By Eleanor Beeslaar, HRI Graduate Assistant

Once adoptive families decide to seek help from a professional counselor, it can be challenging to know how to start or where to look for a counselor who can best serve their needs. HRI has developed a series of steps to help families navigate this process.


  • Ask for recommendations for a counselor who specializes in adoption and has experience working with families. A great place to start is by reaching out to postadoption programs, support groups, and other adoptive families for recommendations (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2015). You can also contact your adoption agency or case worker to ask for referrals for an adoption-competent counselor.
  • Search for an adoption-competent counselor using one or more of the online directories. If seeking recommendations from people you know is not an option, or if these connections do not have recommendations that fit the needs of your family, you can search for counselors using online directories. These directories contain a wide network of professional counselors and allow you to refine your search based on location, insurance providers/payment methods, and areas of speciality. Adoptive families seeking counseling should specify areas of speciality including adoption and families; however, it is also important to consider the specific needs of your family. For example, if your adoptive child faces challenges related to attachment or has experienced trauma, then it is important to search for a counselor who specializes in these areas. Counselors or counseling agencies also often have websites, which you can use to further explore whether or not this counselor is a good fit for your family. Here are some of the most prominent directories:


      1. Psychology Today
      2. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy
      3. Counselor Find


  • Consider whether the counselor is a good fit for everyone in the family. It is important to remember that each family member is different and has unique needs, which should be considered when searching for a counselor. By ensuring that everyone in the family feels comfortable with the counselor, you are creating an environment that promotes successful outcomes.
  • Once your family has identified a potential counselor, contact them to determine whether they are a good fit. Many counselors offer prospective clients a chance to talk by phone – and sometimes in person – to get to know them before making a decision about whether to enter into a professional counseling relationship with them. If you have a chance to do this, some possible questions you could ask are: (1) What kind of training have you received to work with adoptive families?; (2) Do you have training in trauma, attachment, or other adoption-specific problems?; (3) Can you explain your counseling approach to me?; (4) What experience do you have with the issue(s) my family is facing currently?; (5) What are your fees and payment options?; (6) How often will we come for counseling sessions, how long will sessions last, and do you have any limits or expectations about how long you’d work with a client?


It is also important to look for a counselor who explains things in terms that everyone in the family can understand, regardless of age or developmental abilities. One of the most important criteria for successful counseling, is working with a professional who makes the whole family feel safe, comfortable, and understood. Finding someone who embodies these qualities can help promote open and honest communication.


Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2015a, January). Parenting Your Adopted School-Age

Child. Retrieved from


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