Breakthroughs

After a long wait, I started cognitive analytical therapy this spring.  I have had a lot of different kinds of therapists over the last few years. Six, in fact. But don’t be put off by the number: the best indicator of success in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and you. Simply put: at any given time, you will always be you. Therefore, the therapist really, really matters. It may take a few to find the right one.

In this case, I feel like I have hit the jackpot. There is nothing special about this particular therapist. Or about this particular therapy. But I have lucked out, because it is the perfect therapy at the perfect time for me.

The structure of cognitive analytical therapy reduces my anxieties about the therapeutic process. This makes it easier for the therapist to challenge me during our sessions. I already feel like we have made significant progress.

Our goal is to develop strategies to improve my social skills. The method is to identify patterns in my thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviours, much like cognitive behavioural therapy. But cognitive analytical therapy goes a step deeper and also looks at our past experiences to understand why these patterns exist.

I was referred for this therapy because, well, I was kinda already doing it with myself.

Self-development is a huge priority for me. I come from inauspicious beginnings, but I don’t balk at a challenge. Even this last major wall (infertility) left me wondering, in my grief, just what I needed to scale it.

In this case, I needed more therapy. A new job. And friends.

The new job was easy to get. And now that I am settled, I love it. I work from home. I make my own hours. I make more money. I have more responsibility. It ticks so many boxes for me. I have even made some friends. I feel part of something. I feel like I am doing something essential for the community.

Yes!

Making friends has never been a problem either. I can charm the pants off people when I want to. That’s what you do, when you are used to moving around so much. You become good at first impressions: good at making first impressions and good at judging others.

Building friendships, on the other hand, is a baffling empire. The British, especially, do it with gusto. People seem to find friends and link arms for life. Infiltrating these networks (much less navigating them) has been a nightmare. Sometimes it feels like if you weren’t there at the beginning, you aren’t there at all.

Enter from stage left: Therapy.

The best thing about cognitive analytical therapy is that most of the work is up to me. The therapist facilitates the method, and his judgment is an essential ingredient, but the impact? The change? It is all up to me.

For a traumatised child, sometimes retaining that little bit of control can make a world of difference. I can already tell I am changing. I look forward to the person I will be later this year, when I begin preparation group training.

If we meet our goals, I will have less anxiety, more self-esteem, less perfectionist compulsions, and better social skills. Again, therapy will facilitate that, but the real work will be done in the field: making friends, building relationships, and being more of me.

…Breaking through the walls I have built myself, in order to build stairs instead.

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Just a Prospective Adopter

“As you are still a prospective adopter, you can have little real idea of what it is like actually to parent one of the most difficult children in the system, though your understanding will have been augmented greatly by being able to read these boards. ” [Bold mine]

Really, it’s never nice to be told what you are.

But that’s not what I want to comment on. I want to challenge the idea that the biggest difference between the quoted person and me is that they are parents and I am not.

If you search the scientific literature, you don’t read that traumatised children thrive best with people who have experience raising a ‘difficult child.’ You read that traumatised children thrive best with people who have experienced and resolved their own trauma successfully — presumably because these sorts of parents have genuine empathy and resilience. Experience raising a child doesn’t really factor into that equation, because people don’t need to be experienced parents to have the resources, understanding and motivation to take care of a traumatised child.

In my masters training, I was told by a child psychotherapist that “children choose” who to trust. They “choose” based on their complex experiences, or rather — how their experience of you fits into their previous experiences. It is a mostly automatic process, as people do not always have the capacity  to step back from and challenge the connections between emotions, thoughts and behaviours. As I observed child-adult interactions for my course, I saw this in practice: we are all captive to our life experiences. It is difficult to challenge our semi-automatic judgments of people, including ourselves.

I am a prospective adopter. But my ideas of what it is like to “actually parent one of the most difficult children in the system” come from my own life experiences not my adoptive status nor the amount of time I’ve spent reading adoption boards. I trust that my home study will fully explore these experiences in order to answer that very question.  I may even share a bit of my history with you here. Please don’t mistake this future disclosure of information as seeking your approval, as I don’t want or need it. The only people that matter regarding my parenting skills are the people in my care and the people who sometimes act on their behalf (aka the social workers).

What I can offer you, dear reader, is the same respect, consideration and acceptance of your disclosures that I demand for mine.  I understand that we may have had different experiences; we may make different choices. But we are united by how we take responsibility for those experiences and choices: our actions, our beliefs. We strive to understand, to know more, to do better. We share our vulnerabilities and strengths, by our own choice, and in time we realise that respect has less to do with shared experiences and everything to do with acknowledging ourselves.

I empathise with the original source of the quote. They were motivated by a desire to protect the vulnerable members of their group. I am reminded again that I’m an outsider  a prospective adopter. As an outsider a prospective adopter, I have no leverage to challenge the way things are done. Strange how this experience of rejection and frustration feels a little like… a real idea relevant life experience.

Don’t worry, I have a support network in place to cope. 😉

Starting this blog

Today, hand-stitched dad and I agreed to start a blog about our family. We aim to:

  • share our experiences of adoption and belonging as multi-cultural family in England,
  • meet other people with similar or different experiences of adoption, and
  • promote adoption as a means of therapeutically parenting children in need.

We have been married for just under ten years, and it hasn’t been easy. Hand-stitched dad and I struggled through several pregnancy losses and endless tests before accepting that we would not be able to conceive a family through the traditional route.  We opted not to have fertility treatments. Instead, we have spent the last few years re-building our relationship, strengthening our support network, and preparing ourselves for the biggest roles of our lives: becoming adoptive parents.

We chose the name ‘hand-stitched family’ because adoption is a bit like that for us: purposefully stitching together a family. It will be slow, hard work, sometimes painful even, but we have the confidence that somewhere out there is a child (or two) that will be better for belonging with us. So, please join us as we get to know ourselves and each other in the process of hand-stitching our family.