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Adoption Techniques for Treating Adoptive Parent Issues
Adoptive Parent continuing education psychology CEUs

Section 5
Adoption Disclosure to Family Members

CEUs Question 5 | CEUs Test | Table of Contents | Adoption
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

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On the last track, we discussed surviving the wait.  This included dealing with parents and losing a referral.

Do you have a client who isn’t sure how to break the news about adopting to his or her family?  On this track, we will discuss techniques for breaking the news.  This will include the "chair dialogue" technique, the "write a letter" technique, the reflection technique and the rating technique.  As you listen, compare the techniques presented on this track with your own.

Technique for Social Work CEUs, Psychology CEUs, Psychologist CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Addiction Counselor CEUs, and MFT CEUs

4 Techniques to Break the News

These are techniques I often suggest to clients who are concerned about how to break the news to their families about adoption.  They are presented on this track as I usually present them to the clients.

#1 Technique: The Chair Dialogue
First, let’s discuss the "Chair Dialogue" Technique.  I state to the client, "Place two chairs facing one another.  Label one chair as the person from whom you anticipate a negative or skeptical response and one chair for yourself.  Sit in the other person’s chair and tell the chair labeled with your name why you don’t think adoption is a good idea.  Then sit in your chair and imagine responding to that person. 

"Try to listen to the objections that are raised.  Do they remind you of any criticism that you have received from this person in the past?  Imagine how you will respond.  Try to respond non-defensively.  Continue this dialogue for several rounds.  If you want, you can ask a friend or your spouse to sit in the chair and play the other part.

"This exercise can be helpful because even though you are only imagining the other person’s presence, sometimes doing so can help you to understand and feel what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.  If, for example, the other person is angry or critical, you might be surprised to realize that some of his or her anger might stem from a fear of losing you or having to share you.  Would knowing this help you to respond to that person differently?"

I tell my clients, "As you continue the exercise, write down which negative response you anticipate and from whom.  Now begin to develop a strategy for dealing with each response.  Your strategy may be something as simple as stating clearly what kind of response you would like and what types of responses would not be helpful."

#2 Technique: Write a Letter
Second, let’s discuss the "Write a Letter or an e-mail" Technique that I use with clients.  I state to a client, "Draft a letter to someone whom you feel you would have difficulty telling.  You may choose to send the person the letter or e-mail that you end up writing or you may not.  In the letter, tell him or her of your plans to adopt and what, if anything, you would like from him or her.  Writing a letter, like writing in your journal, can give you the opportunity to express your feelings.  Writing a letter, which you may decide not to send, can help you clarify your thinking and prepare to discuss your plans about adoption." 

I have found that even in cases that are not so fraught with difficulty, writing a letter can be helpful because it gives my clients a chance to state ideas and concerns clearly.

#3 Technique: Reflection
Third, in addition to the "Chair Dialogue" Technique and the "Write a Letter or e-mail" Technique, let’s discuss the Reflection Technique.  If you recall Joel and Denise, from the previous track, who adopted a 14-year-old girl, prior to that adoption, I asked them to think of an important decision they had to make in the past.  I asked Joel and Denise, "Who among your friends and family did you tell about it?  What made you choose to confide in that particular person?  What was his or her reaction?  Again, you may want to record your thoughts in a journal."

#4 Technique: Rating
Fourth, let’s discuss the Rating Technique.  Make a list of the important people in your life and rate, from most to least the amount of support you feel you can expect from them.  Take some time to write in a journal and describe a hoped-for or ideal response from a family member or friend to your sharing the news about adoption.  You may end up being surprised by their responses.

On this track, we have discussed techniques for breaking the news.  This has included the "chair dialogue" technique, the "write a letter" technique, the reflection technique and the rating technique.

On the next track, we will discuss preparing siblings.  This will include family discussion, the "role-play" technique and when siblings are also adopted.  As you listen, compare the techniques you use with those presented on this track.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Alexander, L. B., Doty Hollingsworth, L., Morrison Dore, M., & Hoopes, J. W. (2004). A family of trust: African American parents' stories of adoption disclosure. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(4), 448–455.

Kim, A. Y., Kim, O. M., Hu, A. W., Oh, J. S., & Lee, R. M. (2020). Conceptualization and measurement of birth family thoughts for adolescents and adults adopted transnationally. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(5), 555–565.

Kranz, D. (2020). The impact of sexual and gender role orientation on heterosexuals’ judgments of parental competence and adoption suitability. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 7(3), 353–365.

Lindhiem, O., VaughnCoaxum, R. A., Higa, J., Harris, J. L., Kolko, D. J., & Pilkonis, P. A. (2019). Development and validation of the Knowledge of Effective Parenting Test (KEPT) in a nationally representative sample. Psychological Assessment, 31(6), 781–792.

Von Korff, L., & Grotevant, H. D. (2011). Contact in adoption and adoptive identity formation: The mediating role of family conversation. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(3), 393–401.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 5
What is one reason the "Chair Dialogue" Technique can be helpful? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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