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Otherwise, thank you so much for coming! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your comments and feedback. I started this blog to help other adoptive parents not to feel as isolated and alone in their feelings, as I did for so many years. With this blog, I hope to bring together the adoptive community as one. This is so we do not feel so alone and judged as we so many times do; even from ourselves. Please stay, relax and enjoy yourself. If at any time you feel judged, please let me know. Again thank you for coming.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let's go to therapy.... again??

Our family hasn't had the greatest luck when it comes to therapy and helping our adoption problems. At the beginning of all of this, when the problems started 5-1/2 years ago (yes, ours started right away), I wanted Isabella to go to therapy and get fixed herself! I didn't understand why that couldn't happen! Our first contact with therapy was from Christian Recovery Center. My husband and I were sooo disappointed in that therapy. It was "play therapy." Now, I know from my background as a social worker that play therapy has its place. But, Isabella's therapist there was sooo convinced she had been abused in more ways than what her paperwork showed (it showed neglect by mom and dirty home; but no sexual or physical abuse). And, Isabella had concurred this to me that it was true; everything her papers said was correct; no physical or sexual abuse. But, this therapist was on a witch hunt to find mostly sexual abuse by way of playing board games with her. And, my biggest problem was, that's all they did week after week. Play games. Seriously. It was awful for Mike and I. Isabella thought it was a dream come true. Here we were trying to build a bond with our daughter, unsuccessfully I might add, and then this other man rides in on a horse and does one of her favorite things. He showed her no boundaries, just wanted to be her best friend. And, what was worse, I had just had Ava (or she was still very young), and I had just become pregnant again. So, Mike was taking her to the appointments because I didn't have the best pregnancies. I felt so out of control with the whole thing. How could I tell her not to play with him when I could hardly play with her myself? I felt terrible! After not too much longer we stopped going to him because it was doing no good at all. Isabella was not moving forward even slightly. Also, the ONLY report we EVER got from him was after playing a game with her one night he told Mike she wasn't always playing honestly, and he also said, "there sure is another side to that girl!" He hit that nail on the head! He said it in such a way as to mean another personality, or something. It was very interesting he would say that so soon into the adoption. That was the only positive thing came from that therapy.
After him my mom was trying to help, and so she set us up with someone from her Sweet Adelines singing group who had some kind of background in therapy. That was an awful day when she came over, let me tell you! This woman came into our home and blamed all of the problems we were having on my husband and I. Isabella is very petite for her age (which makes her look even more cute and tiny), and she knows exactly when to put on the waterworks and look sad and sorry, etc. So, that day she immediately picked up on the fact that this woman was coming down on her mom and dad but feeling totally sorry for her, and she liked it. She was eating out of the palm of this lady's hand. This lady also had the audacity to tell my husband that he was an angry person all because we were being honest about our feelings when she asked questions about how we felt. I was in shock. At least we were being honest about where we were at with the relationship, instead of lying. We told her we weren't at a place where we could do all of the suggestions the RAD books say regarding building a bond with the child, due to the hurt that had been caused so far.
Once again, someone putting the adoptive parent in this place where we are supposedly doing something wrong. This was another reason why I didn't want to talk to anyone for so long. I always felt attacked. My husband and I got this a lot! We had quite a few people, family included, telling us we were doing things wrong and how we were bad parents. It was horrible! I could never have imagined something so horrible!
So, my husband left the room when this lady became rude, and sadly I knew my mom was somewhat friends with her. So, as much as I wanted to tell her to go fly, I felt I had to be cordial, because that is how my mom brought me up. So, I just told her she could leave. She got the message and figured out we weren't going to have her back.

I then really started praying for what to do next because things weren't getting any better. At that point I was feeling REALLY alone and sad, and was convinced no one understood! God led me to put a prayer request on a prayer card at church. I asked the church to pray for our family regarding the problems we were having with Isabella and not being able to attach with her as a family. Shortly thereafter I got a phone call from the Parish Nurse asking us if she could come to our house and talk with us, pray with us and counsel us a little. We were pretty worn out at this point, but at least this was someone who wouldn't judge us, so we accepted. It went well in that it was nice to have extra people praying for our family. We definately needed that. Yet, again, she had no experience in Reactive Attachment Disorder, so, for me, people like that are hard to have therapy with. They want to help, but they are used to counseling mainstream problems, and RAD is so not that! And, I find that when people counsel in a mainstream way, it makes things worse. Or, at least it has for us. The way the relationship is built with a RAD person and everyone involved, including a therapist, is totally different. So, if the therapist is not versed in RAD and they just do regular therapy, they don't go about building the relationship and trust correctly. This is so dire! There are those rare therapists who know how to appropriately build that trust, and it works! If not, things can get worse. Kids with RAD know how to play games, and I have seen several therapists and teachers at school get played because they don't know what they are getting themselves into. These kids are extremely smart when it comes to getting what they want! They watch the people in their life they need to, and whom they are going to at some point need to use or play. I should state that the Parish Nurse was extremely nice and she didn't make things worse, per se. It just gets hard when you have one more adult coming into your home doting on the RAD child before you've built that bond with your child. The adult has no idea how destructive that is. And, how do you tell someone so nice that is from your church? We have found that everyone seems to think that all Isabella needs is love. "Love will conquer all!" So, they come over, pour love, affection, attention and many times gifts on her, without being equal to her sisters. She sits back completely loving it but acting like she doesn't. So, they feel even more sorry for her. Then, they think they need to do it again at a later time! This has also happened to us on many, many occasions.
Has this happened to any of you out there?

To finish with the therapy piece, we did see the Parish Nurse off and on numerous times as she was mostly a fabulous support to the family! I would also stop and see her to give her updates when I was at the church every week for a Mom's Group that met there. So, we kept in touch with her for quite a while.
In the middle of all of this, at Isabella's elementary school, we were seeing the school counselor. She was a fabulous person! I don't think she will mind me saying her first name, Dana. We would have loved to go further with Dana, except that Dana told us forthright that our situation exceeded her training. She didn't have specific training in adoption or RAD. But, she was so wonderful in that she was non-judgmental, she listened, she believed me and she was pretty much the only one at that time who did! Thanks Dana, if you ever read this. She got me through some really tough times! She stuck with us from the time Isabella was adopted and started her first elementary school, for the next four school years (almost). So, we went through a lot with her and she helped us with a lot of issues. She helped me more than any other therapist.
I know that sounds contrary to what I was just saying above, but this wasn't the one-on-one therapy session with Isabella alone where she was having to build the right kind of trust. Don't get me wrong. They did do counseling at school. But, even with that, Dana managed to do that as well as a RAD counselor would! However, mostly what she did with our family was talk to me about what we could do to make things better, she did home visits with me, when I was worried about an eating disorder with Isabella she brought the school nurse to my home along with her, and so much more. She ALWAYS went the extra mile. That's what made her so special. I pray for another one like her! Unfortunately when we moved a little less than two years ago, we changed schools. Isabella would have gone to middle school the next year later anyways, I guess, but we never made as good of connections at either new school (and they are in the same district!).
Lastly, we thought we were being really smart when my husband found out about an attachment center that did therapy out of Deephaven, I think it was. The best part was, they did in-home therapy. We really needed that because we had so many little one's, and we all felt involved at this point. In case you are wondering, this was again just shortly after the Parish Nurse. The very first therapist was about a year after we adopted Isabella, and this last one was about 2-1/2 years after the adoption (so about 1-1/2 years from the first to the starting of the last).
We had heard wonderful things about this place and it had been recommended several times by several different people. On one hand I was totally burnt out and had absolutely no interest in starting therapy again. However, on the other hand, this place was supposed to be the be-all, end-all. This center should solve all of our problems. I could relax. It was going to be over soon. No more problems. We hit the jackpot. I thought they were going to fix Isabella. I was excited. Hopefully they would see all of the hurt she causes us. Or.....
We got a therapist who was VERY young. I think we were her first clients, and I felt like she was doing her internship and wasn't really done with school yet. I had a problem with this because (not just because of the rates), I felt like she was just randomly trying things with us. I felt like she didn't concretely know anything for sure. It was sooo disheartening. I was sooo frustrated. She would come for a couple of hours, which was great, and, Isabella would NEVER talk, which is normal for her. Lisa (I looked them up on-line and didn't see a "Lisa," there anymore, so I feel safe using her first name) would hardly try to get Isabella to talk, all she would do is maybe draw a picture with Isabella and talk to us. Now, I know there is credence to drawing pictures with RAD kids. But, Isabella didn't want to draw it alone either, so Lisa would help her or ask if she wanted Ava to help her. I didn't understand that! We never talked about ANYTHING of importance! Mike and I would bring up big, important issues in our family. Unfortunately, at that time they were things Isabella was doing, or not doing. Lisa NEVER confronted her. That bothered me. How were things going to get better?? We always stayed in the large group, too, which was fine, but we never got anywhere! So, Isabella heard everything we talked about. When we would ask Lisa what the plans were for the future weeks, she never really had one. It was very strange and irritating!

So, this is to Lisa the reader. Please don't get discouraged. First, like I said, I didn't see her name on the website, so even if you are going to the same place, you shouldn't get her. Second, I felt the first time in meeting her (after giving her the full two-hour session) that it wasn't going to work. But, we continued to give her many more weeks. I think you will know with your woman's intuition whether or not it's going to work. If you don't feel good about who you get, ask for someone else. That is what we didn't do because we thought they knew more. Please let us know, Lisa, how the therapy goes. I hope and pray it goes well!

Isabella started seeing someone else again. We waited a couple of years until this current one because we were burnt out and she told us straight out she wasn't going to talk to anyone. At this very time, we are again taking a break from her therapist because she told me just a couple of weeks ago she wasn't talking to her therapist because she doesn't like sharing anything with her (yet she will say she wants to get better, but does everything the opposite to make that possible). She still sabotages all of our efforts to help her move forward. She also intensely saw therapists in the hospital before and after Christmas 2009. I will write all of that in another post soon because that is a whole other story.

As for myself, I had given up on therapy even though I was getting my Masters in Counseling and Psychology until we started the adopton and I got pregnant (I was 1/2 done with my Masters). However, 3-1/2 months ago I started seeing a therapist so I could talk about how I felt with the stress in the home regarding the adoption and living with a child who has RAD. I am so glad I did this. It has been very helpful.

I would love to hear your stories about therapy you've tried that has worked or not worked. Or, do you have a therapist you like/ love, do you loathe therapy? What are your feelings on this?


  1. We, too, have tried several counselors. They weren't bad, and the last one seemed to make some progress. But, it was only about two days after a seemingly successful session that our daughter left home. So, I am not sure how to process that. We haven't tried an attachment therapist yet (maybe you think that's a duh on our part...sometimes I do), but we're gonna give it a shot now with the hope that it's never too late. At this point, we just need something to begin to get through to her. I will keep you posted. Oh, and I'm sure its not the same place you went, since we don't live in the same state.

    We did have many people trying to be helpful giving us advice that was totally non applicable. I had to remember each time that they really cannot understand because they haven't lived with a child with RAD. There's just nothing that I've heard of that compares.

    I am still healing from the last ten years and trying to move forward with the healthy part of my life, our marriage and family, while at the same time dealing with her dire situation. I am trying to not give it much emotional energy or talk about it much, but only deal with what she presents to us and leave it at that. She texts or calls me about once a week. She doesn't ask for much from us, but we continue to assure her of our love for her, hopefully in ways that she receives. I love that girl with everything in me and want her to be blessed.

  2. Lisa, first of all, I cannot tell you how honorable it is that you talk so highly of your daughter. I would imagine you feel hurt by a lot of things she has done to you in the past. From this, I know a lot of us adoptive parents, including myself at times, want to find a way to get back at them. So, I would like to applaud you that you speak so highly of her.
    Secondly, no, I don't think it is "duh" (cute comment, though) that you haven't gone to an attachment therapist/ counselor. Not only are they very hard to find, for a good one (we found that out in the past 6+ months and then several years ago when we tried to find one), but many times until someone else says to the family that 'you need this,' meaning a specific type of therapist, it might not cross your mind. For the first year or two (however long it was until we started seeing an attachment therapist), we didn't know that specialty existed. Then, once we saw someone in that field and they were no more helpful (that was just ours) than the others, we didn't bother anymore.
    You've had some tough things to process. I feel bad. That's not fair to you as a mother who took care of this child that she just left. Sorry, it's probably not my place to say that. I am just putting myself in your shoes and picturing the pain you must be feeling, too. I know it is a lot about her, but you need to think about yourself. I know these children do the things they do because they are hurting. It just stinks that the hurt cycle has to keep perpetuating itself!