When a child has experienced chronic stress and terrifying incidents during the first years of life, they are affected during a critical time of brain growth. The brain uses the experiences of early life to construct a blueprint of the world. This blueprint becomes hard-wired into the brain. Most infants are able to find an adaptive coping mechanism resulting in a predictable pattern of response with their primary caregiver(s), allowing for mutual needs to be met. These interactions, repeated again and again, form the primary attachment relationship and the foundation for all future social relationships. Some infants, however, do not find an adaptive coping mechanism because the caregiver remains inconsistent, distant, unpredictable, hurtful, or terrifying. This is the early experience for many children who have been adopted, both internationally and domestically.

Parenting these children is extremely challenging because of their many needs. As a result of their early neglect and trauma, many children have developmental delays, social skill deficits, sensory integration differences, diet and digestion conditions, problems with emotional expression and regulation, or any combination of these. These symptoms drive parents to seek help, and it is not uncommon for parents to be involved with many different professionals from a range of fields. Unfortunately, the first professionals parents turn to are not necessarily qualified to address the unique source of their child’s problems. Upon sharing their concerns for their child, some parents are hurt or frustrated by professionals who do not believe them, or who may even blame them for their child’s condition.

My goal is to help work with adoptive and birth trauma parents on the best interventions to address your child’s needs. I strive to provide the therapeutic environment necessary to foster a trusting, loving relationship between the child and the family. I acknowledge that creating this kind of environment in the home takes considerable effort. For this reason, I access many tools and resources throughout the course of treatment, tailoring treatment services to the family’s specific needs. In each case, I work to help parents understand the mind of their child so they can guide their child through a process of change, adaptation, and healing in the most supportive way possible.

You must commit to a new way of being with your child. You must be willing to change yourself to help your child. To be a therapeutic parent, you must be able to access your love for your child, your empathy for your child, and your ability to be flexible and creative. Your therapist is here to help you tailor these interventions to fit your child’s unique needs. Your therapist is also here to help you apply these interventions in the home until they feel natural and effortless to you.

- Jaime Berger, LISW

October 2011