promote emotional wellbeing in adoptive children using a systemic approach, I need to gain an understanding of the different layers of context which may contribute to the child’s presenting issues e.g. school life, social care system, bith and adoptive family, as well as sources of strength and support. i am keen to find out about key significant relationships and experiences which have given rise to, and maintain, complex feelings (fear, hope, pain, anger, despair, rejection), which in turn lead to some problematic behaviours (angry outbursts, withdrawal, being demanding, trying to control).
THERAPEUTIC INTERVENTIONS VERSUS A TAILOR-MADE THERAPEUTIC PLAN
Over the years I have developed a range of therapeutic interventions which reflect the complexity of adoptive families’ needs. Once the adoption social worker has carried out an assessment of therapeutic needs, the family might be offered specific recommendations for the kind of therapy that might help. At this point the social worker may explore with the family different options and therapists who can deliver the support. I am keen to provide a tailor-made support package so I am very happy to discuss in more detail a therapeutic plan which can be funded through the Adoption Support Fund, via the social worker.
These are the therapeutic interventions I offer:
- The Adoption Journey: Systemic Narrative work about working within human systems – intervention with parents on developing a coherent story about the adoption process and current difficulties.
- Specialist Parenting Support: this may include parenting scripts work – intervention with parents to reflect on their family of origin experiences affecting their current parenting, NVR, where parents experience aggression and violence, controlling and abusive behaviours from their children; therapeutic parenting, a specific approach for children who have suffered early trauma and loss
- Attachment-based Therapy: intervention on promoting secure family attachments by focusing on Family as a Secure Base.
- Systemic Life Story Work/Systemic Family Narrative Work/EMDR: a combination of parenting and child-focused work through individual sessions with child, parent, or family, to help children and adoptive parents to develop a shared story about the child’s history and a new sense of belonging to the adoptive family, including using EMDR, a trauma-specific intervention.
- Child-Focused Work: this may include a focus on self-esteem; identity-development; children’s worries; anger and other emotions; supporting children and parents through family breakdown, parental separation and family transitions.
These can be offered as single pieces of work or a combination of those following the initial consultations and reviews. However, I recommend doing the adoption journey at the beginning with each family.
The parenting work will ideally include both parents, and the child-focused work will include one parent or both as they become witnesses to the child developing a new story about their early experiences and reasons for being adopted.
Regular review will be held to gain feedback and reassess family’s needs due to changing circumstances. All parties i.e. parents, therapist, referrer and commissioner should be present to discuss the work done, give each other feedback and decide on the way forward.