Dec 14, 2012
The path to parenthood can take many unexpected twists and turns. For some of us, the dream of having a child is realized with relative ease, but for many of us it’s a rocky and sometimes painful road. If you decide to start the adoption process, there is often more involved than just a wait. Couples can go through periods where there are flurries of activity followed by long periods where nothing happens. The details can be overwhelming, as bad as an IRS audit, but add in the emotional roller coaster too! Part of what you may need to do before you begin a family is have a psychological assessment.
Having to have a psychological evaluation to start a family can feel strange, and perhaps unfair. After all, there’s no scrutiny for those who start a family with a pregnancy! The requirement to have a psychological evaluation is just one of many ‘hoops’ that you will jump through to make your dream come true. Hopefully, it will be one of the easier ones. This blog will let you know a bit about the process.
The key to making sure this process goes well is to pay careful attention to what your agency or your child’s country of origin requires. Each country has a set of requirements for who should conduct the assessment, psychological tests to administer, and what the assessment report should include. Before making an appointment, check that:
1. The provider has the appropriate credentials as specified in your paperwork
2. The provider is licensed in good standing
3. The provider has the psychological tests your agency/country requires (e.g. the MMPI, Millon Scales, NEO or PAI)
4. The provider can complete all the work by your deadline
5. The provider knows in advance what is needed to comply with assessment requirements
It is often wise to have the psychologist communicate with your case manager if there is any question about what information he or she should collect.
So once you have your psychologist, what can you expect? First, you should expect to be treated with every courtesy and dignity, the same as any expectant parents. You should expect your emails answered, phone calls returned, and report completed in a timely manner. When you go to see the psychologist, remind the psychologist of what information is needed. Share sample report templates or procedure lists from your agency/country. Be aware if the psychologist is following the guidelines or not! These details are critical.
The psychologist will conduct what is called a ‘Clinical Interview.’ During this time, she will ask questions about your journey that brought you to choosing adoption. You will answer questions about your own history as well as your psychological health. Don’t get upset if the psychologist asks questions about your substance use habits, the health of your marriage/partnership, or if you have ever been in legal trouble—this is all important information for her to collect from anyone she sees. Some questions may be unexpected, but keep in mind, you want your psychologist to be thorough.
Be ready to discuss some difficult issues. For example, you may be asked about infertility or pregnancy losses (believe me, its ok if you cry in a psychologist's office). Your psychologist may also ask you questions about child development, such as the impact of institutional care on children’s cognition and emotional well being. The psychologist may spend time educating you about children who come from traumatic backgrounds, or who have special needs. Finally, you may be asked for your thoughts on how you will talk to your child about the adoption, biological relatives, or his cultural heritage.
One last piece of advice—do not try to make yourselves look perfect! Perfect is not the standard. Of course you do want to make a good impression (dress nicely, come on time, pay your bill), but be yourself. If you take a personality inventory, avoid trying to answer the questions as if you are someone else. Just be honest.
Hopefully the psychological evaluation will be just another item you check-off in your journey towards finally holding your child for the first time!