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Who Am I? Your Adopted Teen’s Quest for Self-Identity


Who Am I? Your Adopted Teen’s Quest for Self-Identity


Adolescence is both an exciting and challenging time. It is a period when teens formulate their identity. As they move toward independence and self-sufficiency, all teenagers struggle with questions, such as “Who am I?”, “Where do I belong?”, “What do I want to be in the future?”

For adopted teens, the questions are more complex, as they consider their biological family while figuring out who they are, where they came from, and what they desire to be. As they navigate through the developmental tasks during identity formation, unknown or missing information can leave a void in their personality and a sense of loss. Adoptive parents must understand the impact of these unique adoption-related issues and why the support of a specialized adoption-competent counselor may be needed.


The Multitude of Issues Facing an Adopted Child

  • Identity Formation—Adopted children who do not know their birth parents are inclined to ask who they really are, struggling with questions you may not have the answers to, such as “Where do I get my curly hair?” or “Do I have siblings?” They may live each day wondering why they were given up for adoption.
  • Control and Autonomy—While this is a common issue between parents and teens, an adopted teen may grapple more intensely with the fact that his or her life has always been dependent on someone’s decision. The birth mother decided to place the child for adoption and you made the decision to adopt him or her. The child was not involved in these decisions, and had no control over the loss of the birth family and choice of the adoptive family.
  • Search for Belonging—The feeling of not belonging may arise when adopted children cannot trace their traits to a source. The fact that the birth parents did not keep the child is highlighted when others begin to notice differences, such as being a brunette when the rest of the family has black hair, or a musically talented member in a family of math wizards. This may trigger uncertainty, with the adopted teen not knowing where he or she fits in.
  • Grief—When children become aware that they are adopted, they may grieve over the loss of a relationship with the biological parents and the family connections that would have happened. The feeling may be especially intense when there is little or no information available that can help in establishing the child’s identity.
  • Fear of Rejection and Abandonment—The adopted teen may want to reconnect with the birth family, but may also be afraid of rejection. The feeling of being abandoned can be coupled with hurt over being given away by the birth mother, and may be compounded if the child learns that he or she has siblings raised by the birth parents.


Potential Psychological Effects of Adoption

CNN reports that adopted children face a greater risk of emotional health disorders. Compared to a child born into the family, a child who has been adopted faces unique issues and concerns that revolve around identity, self-esteem, and grief. Even if the child has been with the adoptive family since birth and grew up with secure attachments, a feeling of emptiness may still emerge during the teen years.

Statistics on the effects of adoption have shown that both the adoptee and birth mother are vulnerable to depression and that the rate of self-harm is higher in these populations. The range of issues generally stems from the adoption experience, and they often manifest during the turbulent teen years. Apart from depression, some symptomatic behaviors observed in adoptees include anxiety, reactive attachment disorder (RAD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), drug and substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. When unresolved, these issues can become dramatically destructive in ways that adoptive parents may not be equipped to manage.


Helping Your Adopted Teen

As an adoptive parent, you have no control over the risks your child experienced prior to adoption, but you can provide an environment where the child can grow with a healthy mind and body.

If your adopted teen is experiencing emotional distress related to the adoption, seek the timely help of a counselor. Whether the child is looking for answers to identity questions or acting out frustration and anger, consider the possibility of professional help from Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC. Intervention by one of the independently contracted counselors with CCS – Southern Pines, NC, is the key to resolving adoption issues and preventing them from becoming more serious in the future. Call now to schedule an appointment.

Confidential / Private Sessions

Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC contracts with Licensed professional counselors/therapists/psychologists who provide a friendly, caring, and relaxed atmosphere in the Southern Pines/Pinehurst/Aberdeen/Raeford area. These independently contracted therapists/counselors assist adult individuals, couples, families, and children with resolving issues and getting back to enjoying their lives. Whether you are non-military or military, the independently contracted therapists with Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Southern Pines, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, NC, Montgomery County, NC, Richmond County, NC, Randolph County, NC, Chatham County, NC

Cities: Southern Pines NC, Pinehurst NC, Aberdeen NC, Taylortown NC, Pinebluff NC, West End NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Ashley Heights NC, Ashmont NC, Five Points NC, Wind Blow NC, Jackson Springs NC, Whispering Pines NC, Vass NC, Cameron NC, Carthage NC, Eastwood NC, Lakeview NC, Narrow Ridge NC, Robbins NC, Roseland NC, Tramway NC, Troy NC, Zion Grove NC, Biscoe NC

We are located at:

Carolina Counseling Services - Southern Pines, NC
780 NW Broad St. Suite 210
Southern Pines, NC 28387

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: (910) 585-6745 (Fastest way to schedule)
  • Text: (910) 308-3291 (Reply will be via phone)
  • Click here and use our Contact Form (You must include your phone number, because replies will only be made by telephone to ensure security/privacy)
  • Call or Text for your New Patient Appointment Anytime!
  • Appointment scheduling for NEW clients: Mon-Fri 8:30am-5:15pm
  • New client appts may be scheduled when therapists have openings, which may include daytime, evenings and weekends.
  • Established/Standing Appointments are made directly with your therapist!
  • Referrals: MOST beneficiaries do NOT need a Referral!

Choose your Therapist

  • Kristin Vernon, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Adolescents, Couples, Families, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Divorce, Adjustment Disorders, Mood Disorders, Coping Skills, Parenting, Family Conflict, Marital Conflict, Relationship Issues
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, cash
    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Gretchen Montesanto, MA, LPC, NCC

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Teens, Individuals, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem Issues, Grief and Loss, Stress, LGBT, Adjustment Disorder, Motivation, Life Transitions, Mood Disorders, Military Spouses

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare and Cash
    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Jaime J. Fitzpatrick MS, LPCS, LCAS

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adults, Families and Couples, Anxiety, PTSD, Trauma and Abuse Recovery, Depression, Military Life Issues, Adjustment Disorder, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Focused Therapy, Addictions, Emotional Disturbance, Coping Skills, Impulsivity, Grief and Loss, Self-Esteem
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC
  • Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
    Insurance: BCBS, Medicare,  Tricare Prime/Select and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Pinehurst, NC and Southern Pines, NC
  • Kathryn Wiens, PsyD. HSP-P

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Adult, Individuals, Couples and Families.
    Insurance: BCBS, Medicare, Tricare Prime/Select, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Pinehurst, NC and Southern Pines, NC
  • Tracy Goldberg, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Individuals, Adolescents, Adults, Couples, Children and Families. Attention Deficit, Oppositional Defiance, Behavioral Issues, Peer Relationships, Family Conflict, Depression, Anxiety, Parenting Anxiety, ADHD, Self-Esteem Issues, Family Conflict/Divorce, Marriage Counseling, Adjustment Disorders, Relationship Issues, Grief and Loss, Communication Skills, Behavioral Issues, Coping Skills, Mood Disorders, Parent Skill Building, Christian Counseling upon request
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, Cash, HRA and FSA accepted

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Southern Pines, NC