I’ve approached finding a therapist in a few ways over the years, partially because I can’t seem to find one with expertise in all the ways I need. I tried a therapist who was recommended by the surrogacy agency my parents used but her expertise was around fertility issues. She struggled to understand my perspective but at least offered helpful EMDR therapy.
The next had specialization in suicidal ideation but, despite working together for almost 6 months, could not ever understand surrogacy. Each session was half education on my part and half actual therapy with questions like “Wait who is your mom again?” abounding. If anything, I learned a lot about triggers for suicidal thoughts by being so misunderstood therapeutical at so many turns.
Then came the therapist in Utah who had specialization in specific adoption issues. Finally. I thought I found the perfect match until I came to realize she mainly worked with adoptive parents, wasn’t very aware of surrogacy, wasn’t comfortable with suicidal ideation (openly talked about how most therapists are afraid to ask), and seemed set on unification with my parents. While she offered unique insights into the perspective of my birthmom, the therapy once more felt less and less for me, especially when I had to hide aspects of my relationship with suicide.
The last therapist I saw seemed perfect on paper and in our initial consultation. She was adopted herself, had deep specialization, and seemed genuinely excited to work with a surrogate kid. Like many other therapists before her, she shocked me by both never quite understanding my family set up and by setting strange rules in place, like “don’t use the word mom, it’s too confusing for me”. At points, I realized I was triggering her and suddenly found myself concerned about my therapists’ feelings rather than whether there was space for my own. It was inherently short term and the entire way through, she never knew the basics of when we would wrap up having sessions. It was strange and disappointing – I had contacted so many friends telling them how excited I was to have found her. Thinking about it now, I’m not quite sure what I took from those short months of sessions, except perhaps to take the time to draw out a family tree and to explore more long term therapy since we never really got into anything of substance.
Now, I’m searching for another therapist and am struggling to find one amid the surge of mental health needs in this country. On psychology today, I’ve even taken to removing the need for LGBTQ+ awareness, expertise in suicidal ideation, and alignment with my insurance in hopes of finding a good fit. It’s been shocking to me how many therapist list adoption as expertise yet seem to only have great experience with adoptive parents rather than with adoptees themselves. I’ve taken to emailing with many of them asking pointed questions around their experience and, for now, setting a hard boundary around only working with someone who has experience from the adoptee perspective. It’s proving to be arduous and time consuming.
Why is this the case? Even looking up support groups in the Seattle area, I could only find support groups for adoptive parents. What about the kids they are intending to support? I finally found a meetup.com group for adoptees but I had to remind myself that in many ways even that won’t quite be the same. While I was technically adopted, surrogacy is just simply different. I don’t have the same experiences or cultural stories as those who have been adopted “more fully” for lack of a better term. There are no stories of great reunification or great disappointment since it’s generally expected that I wouldn’t have a need to know my birthmom. Still, my interest is piqued and I signed up for the next session. Anything can help at this point and I can feel myself getting closer to the support I so desperately need.
Someday, I hope I’ll be able to search on psychology today for a therapist specializing in surrogacy.