Therapist for Adoption Issues

Parent Q&A

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  • We are parents of an adopted 12 year old girl. Her behavior at home has gotten worse. We are having a lot of power struggles and need help figuring out the best way to take care of her so are not always fighting. We are looking for a therapist that knows a lot about adopted kids and who understands the adolescent mind. The therapist is for us not for our daughter.

    Laine Demetria, LMFT, helped me to understand how to parent my adopted teenage son. She herself has adopted children. You can reach her at  (510) 703-4766.

    Good luck!

    Hi I highly recommend Stacy Outten in Oakland. We spent over a year working with her (just my husband and me, our boys not willing to engage in therapy). She was hugely helpful in getting us on the same page and really holding us accountable. We’ve worked with lots of kind people but Stacy was the one who helped us make meaningful change. Highly recommend.

    Hi, I know it can be tough, I am also the parent of 2 adopted girls. One 7 and one almost 12.  I see Judy Benziger-Haynes, MSW (925-683-3274) in Lafayette to get parenting tips.  She is absolutely wonderful. And my younger daughter sees DR Maria Chiaia on College Avenue for play therapy. (510-654-3281) One of the best things that my older daughter did for 2 years was join a therapist lead arts and crafts group for adopted girls.  Unfortunately the therapist retired.  I would research to see if anyone else is doing this. 

    I have found non violent communication to be very helpful. Also attachment therapy (for myself to heal my own trauma issues triggered by my kid)  Pathways counseling at girls inc has helped us a lot too,  Kaiser a nightmare—avoid if possible. Hang in there! 

    My younger daughter attended two years of a group for adopted tweens run by Virgina Keeler-Wolfe who has tons of experience with adoption.

    My older adopted daughter is “easy” while my younger one is challenging. I also have friends and family with “difficult” teens born to them.  Don’t give up.

  • Therapist for Adopted Teen Girl

    (5 replies)

    My daughter is 15, African American, and we, her parents, are two white women.  She is struggling with identity issues, currently attending a school in Oakland where the students and teachers are all people of color.  She feels 'wrong' everywhere she goes.  She is pretty sophisticated emotionally and is looking for some support and guidance, preferably from a woman of color, in navigating the treacherous waters of high school social life along with increasing her understanding who she is and who she wants to be.  Any suggestions would be most welcome.

    Here's a link to a group called Therapists of Color, which someone on BPN referred me to a while back:  

    My 14 yo did two years in an international-biracial girls adoption group and got a lot out of it. Not sure if they are still going on. Facilitator is Virginia Keeler-Wolfe.

    Good luck; teen years are tough for everyone. 

    My daughter, also 15 and also adopted, sees a therapist named Marguerite Wilhite, who happens to be African American.   Because our daughter was adopted through the county she sees Marguerite through Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services, however Marguerite also has a private practice.   She's great. 

    I don't have a therapist recommendation but highly recommend PACT as a great Oakland-based resource for transracial adoptive families. They have all sorts of support, and I am sure could help provide guidance:

    PACT  for transracial adoptions.  They have summer camps for families and other resources.  I just know because our friends are in it.

  • hi, 

    my son is 11 and we are look8ng for a new psychiatrist, preferably in East Bay, but honestly....we will go wherever is necessary for quality help. He is adopted and had early life trauma and has been diagnosed with PTSD and RAD....but he also has a load of potential. We need someone who understands this background. 

    Thanks for any any help in advance! 

    I would recommend Sveta Laleva. Not a psychiatrist, but an MFT w/ trauma training who is really great w/ kids (she's my 11-year-old son's therapist and he makes sure to remind us when his appointments are because he loves them).

    Does your insurance allow you to go to Children's Hospital in Oakland?  They have the Center for the Vulnerable Child on Claremont Ave.  This is where my son (also joined our family by adoption) gets his psychiatric care, and it seems to be high quality.

    The top psychologist for adopted kids in the East Bay is Virginia Keeler Wolf, Her whole practice is based on adopted kids and the issues they face. Her number is 510-339-9363

    For parent and family support I recommend the Attachment-Trauma Network, It is quite a struggle finding services, especially with education. We have used a combination of therapeutic parenting, diadic therapy in our home, homeschooling, Neurological Reorganization, OT, nutrition. My adopted girl is 11 and has come a long way. I have not had success with psychiatry so I'm sorry not to have the referral you seek. Trauma services are growing! I'm sending so much support! 

    If you look through the archives, you'll see many recommendations for Virginia Keeler-Wolf. We were in a similar situation and tried her out. It was not a good fit. Our child did not connect with her at all.  She was way too similar to his teachers. I also thought that she talked about things in front of him that were very inappropriate (how terrible his teacher was, how badly he was being bullied). She attended an IEP meeting with us and I really regretted that decision. It took a long time for me to calm the team back down and get them to be willing to work with us.

    We switched to Talia Kurland at Clearwater Clinic and couldn't be happier. She's enthusiastic and my son looks forward to his sessions with her. She met with us without our son frequently to make sure that we were all working towards the same goals. She never said anything inappropriate in front of our son. She is young but really knows what she's doing.

  • My husband is seeking a therapist somewhere between Oakland and San Rafael.  He needs someone who is a very direct and openhearted person.  My husband is an adoptee and also has an anxiety disorder and is on the schizoid spectrum.   It is really important that he finds someone that has some knowledge of these issues and how they interplay. It's been difficult for him to find a therapist that he feels he can connect with. He already sees a psychiatrist but wants to add a therapist to address other issues.  Is there anyone who can recommend someone that provides mindfulness based talk therapy?  

    This isn't exactly what you asked for, but may help get you there.

    There's a group called NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) with local branches in the East Bay, Contra Costa and Marin. All offer separate support groups for the mentally ill and family members, plus several other resources (help lines, training, etc.). It's a good way to meet people who have walked in your shoes and who can probably offer practical advice and referrals. You yourself might find NAMI a great resource for yourself--trying to help someone you love with mental illness can be taxing and difficult.

    I can't offer any particular suggestion on the adoptee issue, but there are a lot of on-line groups who discuss this actively. I've browsed them because my mom is mentally ill and was essentially abandoned by her parents and raised by resentful family members.

    However, I think you might do better to steer your husband for the time being towards NAMI resources, because some of the websites I've looked at regarding adoption are pretty contentious and include trolls who insist adoptees can't be loved like birth children--not very helpful to someone already coping with disordered mental and emotional regulation.

    It might help your husband to realize that the sense of being raised by people who can't relate to you is pretty common for those with non-standard mental processing, whether they are raised by birth parents or adoptive parents.

    Good luck to you and your husband and god bless your travels.

  • We are leaving Kaiser and will be paying for therapy out of pocket.  We live in Martinez, and prefer Walnut Creek, Orinda, etc but are open to the right person near Oakland.

    We have an adopted child who has always had issues with bonding, attachment and opposition/definance.  He has recently been diagnosed with ADHD- Inattentive, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder.

    We have been told that EMDR therapy might be good for his trauma as a toddler.

    We are looking for someone who isn't too soft but who is direct and holds our child accountable for his actions etc (if that makes sense)



    We've used Virginia Keeler-Wolf and know many others that have used her, as well.


    I have the same kid—adopted, attachment disorder, ADHD. I can tell you that EMDR was a huge waste of time and money for us. Didn’t help a thing. Ditto for most child therapists. They really just don’t understand these kids. The one therapist I met who does and who helped us a great deal is Virginia Keeler Wolf. Her office was kind of by Montclair so maybe wouldn’t be too hard to get to as it’s just on the other side of the tunnel. 

    Best of luck to you. 

    We took our adopted daughter to Anna Weisberg this summer for a short course of very specific treatment as part of our overall treatment plan.  We all really liked her. Her offices aren't exactly where you asked but nonetheless seem probably convenient to you.  You might consider her for treatment or to ask for other referrals:

    We are on a similar journey, though not as severe as  you describe.  Sending you solidarity!

  • My daughter has some issues that have escalated recently. Although she has a therapist we recently had a crisis appointment with a cognitive behavioral psychiatrist and she responded very well to the direct and concrete approach.  Her therapist is great but really focuses more on younger kids and I think my daughter has outgrown her.  My daughter is struggling with abandonment issues as an adopted child, emotional regulation difficulties particularly with anger, has some learning differences (and a moderate 504 plan though she’s doing well in school now) and has recently talked of self harm and suicide (hence the crisis intervention).  Given the timing of her most difficult times there is definitely a hormonal component but before treating her for that her doctor recommends an evaluation and treatment plan from a psychiatrist to treat her more holisticly rather than just symptom by symptom. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. So now I need the psychiatrist.  We have Kaiser and because she’s from foster care she also has MediCal.  While of course a covered doctor is ideal, we’re mostly interested in getting her the best care possible and I have family who can likely help with the cost.  We’re in North Berkeley. 

    Her issues are private struggles at home—her school, friends and after school programs would be shocked to know of what happens at home sometimes.  So I feel we are at a good point to get her help before things spiral more out of control.  I am a solo mom with a long term, live out boyfriend who is incredibly supportive of both me and my daughter.  And I have my own therapist so I can focus on my daughter during her sessions.  Even with all this support, and everyone telling me I am doing everything right it is so hard and so scary to see my little girl suffer so much and to carry this emotional baggage. So even if you don’t have a recommendation—any encouragement, words of wisdom and especially thoughts from those who have made it to the other side are appreciated.  

    I'm having very similar issues with my son. We had a neuropsych exam done at Clearwater Counselling in Oakland and are now doing therapy there with Talia Kurland. My son really likes her and looks forward to going. He has not that reaction to other therapists that we've seen. Talia is young and has developed a very nice, trusting relationship with my son. We tried the therapist who is known locally as the leading adoption therapist and there was no connection at all. I've found that my son relates much better to younger therapists than to baby boomers at the end of their careers.

    We pay out of pocket for this. Unfortunately we have never had any luck with therapists covered by our insurance. In my opinion, you can do a lot of damage by trying to force a relationship with the wrong therapist. You don't want your child to hate therapy and be reluctant to attend. If you can get help to pay for this out of pocket, I'd recommend that. We also told our son that he would have input into the therapist and that our goal was to find someone who he liked. Talia has been great. I've not heard good things about Kaiser mental health services. And the Medi-Cal resources that we've tried to use haven't been great either. Unfortunately the age of the therapist is one of the most important things for the fit with my son and the older the therapist, the less likely there is to be a good fit.

    I wanted to write you to tell you I get it. I too am a mom of a tween who was adopted. Have been exactly where you are. So much anger, despair, threats of suicide and running away—and all of it completely invisible to the world outside our home. He behaves like a completely different kid in public. Saves all of his attachment/abandonment rage for his parents. It’s exhausting but I guess, also, maybe encouraging that he has learned how to be socially appropriate and so does not alienate teachers and potential friends. 

    I can can recommend Dr Wymes at Kaiser for a psych evaluation. He doesn’t do cognitive behavioral stuff and he’s not a therapist but he did do a great job for us of assessing danger and figuring out diagnosis and meds. Also—he seems to have a lot of experience with adopted kids. He told us things tend to get even worse through the teenage years (sigh...) before they get better, as the normal teenage search for one’s identity re-ignites all the abandonment stuff. 

    Best of of luck to you mom. We will get through these years eventually. 

    I think I have a pretty good idea of how you are feeling and what it's like to be the parent of a child who is suffering emotionally. Our son entered into a deep depression w/ social anxiety and was suicidal a lot of the time. We found a CBT therapist about a year ago. The CBT person recommended he do the CBT work but also see a psychiatrist. Its been a little less that a year and WHAT A DIFFERENCE it has made. He had to make an effort do the CBT work (visualization, meditation writing, etc) but it paid off. The psychiatrist recommended he should try Fluoxetine, (which we were not in favor of in the beginning) but it REALLY helped. It gave him a break from the depression so he could actually do the CBT work.  By the way Fluoxetine (Prozac) is often recommend for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which your daughter may or may not have.  I don't mean to imply our son is "happy all the time", but he is himself again, doing well in school, having fun with friends, fighting with his siblings, etc. In his darkest hour (a few weeks into treatment) I did talk to him about my experience with faith, not faith in any particular god or anything, but that sometimes when people are in their darkest hour, faith is the only thing left. We also cried together a few times just hugging and not saying anything. I have faith that you will see your daughter smiling again, brighter than ever!

    My child is a little older and will not commit to the work she was recommended to do through her CBT. DBT is another level you might look into.  Exercise is really all she relies on for calmness. While she is the one experiencing all the confusion of this newly diagnosed condition, if I don't remember to take the time to take care of myself and let myself go I can be of no help to anyone.  So my advice is to be good to yourself,  continue to be a great role model and utilize a spa day once in a while. 

    Yup, the tween, early teen years have been super hard for my younger adopted daughter, the older one seems to be cruising through though. We tried and are having success with 1000mg of omega fatty acids for mood (recommended by a friend who is a child psychiatrist) and also Sam-e which is sold as a supplement in the US, but prescribed for depression in Europe almost as frequently as Prozac. The other suggestion which Kaiser discouraged was having genomic testing to see what antidepressants would be a good match for her. She had a bad reaction to Adderal for ADHD and I didn’t want to put her through anything like that. She’s been attending a girls’ adoption group and will be going to a small high school with a strong mentoring component. Good luck, pick your battles and love your kid unconditionally.

    I am sorry to hear your daughter is struggling.  She has a great support group with you, your boyfriend and the professionals you have ensured she has access to. It is hard to go through this, but know you are doing great. You have support for yourself as well as for her. It's a long haul sometimes, but with continued support for both of you, things will get better. If you think there is a hormonal component, I recommend using the app me v pmdd.Your daughter can easily choose moods, etc to track each month and there is an area to type in a daily journal. The creator of the app encourages positive self talk in the journal to help during the tough times each month. We believe our daughter is suffering from PMDD from 2.5-3 weeks out of the month - anxiety, exhaustion, withdrawal --- each month is a bit different --- some months more mild than others, but way more than PMS. By tracking these moods/emoitions/physical symptoms on the app, we will be able to have a better picture over a few months of what is going on (or not going on if that ends up being the case). The app has helped our daughter track her emotions/physical ailments and thoughts of the day easily. We tried other journaling and it never really got to a point where she would do it every day. The app is simple and helps her remember what to rate each day.  Hopefully, it can help  your daughter too.  Hang in there Mom, you are doing well and all of this hard work and support you are providing her will pay off.  Remember to celebrate the small things, the small wins, when you see them.  Lots of celebration along the way to larger goals helps a lot.  Take care.

    First of all I want to say that I am so sorry to hear you are going through this. There is nothing worse than when your child is struggling - you just want to do whatever it takes to make sure she's okay. Second of all, I want you to know that you're not alone. So many of us on here have been through similar things with our kids. It's just that nobody really talks about it because there's so much shame and guilt (did I do something wrong? Did I mess up as a mom?) and so much fear (is she going to be okay? What do I need to do to protect her?). We had a hard time finding a therapist who was a good fit for our family. We wanted someone our daughter liked, but also someone we could work with as parents. We finally chose Dr Rachel Zoffness in Berkeley. Our daughter at the time was also struggling with chronic migraines that were triggered by stress, and Dr Z was a perfect fit. We loved her. I cannot say enough about how much she changed our lives. There are a bunch of good CBT therapists in this area so you can't go wrong. We did a Google search and interviewed a few until we found one we loved. Don't give up and hang in there. This too shall pass!!!

  • My daughter has some issues around impulsivity, anxiety, anger, and adoption. Can anyone recommend a therapist in Berkeley who might be helpful for both my daughter and myself to learn about how to deal with these issues. My daughter prefers to deal with a woman and an African American woman would be amazing, but not essential. We would really like to find a therapist in Berkeley.

    I would strongly recommend Katrinca Ford.   She has an office just over the Berkeley line in Oakland.  She is extremely experienced with adoption and an overall excellent clinician. A fellow adoptive mom wishes you luck with this ....

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Therapist dealing with post adoption issues

May 2014

I would like to speak to a therapist about some post adoption issues my grandchildren are asking about.

Elayne Chou She's wonderful. Adoptive Mom

Virginia Keeler Wolf, MA, MFT specializes in adoption counseling. She is also an adoptee. She was instrumental in founding the Family Attachment and Adoption Center of the East Bay where you can find individual or family therapy as well as support groups for adopted teens. adoptive mom

Therapist for adopted daughter coming home from RTC

April 2013

We are looking for a therapist for our daughter who will be returning from 2 years at a Residential Theraputic boarding school. It is imperative that this individual have a specialty in working with adopted youth. Our daughter will be attending college away, so hope to find someone who will consider phone therapy as well. Please respond if you have had personal experience with such a therapist. Would prefer east of the tunnel if possible. Hopeful Mom

You might want to check with Leslie Foge in Lafayette. She specializes in adoption issues and has worked with several kids who have gone to wilderness or residential treatment. Also consider talking to your adoption agency to see if they have a recommendation. anonymous

I am a huge fan of both Laura Soble ( and Stacy Ouetten ( They both have extensive experience with adoption issues. They are, however, in Oakland. If that's too far for you, they might be able to refer you to some one good on your side of the hills. I would completely trust their recommendation. Ann

OK, as I did for the depressed/anxious teen above, I'm going to recommend Coyote Coast - they're east of the tunnel, in Orinda. The therapists there specialize in facilitating the transition home from a structured therapeutic environment. And I know they have plenty of experience with adopted youth. As you look for therapists for your daughter, I encourage you to consider doing family therapy as well. Family therapy helped us navigate the difficult transition, and we continue to learn how to accept and support each other and to change relational patterns that no longer serve us. Stay hopeful.... Lorilyn

I have a recommendation for the woman looking for an adoption therapist to help her daughter returning two years in RTC I recommend Leslie Foge MFT. I interview Leslie on my website Cindy

Potential adoption challenges for 11yo daughter

Oct 2012

Our daughter is having a number of challenges from petty stealing, to hoarding. We would like to find a pre-teen counselor in the North Berkeley area who is familiar with working with tweens and who understands a child who is adopted. We love our daughter with all of our hearts and we want to try to help. Not sure where to turn. We have read all of the books . . . we want someone who is experienced and who can really relate to a young girl. Thank you! worried mom

Stay Outten is an excellent therapist for working with adoption issues. She is not in North Berkeley, but nearby. I highly recommend giving her a call to see if she would be a good fit for your daughter and your family. (510)594-4311, Best of luck to you. Laura

When our daughter was having some emotional difficulties she saw a therapist named Cecilia Froberg. Cecilia was really warm and our daughter really liked her and benefitted tremendously from therapy. I know this therapist also has a lot experience with foster children and adopted children. Her office is in Oakland, near Lake Meritt. Here is her contact info: Contact [at] 510-604-6362 Good luck! Pleased parent

Troubled 14 year old struggles with adoption loss issues

August 2012

I am looking for a therapist or mentor or other professional who is experienced working with troubled teenage girls like my daughter. My daughter is 14 and just started high school. She is adopted from birth and struggles deeply with the loss associated with her adoption. She is a pathological liar -- all the time, all events -- trivial or important. She is creative and a gifted story teller so people generally believe her lies. She craves drama and wants to pull everyone into her drama. She engages in self destructive behavior. She is and has been close to failing school because she does not do the work but lies about doing it. She has some learning disabilities but won't let anyone help her. She has been in therapy for years. Sometimes helps for awhile but then she tanks again. It is a roller coaster.

That's the challenge. Now for the wonderful part: my daughter is beautiful, kind, loving, smart, funny, and the light of my life. It is so painful to watch her self-sabotage.

Do you know anyone who is experienced in working with teenage girls with this profile and these kind of issues? Someone who has developed a process/plan to address these issues and has experienced some success. Alternative therapy? EMDR? Thanks! Out of Ideas But Hopeful Mom

My daughter joined our family at the age of 7 after spending 18 months in CA foster care. I highly recommend two therapists we have used Virginia Cunningham in San Leandro and Joan Lovett in Berkeley. Gini is a gifted MFT and continues to work wonders with our daughter who is now 13. Gini initially saw our daughter weekly until 2 years ago, now it's twice monthly. While Joan, a superb behavioral therapist, performs her miracles with through EMDR for our daughter's PTSD whom she saw weekly for a year (8-9 y.o.) then monthly, and now as needed. Joan, in fact, has authored a few books about PTSD and adoption and are exellent reading for any parent who adopts a child. As concerned and loving parents, we provide the opportunities and our kids do the necessary work. Good therapy changes the child and his/her family. Good luck! pw

My daughter is also 14 and has some of the same issues. I have spoken to her repeatedly about lying and she is beginning to get the point. Whenever her friends lie to her, I make a point of asking how she feels about that friend and what she would prefer they do. As for school, there is a program in high schools called AVID. It has different names in different schools. But it is aimed at teaching kids to be responsible about their grades, to learn good study skills, and to think positively about oneself and ones potential (i.e college). You and your daughter need to sign papers that commit to the program and its methods. I know that this program is starting to make a big difference in my daughter's life. It's also a relief to me as a single mom. Another Mom of an Adopted 14 year old

I too have an adopted daughter. So many of us have been in your shoes, same issues, the lying, risky behaviors,school issues...

Our daughter is now 17. She is currently in a therapeutic residential placement after 12 weeks in a wilderness program. We have all learned a lot along this journey. Her therapist is preparing her to start EMDR which we have heard great things about. She also is at a school that uses equine therapy.

I am more than happy to share what we have found helpful. I do have the names of 2 wonderful therapists that specialize in adoption. Also, the support group Willows in the Wind (advertised in BPN) is a great resource. Depending on private or County adoption, you may have funding available to you.

A note about school issues that we have learned...these children are terrified about being told they are not good enough (because that would validate what they feel about themselves), so by not doing the work they are in control of their own failure and no one can say their work (they) are not good enough. I think this is so interesting and has been acknowledged by our daughter as true.

If I can help you or others reading this, please contact me. Karen

Hi - Your daughter sounds a lot like my son. He is being seen at Coyote Coast in Lafayette, a youth counseling program. They have therapists and mentors who specialize in ''troubled teens.'' Adoption issues are not their focus, but at least some of the counselors have worked with adopted kids. Our kids do have a lot of grief/loss/shame/identity issues that surface during the teen years.

I would also very highly recommend Leslie Foge in Lafayette. She specializes in working with adopted kids, especially teens and is extremely knowledgeable about adoption issues and is a very kind and skilled therapist. My son has not worked directly with her, but we have seen her for parent consultations because of her special expertise in adoption. She seems to see mostly female adopted teens. We found Leslie by asking our adoption agency for advice. Your agency may be able to give you additional resources as well. Best of luck, Adoptive mom

Here are a few therapy resources to check out. Virginia and Stacy are about to start (on Sept 5) a support/therapy group for adoptive teens (girls).

Virginia Keeler-Wolf, MA, MFT 510-339-9363 Virginia [at] 510-594-4311.

Stacy L Outten. 510-594-4311 Stacy [at]

Sandy also offers therapy services for adoptive teens. Sandy McQuillan, 510-230-7119

Adoptive Teen Support Group: Please spread the word to adoptive teens and their families about this wonderful support group for adoptive teenagers! Are you a teen who has wondered: * Why am I terrified of rejection even though I have such loving parents? * Why do I think so much about my birthmother when my parents have provided such a wonderful home? Maybe you have been secretly wishing for a place to talk freely with other adoptees about all these adoption experiences. A place where you will find compassion and understanding. Tuesdays, 4-5:30pm Berkeley My name is Sandy McQuillan, licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. I have been leading psychotherapy groups for over twenty-seven years. In addition, I have been in a successful open adoption for the last 25 years. My group will be perfect for adoptee teens who are between 13 to 16 years old and may be wondering and questioning their identity. Call: Sandy McQuillan, MFT 510-230-7119 for an appointment and to register 2718 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 210, Berkeley, CA 94705 Maybe you have been secretly wishing for a place to talk freely with other adoptees about all these adoption experiences. A place where you will find compassion and understanding.Adoptive Teen Support GroupTuesdays, 4-5:30pmBerkeleyMy name is Sandy McQuillan, licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. I have been leading psychotherapy groups for over twenty-seven years. In addition, I have been in a successful open adoption for the last 25 years. My group will be perfect for adoptee teens who are between 13 to 16 years old and may be wondering and questioning their identity.Call: Sandy McQuillan, MFT510-230-7119for an appointment and to register2718 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 210, Berkeley, CA 94705 linda

Therapist for 14 year old adopted daughter

Oct 2011

Can anyone recommend a good therapist for a 14 year old girl who is having anxiety and anger issues? She is highly intelligent and functions well at school, but is still falling apart sometimes at night and completely loses control.She was in group therapy for two 8-month sessions for adopted girls with Virginia Keeler-Wolf in Oakland, but doesn't want to try that again. (In fact, she says she doesn't want any kind of therapy at all, but admits to feeling helpless and defeated by her emotions.) Even if she won't talk to a therapist, I'd love a professional who could talk to me and coach me how to help my wonderful daughter through this pain. Someone in the Berkeley/ Oakland area would be best. Thanks, Overwhelmed single mom

I don't have a name for you but just some support. My daughter also did the Virginia keeled wolf support group and hated it. (I have nothing but good to say about Virginia, I loved her. My daughter just isn't a support group type kid.).

I just wanted to say that it took some time, but my daughter now loves therapy. Once I stopped trying to talk her into it, she began to see the benefit. She decided that she needed to be more open to new situations and decided to talk to a therapist. She sees Ellin Sadur, but she is in San Ramon. She has been a great mediator for us and has really helped me to modify my behavior to make things easier for both of us. (Ellin does also have a walnut creek office.)

So, don't give up on therapy but wait for her to see the benefit. I garauntee that you will start to miss the days you didn't have to pay for it! (Ellin does take Anthem Blue Cross but you have to file it yourself.) Been There

Seeking Teen Therapist for 13yo Adopted Daughter

April 2011

My daughter is now 13 and was adopted at 16 months. She is very bright but has issues with lying. She has ADD and like many ADD kids, is very poorly organized. Her lies are causing me to distrust her and is interfering with her school work. I have been out of work for awhile and do not have health insurance, so I'm looking for someone who works on a sliding scale. Any suggestions would be much appreciated since I am extraordinarily frustrated.

I highly recommend Shira Gallagher, LCSW. 510-594-4008. She has a great deal of experience working with adopted and foster teenagers as well as parents of adopted youth and adopted adults. She is a also just a simply wonderful therapist. She is very bright, compassionate, experienced and does very well with teens. anon

Our adopted daughter, who we adopted at birth, just turned 15. She has learning differences and, it turns out based on a neuro-psych test, ADD as well. I imagine you are having some of the same issues that we have had since the age of 13 with our daughter. I saw that you had a response from someone familiar with adoption issues, and I would definitely recommend that you see if you can find someone who knows those issues if you can. I just started reading the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, and it really seems right on, although there is a lot of discussion about the effect of closed adoptions which is not our situation. I just wish I had read this book long ago. There is also a newer book by the same author, but I have yet to get it.

I did want to recommend a therapist that my daughter saw, although I'm not sure how specifically familiar with adoption issues she is. We found her after another therapist and a psychiatrist weren't helping the way we really needed. Her name is Georgia Maslowski (510-420-8838). She does use a sliding scale. She was able to quickly gain my daughter's trust, and started to really sort out the truth of what was going on in my daughter's life, and where she was emotionally. She was able to bring my side in without alienating my daughter when I had a different account of events. I think it would have been successful, since she also recommended someone for family counseling, but unfortunately my daughter had become very depressed and started to do pretty scary things. When she started to get more in touch with her feelings, and have some hope for relieving her depression, she became so angry she needed to go away for a while to get more therapy than once weekly. I hope that is not your future, but now that we know about this, we have discovered that therapeutic facilities away from home have many adopted kids attending. I've sent a recommendation to be put below in the announcements section for an educational consultant who helped us find a great place for a reasonable price. S

Therapist for 7th grader's identity issues

April 2011

We are looking to see if anyone has any experience with any of the following therapists who specialize in adoption/adolescence in our area. Unfortunately the person recommended to us, Leslie Foge, is not covered by our insurance. The following people are covered by our insurance: Ilene Nemetz, Walnut Creek Candace Hendra, Walnut Creek Beverly Scott, Concord Janet Long, Walnut Creek Rhiannon Shires, Walnut Creek

Our 7th grade daughter is having identity issues related to being adopted (we adopted her when she was 2 days old) and we are seeking a female therapist who specializes in this type of issue. Thanks.

Therapist for adopted child. I cannot recommend maria viella highly enough. she works at west coast children's clinic but is also in private practice in piedmont Maria has a teenager who is adopted and she herself is also adopted. She does family therapy but from my perspective many of these difficulties for the child who is adopted become family issues.

Maria is wonderful with teenagers... she really enjoys them and gets them and her clinical experience is impressive. most important to us she really helped create an environment where we could work on the issues in a safe respectful way... this is really hard stuff for kids and we all meet work on it and support them. She gets that. most important to my daughter who 17 she is willing to occasionally meet her for lunch... buy my kid thai food and she's your friend for life!

Need therapist who knows adoption issues

Feb 2011

Hi. I am looking for a therapist in the bay area who specializes in adopted children and the issues they may have. My daughter has frequent rages and tantrums among other problems. Thanks for any help.

I'd recommend Heather Genschmer, LCSW-she spent many years specifically working with adoptive families with children with special needs at an agency and now works ou of her own office on College Ave in Rockridge. (510) 529-5864 MFT in the community

Virginia Keeler-Wolf in Oakland specializes in adoption. Here is her website: Of all the people with whom we conferred, she offered the most coherent diagnosis and targeted support. The primary focus is to address what is now called Reactive Attachment Disorder. Her skills and knowledge are deep and wide. I only wish we had located her sooner since late diagnosis of this fairly common problem with adopted children hampers the best outcome. adoptive mom

I recommend Nancy Verrier, MFT, who practices in Lafayette. She has written several books on adoption and speaks on adoption internationally. She has worked for decades with adopted kids and adoptive parents, and is an adoptive parent herself. I know her as a colleague - we went to graduate school together and I've followed her work for many years. Her office is at 925-284-5813. Pat

2009 - 2010 Reviews

Therapist for older adopted teen

Aug 2010

I'm looking for recommendations for a therapist for my almost 19-year-old adopted daughter. She has some adoption issues--the intellectual understanding of why her birth mother could not care for her but the emotional distress of feeling rejected--and she suffers from low self esteem. Thanks. supportive mom

Dear Supportive Mom looking for therapist for 19 y/o daughter, my husband and I highly recommend Dr. Thomas Cohen on Piedmont Ave. 510-653-0110. He treated our son from age 16 to 18 and was amazing. In the course of our son's therapy, Dr. Cohen also saw our teenage daughter periodically. She is two years younger than her brother. Dr. Cohen was well prepared to talk with teens who really didn't want his help and didn't want to face their issues (by the way, they were dealing with feelings of rejection, abandonment, and low self esteem). Call him and see what you think. He saved our kids and the sanity of our family. Good luck!

I know a psychologist who specializes in adoption who would be a great person for your daughter. Her name is Melissa Holub, and she's in Berkeley on Shattuck near Ashby. She's smart, warm and very experienced. good luck!

An excellent psychologist who could help your daughter work through her adoption feelings is Susanne Stolcke. Ms. Stolcke specializes in young adults and has a great deal of experience with young adults. She's located at 2006 Dwight Way, Berkeley. She has a website: Good Luck. Anon

Ashley Henderson is a very talented and empathic therapist. She has extensive experience with teens/young adults and the adoption experience. Laura

We built our family through adoption and have benefitted greatly from the guidance of Leslie Foge. She's in Lafayette. You should also check out PACER's web site for a listing of adoption literate therapists, as well as local support group meetings: Good luck! fellow adoptive mom

Therapist for 12-year-old adopted daughter

August 2010

Our daughter is having some issues that we (my husband and I) and our couples' counselor feel would be helped by having her go to therapy. Our daughter is not interested in therapy (she feels it means there is something wrong with you, in spite of our trying to disabuse her of that notion). In any case, one of her comments recently made me think that she would benefit from a therapist who specializes in working with adopted kids. (Our daughter said that she feels that she hasn't ''bonded'' with me and she doesn't know if she even wants to. We have no idea where she even came upon the word, frankly.) Generally speaking, our daughter gets along fantastically with my husband, and poorly with me. Our daughter was adopted at birth, just as an fyi, and it was a domestic adoption. Any recommendations in the Walnut Creek/Lamorinda area? I have checked the website and the latest recommendations seem to be 2 years old. Thanks in advance. want to help our daughter

Please consider Virginia Keeler-Wolf at Family Attachment and Adoption Center (FAACE). I have students who work with Virginia and they (and parents) are very happy with her. Virginia is excellent! FAACES website is I wish your daughter the best. Nancy

I highly recommend Cindy Hill-Ford, MFT. She is located in Lafayette and specializes in adoption issues. She is very skilled with adolescents and would probably be a good match for your daughter. She is warm and compassionate as well as very knowledgable about these kinds of issues. You can email her at hillford [at] anonymous

2007 - 2008 Reviews

Adopted daughter's grief about her original family

Oct 2008

My daughter is adopted from China and is now 8 years old. Though we have tried so many approaches and numerous processes and tons of love, she seems to have a constant ache and rage in her heart around having been deserted by her original family. I have concluded that she needs grief/mourning help since, in reality, she feels a constant sense of loss without resolution (ie no information available to Chinese adoptees on who their parents are). This pain confuses and upsets her and our whole family has now developed many patterns around it. I want to desperately find help for her and ultimately for our whole family around her mourning.

Looking for a practitioner who know and understand the unique deep and ongoing mourning of children whose parents don't ''exist'' for them to interact with, yet who are not actually ''deceased''. It's a terrible vague sadness and rage in her daily life. We have already read a lot of books, now are open to any processes that have been materially shown to help with this issue. Could be therapy, could be art, could be...? Thank you! We live in San Leandro, but will take referrals to anyone in the Bay Area.

Please give Casi Kushel (Walnut Creek) a call and see if she can help. She has done special work with children of immigrant families and has been involved with orphans in Afghanistan, helping them to heal from the loss and traumas they've faced. Christina

Leslie, I HIGHLY recommend Virginia Keeler-Wolf, MA, MFT and Laura Soble, MA, MFT, REAT of the Bay Area Attachment Center. Both are excellent and specialize in adoption issues. Please see their website I wish you, your daughter, and family the best. Nancy

I know of a wonderful group in Oakland that deals with adoption issues; their website is My kids see Laura Soble and Stacy Ouetten, who are both terrific (fyi, my kids are not adopted, but many kids in their practice are). Ann

Dear Leslie, I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's grief. I imagine it's very disconcerting and frustrating to feel you are never getting anywhere. I'm a psychologist in private practice on the border of Berkeley & Oakland. I've worked with many foster families and adoptive families and their kids, including children adopted from China. I understand the sadness and abandonment these children feel as they transition to a new family. They will often dump their grief on the adoptive family for lack of an appropriate container. The right kind of therapy can provide this container for your daughter. I hope you find ease and resolution soon.

My heart goes out to your daughter and your family. I'm also the mother of a daughter adopted from China. Although she is younger then your daughter, we've also dealt with issues of grief and loss. I highly reommend a child therapist named Anne Brodzinsky. She's based in Oakland and has years of experience with adoptive families (and is an adoptive mom herself). Her husband, David Brodzinsky is also supposed to be wonderful, but we have not seen him. Good luck and take care! another adoptive mom

Hi, I had recently read this article and wanted to share it with you: - I believe the writer runs Heartsent Adoptions in Orinda (,%20Heartsent%20domestic%20adoption.html) and maybe she could help you. I don't know if it's pertinent to your situation, but apparently Reactive Attachment Disorder is not uncommon in children with early trauma. hope this helps.

Therapist for parents' post adoption depression

Feb 2008

Hi, I am wondering if anyone has worked with a therapist dealing with possible post adoption depression? My husband and I brought our son home a few months ago and I am feeling very down and overwhelmed. It has gotten to the point where I would like to talk with a therpist to figure out what is really going on (ie new mama stuff or more serious depression). I would love to use a therapist who is familiar with adoption issues but I didn't see any previous recs for this type of therapist. Thanks for any help! New Mama in Oakland

Any one of the clinicians at the Family Attachment & Adoption Center of the East Bay (FAACE) would be qualified to work with you. You can obtain more specific information and contact details at Offices are located off Park Blvd. in Oakland. Laura

Hello, I am a therapist who specializes in adoption as well as special needs. Post adoption depression is a common, usually temporary, issue that affects many new adoptive parents. The guilt and the incorrect assumption of not being entitled to having these feelings can exaserbate the condition. Sometimes it just takes time for a new adoptive parent to become comfortable in his/her new role as a parent. Rest assured that you are not alone. Barbara

I highly recommend a most compassionate and experienced therapist with offices in Albany and S.F. She is often a guest speaker on the topic of adoption. I know her as a friend but I do not hesitate to recommend her as a therapist: Lynn Watkins

I too had post-adoption depression and I didn't know that it was possible to have that so you are a step ahead. I recommend Melissa Holub as an adoption aware psychologist. anon

I know that Laine Demetria is familiar with the world of adoption. It might be worth giving her a call. Here's her website: Good luck to you and good for you for seeking help. anon

I understand the following therapist works with families who have adopted kids: Keeler-Wolf, Virginia, MFT 1425 Leimert Blvd Ste 302 Oakland, CA 94602  Good luck! Anonymous

Adoption literate therapist in Sonoma County

Feb 2008

I'm looking for an adoption literate therapist in Sonoma County, preferable Santa Rosa. Any recommendations? Jen

Leslie Hansen MFCC did my homestudy when I adopted my daughter 5 years ago. She also has a private therapy practice and is very adoption-literate. She's based in Petaluma/Santa Rosa. adoptive mom

Lizbeth Hamlin-Haims Santa Rosa Very experienced therapist; Jungian-oriented, yet practical; Adoption-literate lisa k

Jonathan Pannor might be a great fit for you. He practices through Kaiser in San Rafael - a bit south of you, but if you can't travel there he might know of someone closer to you. Here are a couple of links to learn more about him. (He's a friend of mine. I have not been in counseling with him.) Good luck! Lisa

Try these folks Rich  Works with adults and kids John Alolovitch  Works with kids Both are in Santa Rosa and have adopted kids. Good luck Mark

ADD, oppositional defiance, and adoption issues

Jan 2008

Cathy Valdez has been recommended to me as a therapist for my teenage daughter to work on ADD issues, oppositional defiance issues, and adoption issues. Does anyone have any experience in dealing with Cathy Valdez as a therapist? Any info would be appreciated. Anon

I highly recommend Kirsten Beuthin to see your teenager alone or with you in family therapy. She appears to be young (though I'm not sure about her age), but is quite wise and seems to really get teens. Mine felt very comfortable with her, and therefore able to work through some very tough times and get back on track. anon

Family Therapist w/ some experience w/ adoption issues

Feb 2007

Can anyone recommend a good family therapist, perferably in Oakland, who can help with parenting issues. Some experience with adoption preferred. Thank you in advance!! stressed out mom

Virginia Keeler-Wolf , MFT directs the Family Adoption and Attachment Center of the East Bay (FAACE), located in the Glenview area of Oakland, is a family therapist specializing in adoption and attachment issues.  anonymous

I'm another adoptive parent of a newly teenage girl, doing the search for an appropriate therapist and other resources. I can give a couple of reccomendations. For racially mixed families, try PACT, An Adption Alliance. 4179 Piedmont Avenue, Suite 330 Oakland, CA 94611 (website) info [at] (email)

There are two therapists who have been mentioned before on this website -- Virginia Keeler-Wolf and Susan Love. They're in Oakland near Park Ave. Both excellent, specialists. I believe both were themselves adopted.

Finally, you might want to speak with Beth Miller, a social worker who specializes in adoption. I found her to be extremely helpful in pointing me in an appropriate direction for my daughter and our family, she's a lovely person, very ethical, knowledgeable and experienced, and her office is on Santa Clara Ave. near Ladyfingers Bakery.

Adoption issues can be very complex. I'd encourage you to take the time to find someone experienced and capable. Another Adoptive Mom

My family can recommend Virginia Keeler-Wolf . We've gotten very constructive feedback and strategies for our children who were adopted. Her contact info: 1425 Leimert Blvd. Suite #302, Oakland. Not all therapists are able or qualified to handle adoption related issues so I'll be checking the other responses with interest. Taxed to the max Mom

I'd like to recommend Lynn Watkins, MFT. She's in Albany, not Oakland, but well worth the trip. She's well versed in adoption issues and an excellent, very experienced therapist. Lynn often works with clients in reference to parenting issues, and has provided therapy to people in all the areas of the adoption triad. She works with Resolve, and has spoken at conferences on the topics of adoption and infertility. She's a warm and lovely person, too! . Kathy

Someone asked for a recommendation for a therapist with experience with adoption issues. I just found out that my therapist is expanding her practice and will have some openings for new clients. I wholeheartedly recommend her: Laine Demetria, MS MFT (licensed). She has offices in Albany and also in San Francisco (at Church and Market). She would be an ideal therapist for adoption issues. Give her a call.  anon

2005 - 2006 Reviews

17-year-old with relationship/adoption issues

Oct 2006

My 17 year old daughter needs a therapist in Berkeley area to help her with believing she is interesting enough, attractive enough etc. that any desirable boy she is involved with will not instantly leave her at the first opportunity. This is probably partially an adoption (abandonment) issue, probably other things too. She just broke up (again) with a very sweet young man because she didn't ''trust'' that he wouldn't leave her for someone else, just as they were getting into a pattern of going places, having fun, spending time with each others' family occasions, etc. She insists he did absolutely nothing to make her suspicious--just can't stop thinking that ''if someone else wants him, they'll just get him, she doesn't stand a chance.'' She acknowledges this is her problem and she needs help. She has a history of problems with self- confidence--probably mostly because of learning disability and body image issues, as well as the adoption component. Most recommendations on the website are years old or for other types of problems, so I'd appreciate your recommendations. Anonymous

I highly recommend Patricia Contaxis for your 17 yr old daughter. she works primarily with adolescents and can really relate to them. my daughter has been seeing her for over a year and has been very beneficial for her. Great with self confidence issues. She's on Solano. her # is 510-524-5028. Good luck B.'s mom

I would recommend that you seek a therapist with experience in adoption issues as this often affects self-esteem (confidence and trust in relationships with others). I would highly recommend Kirsten Beuthin who specializes in teens and their families as well as adoption issues. She is in Oakland and SF. 510-652-0990 or 415-401-7180 anonymous

Young teen girl with anxiety, adoption, loss issues

May 2006

Looking for a therapist experienced in anxiety, adoption, loss issues for a young teen girl. An Asian woman would be ideal. Mom C

Lili Suzuki, MFT might be a good fit for your daughter. She specializes in work with adoption issues. She is also trained as an art therapist. 510-233-7555, ext. 18 Laura Soble, MFT, REAT, Oakland

I highly recommend Alexandra Howells. She specializes in working with Teens and she is a very compassionate and warm person who is very skilled and has a great connection with young people. Her number is 510-869-4394. Her email is alex[at] Priscilla

2004 & Earlier

Therapist for Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Related page: Attachment Disorder

Feb. 2003

Can anyone recommend a good therapist who works with children/adoptees who have mild RAD (reactive attachment disorder)?

I have a daughter with RAD and we both have been seeing Debra Bartenstein (633-1563) who has been very helpful. I can recommend her highly.

Additionally, I found the ''only'' two therapists in the Bay Area who are truly specialized in RAD. I would recommend calling them too. They are Virginia Keeler Wolf at 510-339-9363 and Susan Love who's number I cannot find but she should be in the phone book and Virginia Keeler-Wolf has her number too.

Just another note: I found RAD workshops extremely helpful. Unfortunately very little is offered in the Bay Area, but CATTE in the Sacramento Area puts on workshops regularly and they are excellent (and affordable). Also, PACT is putting on a workshop on attachment soon so you might want to give them a call. If you'd like to talk some more or maybe even have playdates with a comfortable RAD mom, call me. Best wishes.
Martina,a few weeks away from finalization.

I suggest you check out Virginia Keeler-Wolf in Berkeley. Although we have just begun working with her, she was highly recommended. She says her practice is about 75% adoption-related, and she is active in PACER, and is presenting at an upcoming PACT workshop.