Psychological Online Counseling & Coaching
via video telephony with Stephanie Pfeifer

"To see clearly a change of perspective is often enough."
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Child development is always individual: Some adoptive and foster children develop largely unobtrusive and well, despite severe stressors in early childhood, while others face difficulties even though they have come to their new family as a baby.

Is your adopted child somehow different from other children of the same age, and does it bring you again and again to the edge of your powers? Does your adoptive or foster child possibly experience behavioral problems or mental health problems? Are some of the following examples and symptoms somehow familiar?

  • Lack of distance when dealing with other, strange people
  • Low stress resistance, increased alertness and tension (especially in groups, visits, shopping, etc.), running away and not staying with you, hyperactivity, suspected ADHD
  • Increased need for control and dominant behavior, e.g. frequent interruption of conversations, determining everything and wanting to be first
  • Difficulties in following rules, breaches of rules, transgressions, provocations
  • Difficulties in joining a group and finding real friends, being outsiders
  • Low frustration tolerance and impulse control, disorders of affect regulation, emotions are not under control; tantrums, meltdowns and aggression
  • Bottle up feelings
  • School problems, learning difficulties, concentration difficulties, inattentiveness and quick distractibility, dreaming, low organizational ability
  • Lack of self-motivation, avoidance of efforts, apparent "laziness"; low self-esteem
  • Difficulty in dealing with changes, e.g. holidays or changes in everyday life
  • Fear, loss anxiety, sleep disturbances, bedwetting, nails chewing, headache or abdominal pain

Of course some of the above mentioned behaviors may appear in different degrees in each child's development: think of the defiance phase, which can be exhausting but is completely normal. However, some adoptive and foster children show some of the above-mentioned behaviors because of early trauma, e.g. neglect, stay in a childrenĀ“s home, change of caregivers, or antenatal alcohol consum of mother during pregnancy (more: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Even the sole fact of having given away by the birth mother is already a traumatic experience, no matter how loving and caring you have taken-up your child. International studies show that psychological stress, traumatization, and attachment disorders in foster children are rather the rule than the exception.

What is the definition of developmental trauma?

Attachment difficulties and developmental trauma/early childhood trauma as possible cause for behavioral problems in adoptive or foster children

According to ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems), trauma is an experience of extraordinary catastrophic threat (short or long term) that would cause profound despair in almost anyone. There is talk of an attachment or developmental trauma when the danger and lack of protection of the child by a reliable attachment person has taken place very early in life. This leaves traces in the not yet mature and strongly sensitive brain, and thus deep marks in the lives of the children: Thus, various areas such as attachment, emotional and behavioral regulation, mental development or self-concept may be impaired. 

My approach in the context of psychological online counseling is not to deter you from this risk! It is rather to informing you well as a parent: The best way to prevent and prepare for a maybe at-risk child is to provide education and information in order to offer your child and your family the best possible development opportunities.

How can psychological online counseling support adoptive or foster parents? 

With my background in psychology and my personal experience as an adoptive mom of kids adopted from a foreign country to Austria, I am happy to offer you an open ear for counseling and relief talks, which are carried out online via video telephony. From my point of view, it is very important to understand what happens in adoptive or foster children who show severe disregulation and challenging behaviour. The factors security and attachment are of major importance here. It is often helpful when you, as a parent, rethink the framework in your own family life and become a strong parental partner for your hurted child. In the Anglo-American language area, there is the term "therapeutic parenting" in this respect: Love alone is not enough, and it requires different educational approaches or a different parenting attitude than for children who grow up without an early trauma. A deeper understanding of how the brain works is also very helpful! I see it as my task to strengthen you in your parenting role as an expert for your child, because no one knows your child better than you: after all, you live with him/her 24 hours a day.

Living with an early-traumatized child can be a major challenge for you as a parent, and you as parent can only help your child, who might have limited self-regulatory abilities, if YOU have a good self-regulation and balance. Helpful for this is that I take you seriously in your concerns during psychological online counseling, and that I try to give you the best possible information and support. As a parent, you have an important role to play in your childĀ“s healing process, as it can take place not only as part of a weekly external therapy session, but above all in the context of attachment, closeness, and everyday presence. 

I would be pleased to advise you on this, and together we will reflect on your personal family situation, and consider which steps might be helpful in the future. You can get unbureaucratic online advice without having to wait long for supervisions or foster parent rounds.

I have specialized in advising parents with the intention of adoption or foster care, and parents with affected children in toddler, kindergarten and elementary school age. If you want to take preventive action, please contact me as well: Giving security to an adopted or foster child, even if it obviously does not show conspicuous behavior, cannot be wrong. 

For more information on my offer of psychological online counseling please visit information, costs & procedure.

Note: Trauma therapy for you or your child is not offered as part of psychological online counseling.

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