mental health and self-care for adoption professionals

6 Self-Care Tools for Adoption Professionals

By Laurie Shelton
, PairTree Adoption Specialist

May 8, 2023

5m read

Self-compassion and care for adoption professionals: A personal journey of trauma, growth, and mental health awareness.

I’ve worked in adoption for 25+ years. I’ve witnessed the most colorful, beautiful, heart-wrenching stories to fill one's life for eternity.

At 48 years old, childlessness had caused both grief and radical acceptance in my life. My own mental health was affected beyond what I was ever aware of for a long time.

However, my heart overflows with love, compassion, empathy, and caregiving to my nieces, god-children and all the little humans to whom I serve as village or second mom. (For those who know our PairTree personality types, mine is “Caregiver” go figure….)

When you’re in the thick of traumatic work, handling topics of loss 24/7 can take its toll. I want to share with adoption professionals how important “doing the work” and self-care is for your wellbeing.

A few years back, I took a year-long hiatus from adoption. While I healed, I reconfirmed that adoption is my passion. While trying to re-enter the arena, I experienced “the body keeps the score” first-hand.

My memory bank had not forgotten the 1000s of images my psyche had witnessed. I may have thought I fully processed these moments, but many unresolved traumas bubbled up from nowhere. I was programmed to help so many others at all hours of the day and all days of the week, I didn’t have space for myself.

With help, I built my own network of professionals and protocol - therapy, EMDR, hypnotherapy, meditation practice, and time away. I needed to look in the mirror and take my own advice. That was step #1.

I went inwards. Reflecting on that inner-child, I learned how to be vulnerable and express myself in a safe space. I learned that practicing gratitude can benefit all of us and spur growth and healing.

mental health counseling for adoption professionals

Six Essential Self-Care Tools

Here are some of my favorite tips for self-compassion and care for adoption professionals as we acknowledge Mental Health Awareness Month.

1 - Slow down. I did this through meditations, quiet walks in nature, sound baths (vibrational sound therapy, found at a lot of yoga studios). Life is happening so fast, we need to create space for healing and reflection in order to grow.

2 - Move your body. Whether you enjoy running, yoga, hiking, swimming, biking, or a group class- getting your endorphins pumping improves mental health. Moving reduces anxiety, depression, and negative moods, and it improves self-esteem and allows for better sleep.

3 - Reflect. Expressing yourself can allow for letting go of any extra weight on your shoulders. Releasing our uncontrollable thoughts, or “monkey mind,” is a necessary part of avoiding ruminating thoughts after a tough case.

4 - Pursue community. This is a must in life. Support groups, friendships, meetups, having people who truly “get it” are the best people to offer support. This is a universal tool during all stages of life. The skill of surrounding yourself with like-minded people is GOLD while navigating through any healing journey.

I am so excited to offer within our PairTree Family a monthly community group for home study providers to all come together across state lines and support each other. So far it has been such an interactive space to gain knowledge, tools, share ideas, vent, learn and grow. Please reach out if you would like to join our group sessions!

5 - Be open to learning. Not just for learning’s sake, but as a mirror to yourself and your healing journey. A couple of books that I recommend are: The Body Keeps The Score and The Magic.

6 - Surrender to each moment. My favorite motto has always been, “All is for the good,” hard for some to swallow. I trust in the process and believe that when I surrender and get quiet, dreams do come true and miracles happen.

Know When to Put Yourself First

We all want to help - it’s why we are in this field - but we can’t do it with an empty cup. Our clients have their own personal life challenges to overcome, and while we can support their journey, we can’t take it on for them.

Take care of you. Do something that makes you smile today. And live YOUR life to the fullest. It’s the only way we can make space to help others.

Laurie Shelton
 With over 25+ years in social services and healthcare, specializing in crisis management and the adoption process, I am passionate about helping people navigate through life with endless answers of hope. I enthusiastically joined PairTree in 2022 as an adoption specialist to help create happier families. PairTree is an organization dedicated to modernizing the adoption process. PairTree has worked with 700 expectant moms, over 6000 adoptive families, hundreds of adoption professionals, community partners, employers, healthcare groups and is more on a mission to create an equitable adoption journey. I bring with me years of wisdom gained through hundreds of adoption experiences.