Adoption Support Services & Therapies

There is a range of adoption support services available to children adopted from care and it is important for you, as adoptive parents, to know what might be available to you and your child.

Who are the service providers?

Some of the support services listed below may be provided by your adoption agency. Others may be a resource provided by the National Health Service or an independent provider. However, where the agency needs to buy in a particular resource, it may be that the Adoption Support Fund can provide the finances to enable this service to be provided.  To access the Adoption Support Fund, you will need to have an assessment of your family’s adoption support needs by your local authority. It is a legal obligation on all local authorities to make this assessment.


Parenting Skills Courses

There are a number of parenting skills courses that enable adoptive parents to discuss strategies for helping children who are finding it difficult to manage family life.  The aim of such courses is to provide strategies to improve the relationship between parent and child and make the child more co-operative with the parents.  Although some of the strategies may sound familiar, when you can discuss ideas in the group and benefit from the videos and other materials, parents often find a new and helpful perspective.  Adopters also have really appreciated the opportunity to work alongside other adopters who understand each other’s situation and can be very supportive. Some courses run weekly for some weeks and some are over several days.

Parenting Skills Courses for Adopters include:

Parenting our Children is Adoption UK’s a new parenting programme that replaces ‘It’s a Piece of Cake’. It has been developed by Adoption UK and Family Futures and is delivered nationwide.

SafeBase is a therapeutic parenting programme run by After Adoption and will be available nationwide from 2016.

The Incredible Years course has been adapted for adopters of children between the ages of 3 and 8.  It focuses on reflective commenting and empathy and is offered by a number of adoption agencies.

Parenting skills training programme adapted for adoptive families, Coram This is a revision of the Incredible Years Parenting Skills course above and includes parenting strategies for children who have suffered disruption, uncertainty and neglect in their young lives.

Parenting Back to Front (PDF 704KB) by Family Futures provides adopters with an understanding of the effects of early trauma and how this impacts on a child’s development. It also gives practical techniques and tools to help bring positive changes in their family life.

The Ministry of Parenting provide parenting skills groups for parents of adolescent children between 10 and 16 years of age. It is available in Essex and eastern regions of the country.

The Take 3 Parenting Programme is a comprehensive evidence-based parenting programme for working with groups of parents of 10-18 year-olds, and especially with parents of at-risk or vulnerable young people.  It has also been used extensively for one-to-one interventions with ‘hard-to-reach’ parents.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

CAMHS provide specialist mental health services nationally for young people through the NHS. There is currently a review of CAMHS services which aims to look at how to provide a wider service to children and young people who have come from vulnerable backgrounds. The outline of the report’s recommendations can be viewed on the Young Minds website.

Young Minds is a national organisation concerned with the mental health of children and adolescents. It runs an informative website and helpline for parents who are concerned about their children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health.

How can CAMHS clinics help?

There are a number of professionals currently who work in CAMHS clinics and may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and psychotherapists.  You can ask your GP for a referral to assess your child’s needs or you can discuss with your child’s school if there is a school link to the local clinic.  If there is an adoption social worker involved with your family to offer post adoption support, then this social worker also may be able to refer your child for an assessment.

Available Therapies

Multi Systemic Therapy (MST)

Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) involves working closely with families, providing intensive therapy that focuses on problem solving. It aims to give parents problem-solving skills to deal with their issues. Families receive 24-hour support from a therapist, and a range of agencies work in partnership to support them over a three to five month period. Agencies that provide this service are listed on the MST Services website.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

A psychological treatment method which stimulates the brain to reduce the intensity of distressing memories. A wealth of research has been conducted demonstrating its benefits in treating psychological trauma arising from experiences as diverse as childhood sexual and/or physical abuse or neglect and assault. You can find a therapist in your area at the EMDR Association website.

Creative Arts Therapies

Music therapy and Art therapy can help children from complex and traumatic backgrounds in a range of ways. It can help to increase concentration and attention skills, improve family and social relationships and increase a child’s confidence.

For many children it is the first step towards finding ways of dealing with their feelings of loss, frustration and emotional trauma so that they can start to learn to trust, love and lead happier lives.

Therapists in your area

The British Association for Music Therapy and Nordoff Robbins have details of music therapists. The Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education list details of arts therapist in your area as do British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). Depending on where you live you may be able to access Play Therapy and Art Psychotherapy through CAMHS.

Play Therapy

Play Therapy helps children work through difficult emotions/trauma using play. It is non-directive or child-lead and works with the relationship between child, the play and the therapist (known as the transference). Through each activity, the therapist tries to find meaning – a narrative, which she then reflects back to the child. Usually, the parent is not involved with the therapy.


Theraplay is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment. It is directive – activities are directed by the adults (at first by the therapist and then by the parent). The parent is always involved in the therapy and the aim is to tailor specific activities and play to regulate the child and strengthen the parent/child relationship.

Filial Therapy

Like Theraplay, Filial Therapy combines family and Play Therapy principles and techniques and is structured to enhance the parent child relationship.  Parents learn how to create a non-judgmental and accepting understanding relationship with their children through play sessions conducted in the home.  Unlike conventional therapy the child’s parents are full involved in their child’s treatment.

Sensory Integration Therapy and Sensory Attachment Therapy

Sensory Integration Therapy aims to help the child re-organise or re-process sensory information in order to regulate emotional responses. Sensory Attachment Therapy examines how sensory processing and attachment patterns affect our capacity to regulate emotions and behaviour.

Individual sensory integration therapy is provided as direct one-to-one therapy, following a specialist assessment by an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Speech and Language Therapist with postgraduate training in sensory integration.

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) is a treatment developed by Dan Hughes who has worked with adopters and their children for many years.

Central within DDP is PACE, a way of thinking which deepens the emotional connections in our relationships with others.

Find a DDP practitioner near you

Non-Violent Resistance (NVR)

A psychological approach for overcoming destructive, aggressive, controlling and risk-taking behaviour. PartnershipProjects UK conduct training courses and therapy sessions nationwide for both parents and professionals.