Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help.

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Referral for Counselling

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Referral for counselling and support of patients affected by forced adoption via Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS)

The recent State and Federal Apologies to people affected by past and forced adoption, and changes to the Victorian legislation concerning the release of identifying information and the use of contact statements (vetoes) may arouse awareness of loss, grief and trauma in relation to adoption experiences.

Persons affected, may include mothers who have been separated from their child by past or forced adoptions, adults adopted as children, and other family members; these could include siblings, subsequent children, grandparents and partners. However the main target of the counselling funding is mothers and adopted persons.

Patients may not present with awareness or attribution of their stress or psychological symptoms, as being related to the adoption experience. For some, it is dealt with as having occurred a long time ago, or it has been supressed from conscious recollection. Many may be sensitive to any inference or suggestion of being considered different, singled out or pathologized.

Who might need counselling regarding adoption?

  • Mothers who have been separated from their child by adoption.
  • Fathers who have been separated from their child by adoption.
  • Adopted persons.
  • Adoptive parents.
  • Other family members.

Please ensure you consider the following matters:

  • Would your patients be eligible to access Medicare rebates within a mental health plan or access the service of a mental health professional through ATAPS?
  • Would it be appropriate to refer your patient to a psychiatrist where the fee is covered by Medicare or the service is provided at a community health centre or public hospital where the service is likely to be free?

Those impacted might describe the following:

  • disrupted sleep including oversleeping or insomnia;
  • disrupted eating patterns including over eating or under eating;
  • weight loss or gain;
  • ongoing sadness and unhappiness;
  • may be diagnosed with depression, anxiety or another disorder;
  • an event has occurred that arouses distress, such as loss of relationship divorce, death of significant family member;
  • being upset regarding contact  request or refusal;
  • intense sense of confusion or loss;
  • alcohol and other substance abuse;
  • suicidal thoughts and feelings;
  • awareness of the impact of adoption on their lives;
  • grief and sense of loss;
  • feeling dislocated and lost;
  • problems attaching to others;
  • anger about secrecy and lack of choice. 

Assessing the need for counselling for adoption.

In the course of assessing for a Mental Health Care Plan

  • Ask open non probing questions regarding childhood and family. e.g. Can you tell me about your background? What was it like when you were growing up in your family?
  • If adoption is described as being a part of the patient’s background indicate that some people have found it beneficial to receive counselling or attend support groups for any concerns regarding adoption.
  • If the person specifically requests or is appropriate for adoption counselling it is recommended that they see a counsellor trained in adoption issues.  VANISH can assist you with referrals to a counsellor experienced in adoption work. 

Despite the need for a Mental Health Plan, the process of grief should not be considered as a mental illness. It is a healthy biological and psychological response to loss. If loss is unsupported, supressed or invalidated such as occurred during forced and past adoptions, complicated or compacted grief may occur. Persons who have been affected by adoption, have also had many individual and varied life experiences that may compound their adoption experience in unique ways.

The funding criteria emanating from the State and Federal Apologies specifically refer to those who have suffered Past or Forced Adoption.

Others who have been affected by trauma similar to adoption include Forgotten Australians, intercountry adoptees, members of the Stolen Generations and people conceived with donor gametes (sperm and/or egg). Many of these individuals may have overlapping experiences, and the loss and grief engendered may be complex, multi-layered and far-reaching across generations.