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 and Special Guardianship Support Fund can provide the finances to enable this service to be provided.  To access the Adoption and Special Guardianship 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:

Enhancing Adoptive Parenting is PAC-UK’s 10 session parenting programme for adopters facing challenging problems in children aged 3-9 recently placed from care.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

TR-UST Training Course (Therapeutic Reparenting – Understanding, Support and Techniques) offered by Gateway Psychology is an 8-week course, designed to provide parents or carers of children who have experienced early trauma, abuse and neglect with in-depth information about attachment and practical reparenting techniques. The course is usually offered at their training facility in Stoke-on-Trent.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

CAMHS provide specialist mental health services nationally for young people through the NHS. There has been a review of CAMHS services which looked at how to provide a wider service to children and young people who have come from vulnerable backgrounds.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

Mentalisation Based Therapy

The term “mentalise” refers to the capacity to understand the feelings of others –i.e. to “read” them. This therapeutic approach, developed at the Anna Freud Centre, is based on attachment theory and is extensively evidenced. The therapy is designed to increase understanding of each other’s thoughts and feelings – a particular challenge for adopted children who have suffered trauma, and also for their parents as children’s reactions can be coloured by assumptions inherited from past adverse experiences of parenting. Mentalisation based treatment offers adoptive parents ways to build relationships with their children, increasing attachment, trust and security. A qualified Mentalisation therapist works with the family over a series of sessions, some with children and some with parent only, depending on the needs of each family.

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 UK website.

Neurological Physiological Psychotherapy (NPP)

This treatment has been developed by Family Futures and is a therapy for traumatised adopted children.
It is a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach that includes Sensory Integration therapy, Theraplay and Diadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). This therapy offers a sustained programme of interventions that support the child and the family over an extended period. Further information can be found on the Family Futures website.

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.

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. Practitioners are accredited by the BAPT and the Play Therapy Register.

Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy is a core profession in NHS CAMHS teams. All NHS-trained Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are registered with the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP).

ACP-registered Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists are trained to carefully observe a child or young person and respond to what they might be communicating through their behaviour and play.
They also apply their framework of thinking to work with parents, families and carers and to training and supporting other professionals who work with children, young people, parents and families to ensure a deeper understanding of the child’s perspective.

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.


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.