Treating Adopted Teens
At Paradigm Malibu, we strive to maintain a thorough and special sensitivity to teens from all different backgrounds, including circumstances and experiences that may contribute to their current needs. For adopted teens, we make efforts to provide treatment and support that addresses the entire scope of their needs, including any conflicts or stresses that may be connected to this experience.
Recent studies show that teenagers who were adopted may be at a higher risk for substance abuse issues, mental illnesses including Anxiety and Depression, problems at school, and/or suicide. Two of the main hypotheses for these struggles include genetics and trouble adjusting in social settings. Because genetics are one of the main causes of both substance abuse issues and mental illness, there’s speculation that biological parents who give up their children for adoption may have a higher-than-average rate of psychiatric conditions, thereby causing the higher rates in adopted teens as well. Secondly, it can be common for teens who were adopted to have difficulty transitioning and adjusting in social situations and understanding their place in their environment. They may question who they are more than other teens, and struggle with their place in their family, as they learn the ways in which they belong and the ways in which they’re different. This can lead to anxiety that may contribute to, or exacerbate, symptoms or struggles with mental illness and/or substance abuse.
It’s also important to recognize how much early childhood experiences can affect brain development. Therefore, though adoption in and of itself may not have adverse affects on a teen, the situations from which they were adopted do play a role. For teens who were adopted from neglectful homes, or environments in which healthy and proper development wasn’t fostered or encouraged, may need more interaction and engagement with others, in order to form connections.
The support we provide adopted teens extends to both the teens and their parents. First of all, for adopted teens, our therapists maintain an awareness for teens’ struggles that may be related to their adoption, while conducting individual and group treatment sessions. Sometimes, teens may not even be consciously aware that they’re feelings or stress are related to their adoption, because the attitudes and/or behaviors may be indirectly connected. As these connections rise to the surface, therapists help teens to recognize and address the ways in which their thoughts, belief systems, and behaviors may be related to their adoption.
Therapists work with teens to clarify what they believe about things like family, relationships, genetics, and home. If teens are struggling with mental health disorders such as Anxiety or depression, therapists help teens to uncover aspects of their adoption that may cause them stress and serve as “triggers” for their symptoms. Similarly, if teens are struggling with substance abuse issues, therapists work with them to identify if some of their stressors, habits, or a need to escape may be related to their thoughts or feelings of being adopted. Our therapists always maintain extreme sensitivity and a sense of non-judgment in helping teens tread this territory, as they encourage them to become aware of themselves, while not creating any pressure on the outcome.
As therapists work with teens through their overall treatment plan, including the special attention to these specific issues, they help teens to let go of false belief systems, develop new healthy belief systems, perhaps initiate important conversations with their parents, and develop a sense of confidence in their roles in their family. This work can be extremely powerful to help teens continue to grow as people and gain an understanding of themselves, as they address the specific struggles that have brought them to Paradigm.
For parents of adopted teens, within the scope of our Parent Effectiveness Training and other parent services, our therapists provide parents with counseling and support both during and after their teen’s treatment. Therapists help parents to be informed and aware of their teen’s experience and process of treatment, including but not limited to those parts that are connected to their adoption. Therapists help initiate and support healthy communication between the parents, teen, and sometimes other family members as well, while also providing parents with the necessary knowledge and resources to know how to best support their teen. We understand that the time while teens are undergoing treatment, as well as the time leading up to this decision, is difficult on the parents and family, and so we seek to support and strengthen these relationships in any way that we can. This includes our free support and services to parents and teens, following treatment, where we provide counseling, advice, and any support that we can, in order to ensure each teen’s full recovery, including the most positive, healthy environment possible, upon returning home.