Losses, Mourning, and Adaptation in the Adoption Triad:

A Birthmother, Adoptee, and Adoptive Mother Speak

Clinical Panel Discussion


Sharon Horowitz, PhD, Joellen Peters, PhD & JoAnn Ponder, PhD

Saturday, February 26, 2022

9:00 am - 12:15 pm Central time

Live Zoom Presentation


Register for Zoom invitation (will be emailed the day of the event)

See below for Payment Information

Adoption myths are rooted in a number of paradoxes, for example, the unwanted, pathologized child versus the idealized, chosen child, and the inadequate, pathologized parent versus the idealized, savior parent. Stereotypes and polarities aside, parallel losses are intrinsic to all members of the adoption triad. Real-life adoption stories begin with birthparents who may experience unresolved grief throughout their lifetime over the loss of their child. Adults adopted as children have described the loss of birthmothers as a primal wound, along with the perception of being second choices of adoptive parents who could not have biological children. Adoptive parents may experience unresolved grief over the loss of actual birthchildren or the fantasy of biological children.

When adoption losses and complex histories are unacknowledged or misunderstood by others, the experiences remain unprocessed and unmetabolized, the grief unresolved. With witnesses to help explore the histories, access the emotions, and integrate the losses inherent in adoption, new insights and more nuanced narratives may emerge. This, in turn, may foster psychic growth, adaptation, and resilience.

Learning objectives:

After attending the conference in its entirety, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the paradoxes of adoption myths

  2. Identify major losses experienced by birthparents, adoptees, and adoptive parents

  3. Explain what may happen when the losses remain unacknowledged or misunderstood

  4. Explain the importance of recognizing and integrating the losses in adoption


Sharon Horowitz, PhD is a clinical psychologist who lived in Austin, Texas for years, where she was a founding member of Austin Psychoanalytic and had a private practice providing consultation and psychoanalytic psychotherapy with adults. She moved to Montclair, New Jersey this year, but continues to work with her Austin clients. Dr. Horowitz authored an article about the impact of adoption on birthmothers, which was published in a psychoanalytic journal. She has presented on this topic at local and national psychoanalytic conferences.

Joellen Peters, PhD is a psychologist and activist who has a private practice in Austin, Texas, working with children, adults, couples, and families. She specializes in working with adopted persons, adoptive parents, and birthparents. She is a past president of Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, an educational resource and support group for all members of the adoption triad, and current president of Support Texas Adoptee Rights (STAR), which advocates to restore access to original birth certificates so that adoptees can have the same basic right to their identity information that other people enjoy. Dr. Peters has testified at the Texas legislature, lectured locally and statewide, and presented at a national psychoanalytic conference about adoption issues and adoption rights.

JoAnn Ponder, PhD is a psychologist-psychoanalyst who has a private practice in Austin, Texas, working with children, adults, couples, and families. She is a graduate and faculty member at the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies in Houston. She also completed postgraduate training in play therapy, sandplay, infant-parent mental health intervention, and object relational couples and family therapy. Her publications include 2 psychoanalytic journal articles on child trauma and book chapters on (1) treating children who lost a parent and (2) infertility and adoptive motherhood. Dr. Ponder has presented on these topics at local, national, and international psychoanalytic conferences.


Freedgood, B. (2013). Loss and resilience form a family: An adoption story from a relational point of view. Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 10: 20-41.

Additional References/Resources

Horowitz, S. (2013). Loss, insecurity, and uncertainty: The impact of adoption on the developing selves of a birthmother. Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 10: 10-19.

Ponder, J. (2017). From infertility and empty womb to maternal fulfillment: The psychological birth of the adoptive mother. In E. Toronto, J. Ponder, K. Davisson & M. Kelly (Eds.), A womb of her own: Women’s struggle for creative and reproductive autonomy. London: Routledge.

Pay Online (3 CE/CME CREDITS)

$50 CFPS Faculty, HPS Member and Alumni Group Members * $25 CFPS Candidates, Trainees, Alumni Student Member * $60 Non-members

Continuing Education Accreditation

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of American Psychoanalytic Association and Center for Psychoanalytic Studies. The American Psychoanalytic Association is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The American Psychoanalytic Association designates this Live Activity for a maximum of [number of credits] AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies (sponsor number CS1391) is approved by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Social Worker Examiners to offer continuing education units to the social workers.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies (CE Provider Number 379) is approved by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors to offer continuing education credit to licensed professional counselors.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies (Continuing Education Provider Number 340) is approved by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists to provide continuing education activities for marriage and family therapists.

The Center for Psychoanalytic Studies maintains responsibility for the program.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION FOR ALL LEARNERS: None of the planners and presenters for this educational activity have relevant financial relationship(s)* to disclose with ineligible companies* whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.

*Financial relationships are relevant if the educational content an individual can control is related to the business lines or products of the ineligible company.

Updated July 2021