Losses, Mourning, and Adaptation in the Adoption Triad:
A Birthmother, Adoptee, and Adoptive Mother Speak
Clinical Panel Discussion
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.
After attending the conference in its entirety, participants will be able to:
Describe the paradoxes of adoption myths
Identify major losses experienced by birthparents, adoptees, and adoptive parents
Explain what may happen when the losses remain unacknowledged or misunderstood
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.
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