Staff Report for The Island Connection
A new counseling office, Bridgepointe Therapy, recently opened in Charleston to specialize in working with adoptive and foster families. This is Charleston’s only counseling center exclusively for adoptive families. Based in West Ashley, Bridgepointe Therapy serves families from throughout the tri-county area. “
After talking to over 20 professionals in the adoption and mental health fields, I consistently heard how significant the need is for a therapist who understands adoption,” said Emily Belknap, Bridgepointe Therapy’s owner and therapist. “There are complex needs to address when working with adoptive families, such as identity, loss and grief, navigating open adoption, trauma, attachment, and how to share difficult information about a child’s adoption story in an age-appropriate way.”
Belknap has been providing therapy to adoptive families for the past few years at an agency in the Washington, DC area, and relocated to Charleston eager to help meet this need for an adoption therapist in the community.
“One thing I’ve realized is that parents and professionals don’t always recognize the impact that adoption has not just around the time of the adoption, but throughout childhood and adulthood,” explains Belknap. “Children may go years without struggling, but then reach a new developmental level where they understand their adoption story in deeper ways both intellectually and emotionally.”
It’s common for adoption related struggles to mask themselves as other feelings or behaviors. Belknap explains, “A lot of times a child or teen is struggling with anxiety, depression, or anger, but when we get to the root of the issue, we uncover that the anxiety is the child worrying that he has to be good enough in order to earn the right to stay in the family. Or the depression is about the adolescent feeling worthless because of the misbelief that her own birth mother didn’t love or want her. Or the anger is because it’s easier to feel angry than to feel sadness and grief about being separated from his birth mother.”
Parents are often surprised to learn their child was experiencing these thoughts, and children are relieved to no longer have to carry these worries alone.
Belknap encourages parents to consider the connection to adoption if their child or teen is struggling emotionally or behaviorally whether they were adopted a week ago or a decade ago. “When the adoption piece is missed in therapy, it can lead to worse outcomes for the child and the family as a whole,” she explains.
Belknap’s goal is to help adopted children and teens improve their confidence and selfesteem, and to strengthen their relationships with their families and friends. Often, this requires exploring thoughts and feelings related to their adoption story and birth family. For this reason, Belknap offers complimentary phone consultations to talk through parents’ concerns and determine if counseling with an adoption therapist is necessary.
Bridgepointe Therapy is a counseling office for adoptive families located in Charleston. Bridgepointe Therapy provides individual therapy and family therapy to children, teens and parents who are members of adoptive families, preadopt families, foster families and birth families. Visit BridgepointeTherapy.com for additional information or call 843.628.6381 to schedule a consultation. Bridgepointe Therapy is located in West Ashley at 1365 D Ashley River Rd, Charleston.