This seemingly simple question can actually be very complicated. Is there counseling available? Sure. No problem. Will it automatically be made available to you post-placement? Not necessarily. It all depends on three factors.
First, who is handling your adoption? Is it your private family attorney? An agency? Someone else? One major thing an agency has going for it is that they are already equipped to handle pre- and post-placement counseling. They don’t need to be brought up to speed. They don’t need to read up on the unresolved feelings of grief that can follow placement. If you have used an agency, they have walked the road with you and you have already built a relationship with them. Now you just need to keep trusting them to support you.
If you are not going through an agency, the first place you might start looking for post-placement support is an adoption agency. They already have the knowledge base and experience you need so you can start benefitting from the relationship immediately.
But just because you find an agency that has the skill set you need doesn’t mean you will immediately find a counselor with whom you connect and feel safe. What is that counseling relationship all about anyway? Studies show that the thing most benefitting to clients in a counseling relationship is not the education of the counselor nor the specific type of therapies used. Studies show that the relationship between the therapist and counselor is what makes the difference. So finding someone with the skills you need may not be as challenging as finding someone you trust and with whom you connect.
- Referrals from friends and other birthmoms who have sought post-placement counseling
- Referrals from other professionals in your life
- Local churches
Secondly, what are your specific needs? Perhaps a birthmom support group will be enough for you. Finding validation with women who are facing similar issues may be the exact thing you need —and the only thing you need—post placement. You can search the internet and local agencies for both in-person and online support groups. There seems to be more and more groups that include both. Ladies can participate at whatever level they need and are most comfortable with.
For some, a support group will be enough. Others will be dealing with issues in addition to placement. Some women need support in dealing with an abusive relationship, for example, or dealing with another family situation that was exacerbated by the pregnancy and adoption.
Finally, what do you want your future to look like? Do you need help navigating the relationship with the adoptive parents? Do you need support in navigating a new chapter of your life such as being on your own for the first time? These are important things to consider when deciding what kind of counseling to pursue. Don’t be afraid to ask for a consult with a couple of different therapists before you decide. Meeting someone in person can oftentimes give you a better sense of what kind of relationship you will have with them. Be up front in telling the counselor that you would like a “try out” before you commit to a therapeutic relationship. When you meet with them, ask them what you want to know. Counseling is for you and about you. It won’t help you if you are afraid to speak up and ask for what you really want and need.
So is counseling available to you post-placement? Absolutely. For many women, it is helpful as they integrate their new role of birthmom into their lives. With so many options accessible to you, finding what suits your needs the best is the biggest challenge.