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Do You Accept Insurance? Why I don't & the Implications of Trumpcare

One common question I hear from prospective clients is “Do you accept insurance?” Or I see posts in therapist-only groups asking for someone who takes X insurance on Y side of town and has appointments at a certain time. Sadly, I see too many people choose a therapist based on insurance coverage rather than experience and expertise. There are four main reasons I do not accept insurance:

Dangers of Diagnosis

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, health insurance plans were required to cover mental health conditions. Many prospective clients wish to utilize those benefits without considering the hidden costs. A diagnosis is required by insurance companies to fund treatment. Even if you qualify for a diagnosis it is not always necessary, and it can be detrimental. A diagnosis helps healthcare providers quickly understand a cluster of symptoms and proper treatment, but those undergoing counseling don’t often bring other providers into the mix. When a client chooses to see a psychiatrist or medical doctor for medications, that professional will do his or her own assessment and rarely ask for my input even if I have been seeing someone for quite a while. A diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder has been known to make it difficult to impossible to obtain life insurance, even when the diagnosis is more than a decade old. While Obamacare allows for coverage of pre-existing conditions, new legislation may not, so you may be denied coverage for further treatment. If the Affordable Care Act truly does go through Repeal and Replace, there may be even more costs beyond increased life insurance premiums. Now those same diagnoses that seemed to make counseling more affordable, could increase your medical insurance premiums, costing you more each month. The list of pre-existing conditions considered for American Health Care Act also known as Trumpcare include the most commonly used diagnoses in counseling, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, addictions, etc.

Individualized Treatment

Insurance companies set limits on treatment, rather than considering an individual’s situation and needs. Years ago when I worked in a community mental health center that did accept insurance, I had to literally argue with an insurance company that was trying to require a specific type of counseling that could have been traumatic to the child with whom I was working. We are all complicated, messy, and fascinating which is one of the reasons I love what I do. It is also the reason I am aware that each client is their own case, and I will work to address their unique challenge or situation in the treatment and timetable that brings results for them. 

More Time With Clients

A therapeutic hour typically is a 50-minute hour. The left over ten minutes is not enough time for the therapist to complete the notes required by the insurance company and submit the forms requesting reimbursement. By not filing insurance claims, I have more time available per week to see clients, answer their emails, meet with other professionals who may be helpful to my clients in times of crisis, and yes, I work on my books. It also affords me the flexibility in scheduling extra time, such as 90 minute appointments, or fit in an urgent counseling need. I utilize a full hour (or 90 minutes) for appointments. 

Ethics & Honesty

Beyond the hidden costs of adding a diagnosis to your permanent medical record, I find it unethical to give a diagnosis to someone who does not qualify for a diagnosis simply so the insurance company will fund counseling. Most insurance companies will not fund marital counseling for couples. To receive reimbursement from the insurance company some therapists will identify one partner as the client and report a diagnosis for him or her and bill for family therapy with the patient present. I am not interested in working the system. I want to spend my energy working with my clients. 

More than ever, I believe not accepting insurance reimbursements better serves my clients and allows me to provide services to a wider range of clients regardless of their coverage.  Many are surprised to learn that seeking treatment without insurance reimbursement or paying “out of pocket” is affordable and allows for greater flexibility in terms of treatment schedules and length of care.  My clients are always welcome to apply for direct reimbursement from their insurance company for out of network benefits. I accept payments via cash, checks, credit cards, and HSA (health savings account), and I offer a fee reduction based on household income, as well as the opportunity to work with interns under my supervision. The most current Fee Reduction Contract and sliding scale can be found here. It is also possible to deduct medical expenses, including counseling, from your taxes. 

Regardless of the future of the health insurance structure, your best possible option may be direct pay. It allows you to be in control of frequency, length of treatment, and selecting the best provider for you.

 

 

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Brainspotting vs. EMDR: Differences in Power Therapies

Brain-based therapy techniques can help clients experience unique breakthroughs during their sessions - especially when traditional “talk therapy” methods are at a standstill.  Sometimes referred to as “power therapies,” these newer methods work to unlock creativity, process through past trauma, and otherwise make some truly significant progress with your therapist.

The “power therapies” EMDR and Brainspotting have been developed around the client’s line of vision. EMDR utilizes eye movements, while Brainspotting focuses the eye on a fixed gaze position. The position of your eyes, or where your gaze is directed, can actually unlock some deeper insights that have not yet been recognized. Therapists who are specially trained in these practices often help clients make leaps and bounds with their healing process. It is all about approaching things from (quite literally) a different perspective!

What is EMDR?

Today, EMDR is a fairly common form of treatment in therapy. It stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” and has been used by therapists since the 1980’s. There is much research surrounding EMDR and much can be found about it from both supporters and proponents.

EMDR helps individuals tap into parts of their brain where nonverbal information is stored. Because EMDR relies on rapid eye movements, it may not be a suitable form of treatment for everyone. Some people find EMDR to be overstimulating, which can lead to other problems, including the (slight) risk of seizures.

What is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting was discovered by David Grand, growing out of his EMDR work. As a new interaction, it is even more powerful and more flexible than the previous EMDR methods. Due to the flexibility, how it works for each client may look slightly differently.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works: The therapist and client work together to find the “brainspot” or eye position that corresponds with a specific emotional response or incident. Once on that “target,” the therapist and client simply allow the client’s brain to make the connections needed to continue processing this event. This works a little differently for each client; however, Brainspotting also allows the therapist to utilize resources in session if it ever feels too intense for a client without stopping the process. 

Benefits of Brainspotting

Overall, Brainspotting tends to yield faster and deeper results over standard EMDR methods. This seems to happen because Brainspotting is much more adaptable. Therapists can be flexible with the approach, thus finding the right iteration for you and your needs.

  • More Flexible than EMDR?
  • More Appropriate for Children & Teenagers?
  • Helps Access Emotions on a Deeper Level?
  • Works as an Add-On to Current Therapy?
  • Can also be utilized for performance enhancement ?
  • It does not require the client to verbalize their trauma - Brainspotting sessions can occur without the client speaking?

EMDR might be better known because has been around for a longer period of time, but Brainspotting is widely believed to be much more appropriate for working with adolescents. It’s less likely to overstimulate, which makes it a great fit for individuals (at any age) who struggle with feeling overwhelmed. Plus, Brainspotting doesn’t require much conversation. You can talk as little or as much as you want with this type of therapy—so it is especially useful for those who don’t want to talk to a therapist.

Finding the Right Therapy

As a therapist, I partner with my clients to find the techniques that are right for their needs and current situation. Because counseling is such an individualized process, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Whether you are already working with a therapist, or just looking to get started, Brainspotting can help customize your treatment.

If you would like to learn more, please contact me. We can always schedule a 15-minute teleconference to see if my services would be a good fit for you, or your family. 

 

Therapists and students interested in learning more about Brainspotting are encouraged to join us for Brainspotting Phase I training in Indianapolis in June for 21 CEUs.

 

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The Hidden Cost of Using Insurance to Fund Counseling

Did you know that depression can increase your life insurance premiums?

While seeking counseling no longer seems to have the stigma that it once did, insurance companies are still behind the times. Over the past few years, mental health conditions were more easily covered for many patients thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. While that seems to be a positive development, clients had to be given a diagnosis in order to receive coverage through their health insurance. It may not seem like a big deal, but they may not have realized that a diagnosis of depression in a variety of forms can impact life insurance coverage as well.

Life insurance companies consider those diagnosed with depression as having a greater chance of death from serious accidents, destructive self-medicating, and even suicide. Depression is often a general term for a number of possible emotional disorders and can be carefully reviewed by insurance underwriters, whether the diagnosis is due to environmental factors or organic origins such as a neurotransmitter imbalance. The life insurance underwriter will want specific information on the type of depression you were diagnosed with, when your episode(s) occurred, and whether the depression was successfully treated. They will also want to know if your therapist is concerned that you would commit suicide. They may seek this information in your permanent medical record. 

When you utilize health insurance benefits to fund counseling, the insurance company will require a diagnosis and treatment notes to support the need for ongoing counseling which is all included in your permanent medical record. In terms of securing life insurance, this kind of documentation is just part of the information requested by the life insurance company. You may experience delays in acceptance of your application, additional screenings and most often, higher than normal rates for premiums you continue to pay throughout your life if your medical records indicate treatment of various mental health diagnoses including depression. 

Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare is likely to be repealed there will no longer be protections for pre-existing conditions. This can mean that you will be denied health insurance coverage based on the diagnoses in your permanent medical record or have to pay higher health insurance rates every month. It potentially could also mean that pre-existing conditions whether related to mental health or physical health will simply not be covered at all by your health insurance. It is so important to guard what is reported to insurance companies for yourself and your children. 

Rather than accepting insurance reimbursements, I offer a Fee Reduction Contract (link to scale available at the time of publication). I will provide a discount on my services based on annual household income and the number of people in the household. In the long run, I believe that paying for counseling “out of pocket” will be less expensive for my clients than utilizing insurance benefits. I do not want to give a diagnostic label to anyone who does not meet criteria and will not benefit from that diagnosis. 

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The Intentional Love Challenge: Helping You Improve Your Relationship

As you look to 2017 and potential resolutions, is creating a closer, more loving relationship something you would like to do? Would you like to do a better job of loving your partner? Or maybe you want to inspire your partner to be more loving? Or maybe you are at the end of your rope and feeling something must change for this relationship to be saved?

So many New Year's Resolutions don’t create lasting change. Too often we start out energized, but give up on the practice before a habit has formed. This year, I would like to help you stay on track with your resolution of working toward a closer, more loving relationship. 

In 2017, I am forming a group of select participants to practice Intentional Love Challenges. Every few weeks, you will receive a new challenge of something you can do to improve your relationship. A brief pre and post survey will help you see the difference the challenges have made in your relationship, although I think you will see changes fairly quickly. Whether this is your last ditch effort, perhaps even an attempt to prove to yourself that this relationship cannot be saved - or you are as happy as a newlywed and simply want to be intentional about loving your partner - or somewhere in between, the Intentional Love Challenge is for you, and I would love to have you join us!

Participants in the Intentional Love Challenge will receive challenges by email every few weeks. They will also receive brief surveys by email and be invited to join a private/closed group on Facebook where you can get support from other participants. By participating in this challenge, you will very likely improve your relationship*; you will also be contributing to research that will help others strengthen their relationship in the future. I intend to write up the results in a book which participants (who join in from the beginning) can purchase at cost (plus shipping). Participants will also have the opportunity to shape the challenges provided by sharing what they most want to improve in their relationships.

The format is simple. The intended impact (for your relationship) is huge. You can improve your relationship without dragging your partner to therapy (although I would love to see you). You can improve your relationship without your partner’s participation. You can improve your relationship without your partner even being aware. While you are welcome to share this with your partner, I am most interested to see the results and relationship changes for those who quietly accept the challenges without telling their partner what they are doing or why. 

What questions do you have about the Intentional Love Challenge? Would you be interested in joining in this adventure?

 

*some variables like mental illness can impact results

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Brainspotting: A Powerful Therapeutic Technique for Trauma and More

Have you ever noticed yourself simply gazing or staring at some spot on the floor or wall or ceiling? Have you noticed yourself looking away or up or somewhere else when really thinking about something you are saying or want to say, particularly when the subject is loaded emotionally? As a therapist, I notice this all the time. Clients often become unnecessarily self-conscious about it and force themselves to make eye contact with me. While their gaze continues to drift back to these spots, they do not allow themselves to hold the spot. What they don’t realize is that rather than avoiding eye contact, they are intuitively helping themselves to process by accessing deep neural connections and memories in the subcortical brain. 

I am super excited about Brainspotting as a new (to me) technique. It is a therapeutic technique for processing traumas, negative cognitions, and difficult emotions. Brainspotting was developed out of EMDR, discovered (as all the best therapeutic theories and techniques are) by paying attention to clients. It is also related to sensorimotor psychotherapy, somatic experiencing, lifespan integration, mindfulness, and even internal family systems therapies. It is considered a process that provides deeper and accelerated resolutions that are more powerful and comprehensive that other techniques, including EMDR. In fact 90% of clients have shown significant improvement in just three sessions (Hildebrand et al., 2014). 

One child declared “it is awesome” as he progressed from anger to happiness in just five minutes. An adult client was wowed in her brief introduction to Brainspotting, saying, “this really works” and “this is spooky”.

While Brainspotting can sound and feel like magic, there is a lot of science behind it. I have always loved neuropsychology and studied it just because I loved it, although I won’t likely be able to name all of the many different parts of the brain involved in Brainspotting. Luckily it is a “physiological approach with psychological consequences” that allows us to access our self-healing potential via bypassing the thinking of the neocortex and “promotes organization and integration through coalescence of hitherto separated information files”; “a Brainspot is a stored oculomotor orientation to a traumatic experience which has failed to integrate” (Corrigan & Grand 2013). Who doesn't to feel like Wolverine and discover the confidence of knowing you have the capability to heal? I also very much appreciate that it is an “open, integrative, ever-evolving model” and the humility of the founder David Grand, Ph.D. In addition, I chose to study Brainspotting rather than EMDR because it is appropriate for more clients, particularly those who can be overstimulated; it is flexible allowing us to find the specific iteration of Brainspotting that works best for you. 

For more information check out the video beland the other videos at Brainspotting International

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Introducing Amy Liptak, intern at Brooke-Randolph.com

I am excited to introduce you to Amy Liptak who will be working with me as an intern over the next several weeks. When Northwestern contacted me, I was happy to consider taking on an intern, but I was thrilled to find they wanted to send me someone like Amy. If you are interested in working with Amy, please contact her at intern@brooke-randolph.com Because she is still a student, appointments with Amy will be offered for only $25 per hour. 

 

Mental health is a critical part of our human experience. Many factors shape our mental health, including our early family environment, genetic propensities and the social world in which we grow and develop our personalities. For many, there is an especially profound affect on an individual’s mental health when they are raised in a family where there is dysfunction and abuse. This environment can leave a lasting scar of pain and confusion on a person throughout his or her lifespan. I keenly relate to how complex that experience is, and I know I’m not alone. I made a choice many years ago to strive to understand my own dysfunctional family life and find strength and clarity in the chaos. I am passionate about sharing my story and sharing with others what I have learned, because that is when understanding, healing, and change can happen.   

One of the most determinative moments of my life was when my younger brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was in my mid-twenties and he was two years younger. My family and I struggled to understand and cope with his erratic behavior, alcoholism, arrests, and hospitalizations, but at least we had a grasp of his disease.  After his death a few years later in a car accident while he was heavily intoxicated, I was numb with depression and grief. It was then I knew I needed to understand mental health better and how it affects our life experiences and relationships. I began to read and educate myself, and I spent many hours in the public library and learning about my own family dynamics. I began a career as a firefighter/paramedic, and for the next nine years I thrived in a career where I had the opportunity to help others in their time of need. 

Later, after my children started elementary school, I returned to college to finish my undergraduate degree in psychology, and the desire to move forward in the psychology field was solidified in me. Studying through the intellectual concepts and theories of psychology facilitated further understanding of my own life experiences. More fully understanding the physiology of my brother’s addiction and illness, as well as the personalities of other family members was certainly a turning point in my life. But truly developing emotional understanding and incorporating that in to my day-to-day life has been far more complex. Navigating healthy relationships with those that are dysfunctional has been infinitely more multifaceted than reading a textbook, and goes way beyond intellectually understanding psychological theories. It is that very journey that I feel passionate about helping others to navigate too.  

For the better part of the last year, I have had the opportunity to be a group facilitator for an adolescent domestic violence support group at Prevail, Inc., an advocacy center that helps victims of crime and abuse manage their circumstances and navigate through the court system. Our group consisted of approximately 8-10 kids for 12 week cycles of weekly workshops focusing on the affects of trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics, and how to develop coping skills. As I have spent time working with adolescents who are experiencing the same pain and confusion at home that I did, I have become even more passionate and confident that I have positive skills to make a difference as a counselor. Learning from the staff and clients at Prevail was extremely educational, and I feel grateful I had the opportunity to be part of such a great team of people.  

I am looking forward to using my skills and life experience to make a difference in my client’s lives. When asked why I want to be a counselor, it is easy to say “because I want to help others.” While that is absolutely true, more specifically I want to help individuals rewrite their life story, find the peace and understanding that they deserve, and learn to find the strength and courage to move past difficult circumstances. Each one of us has a valuable, meaningful life experience, and sharing our stories with each other is what keeps us connected and moving forward with understanding and tolerance. I strongly believe we need to make mental health discussions a comfortable topic in our communities and families, because the more we talk, the less stigma and more healing there will be. 

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Contributing Authors to It's Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion & Open Adoption

I am thrilled to announce a project that has been in the works for a while. It's Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion, & Open Adoption is a book written for adoptive and birth parents and their therapists. After repetitive conversations with adoptees (and sometimes their parents) about reactions to their search and reunion, I knew we needed a book to share with adoptive and birth parents on the topic. I have been blessed with a wonderful group of contributing authors who have added their voices as adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, and therapists. The group includes people I admire, people I have worked with, people I call friends, and some I am just getting to know. I look forward to sharing their writing with you, publishing this book with Entourage Publishing, in late 2016. 

In no particular order other than how I arranged the photos

Christina Romo  

Christina Romo was adopted from South Korea at age 2. She works for an adoption organization and shares her journey as an adoptee through her blog, Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee. Her writing has also been featured in The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and Blogher. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two sons.

Maris Blechner, LCSW

Maris Blechner is an educator, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a nationally respected trainer and speaker who has spent the last 38 years working for the improvement of the lives of children and families in the child welfare system.  She is also the parent of three children by birth and adoption. Maris relates proudly that she comes from the citizen-activist child-advocacy community, and brings that neighborhood and personal family experience to her professional work. She is one of the founders of Family Focus Adoption Services, and was its first Executive Director for twenty-six years. These days she enjoys mentoring for Children’s Corps and teaching at the Silberman School of Society Work at Hunter College. This year she has been featured as a story-teller (about adoption) on the Moth Radio Hour, on NPR and podcasts.  

Brooke Randolph, LMHC

Brooke Randolph, LMHC, is a therapist, wife, and parent (adoptive, step, one-time kinship, and even grand). She is also a private practice counselor in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was a founding member of MLJ Adoptions, Inc., where she served as the VP of Social Services for seven years. She is a Young Professionals Advisory Board member for The Villages, which is Indiana’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency, serving over 1,400 children and their families each day. She is the former mental health expert contributor at DietsInReview.com, a national diet and fitness column. Brooke adopted an older child internationally as a single woman, which she considers one of the most difficult and most rewarding things she has ever done. She is the author of The Bully Book: A Workbook for Kids Coping with Bullies (2016) and a contributing author to Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues (2014). She has authored adoption education materials and presented at numerous conferences and workshops throughout North America. Brooke is primarily motivated to encourage, equip, and empower individuals and couples toward more whole-hearted living and conscious relationships.

April Dinwoodie

April Dinwoodie is a nationally recognized thought leader on adoption and foster care. As Chief Executive of the Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI), April is committed to improving laws, policies and practices through sound research, education and advocacy. She is also a co-founder and Vice President of the Board of Fostering Change for Children, a progressive nonprofit that helps drive innovation in the child welfare system. Before joining DAI, April created a specialized mentoring program called “Adoptment,” in which adults who were adopted and/or spent time in foster care serve as mentors to youth in care. As a trans-racially adopted person, April shares her experiences at workshops and conferences to help potential adoptive parents and professionals understand both the beauty and complexity of adopting children of different race.

Joshua Redfern, LCSW

Josh likes to say that he "eats, sleeps, and breathes adoption." Before he graduated with a Masters in Social Work in 2007, Josh found his passion for adoption while doing an internship for an adoption agency. At the same time, he and his wife were being led to adoption personally. He has since worked in domestic adoption (both in agency and in independent adoptions) and international adoption. He has provided domestic and international home studies for families all over the world. He is an active member of the Utah Adoption Council and is an advocate for ethical adoption and open adoption. He has a wonderful wife, Lindsey, who is an adoption advocate and writer. They have been blessed to adopt five children.

Barbara Freedgood, LCSW

Barbara is an LCSW, licensed certified social worker, in the state of New York.  She is a graduate of Fordham University School of Social Work, the NYU Post-Doctoral Training in Marriage and Family Therapy and Joyce Maguire Pavao’s Adoption Certification Training.  She has been a therapist in private practice since 1980. She has written and presented internationally on infertility and adoption issues. She runs support groups for adoptive parents and is the mother of two children, who are now adults, she adopted at birth in the United States. Her blog, Ruminations on Adoption can be found on her website: www.barbarafreedgood.com

Kristin Berry 

Kristin lives in Indianapolis with her husband and six youngest children. She has two grown daughters, two sons in law, and a granddaughter as well. She spends her days juggling a part time job as a Family Life Minister, blogging on confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com and cleaning up after three dogs and four chickens. She enjoys reading, writing, and hiking with her family. 

Deesha Philyaw 

Deesha Philyaw is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer who writes about race, gender, parenting, and pop culture. Along with her ex-husband, she is the co-founder of co-parenting101.org and the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Children Thrive in Two Households After Divorce. Her publication credits include The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Stepmom, Essence, Brevity, and Bitch magazines; and anthologies such as When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made; Motherhood Memoirs: Mothers Creating/Writing Lives; Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined; and The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat.  

Deesha is originally from Jacksonville, Florida. She graduated from Yale in 1993 with a BA in economics, and she also holds a MA in Teaching from Manhattanville College. She is a Fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction; was a finalist for the 2015 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction; and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for essay writing in 2015. Deesha has hit the mama trifecta: She is an adoptive mom, a biological mom, and a stepmom of four daughters.

Gayle Swift 

An adoptive mother of two now-adult children and a former foster parent, Gayle H. Swift is also a certified coach and co-founder of GIFT (Growing Intentional Families Together). A fifty-year survivor of ovarian cancer, she believes in the joy of the present moment and the blessing of family relationships. In her travels with her family, Gayle has zip-lined in Costa Rica, paraglided in Peru, hiked to the Sun Gate above the citadel of Machu Picchu, and trekked the Mendinhall glacier in Alaska, but parenting proved to be the greatest adventure of her life. She writes two blogs: “Growing Intentional Families Together” (for GIFT Family Services) and “Writing to Connect,” which she co-writes with her daughter, Casey. It features book reviews written through an adoption-attuned lens. Adoptive Families Magazine named their multi-award-winning book, ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book, a Favorite Read in 2013. Gayle lives in Florida with her husband and a quirky mini-schnauzer named Shadow.

Kerrie Siegl, LCSW

While obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development from Purdue University, Kerrie became passionate about the unique differences in people based on their life experiences, family history, and biological make-up. Kerrie graduated with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Christian Theological Seminary of Indianapolis. Kerrie works in private practice seeing child, teens and adults with a variety of mental health and relational issues. She is driven to help individuals and families learn to develop healthy relationships and help people of all ages uncover their strengths and discover their own abilities to find healing. She is passionate about children who have been adopted and are trying to attach to their caregivers. She worked for Bethany Christian Services as an adoption therapist obtaining training in several attachment modalities, and then moved on to work in community mental health in the school systems with children in K-12. She has worked in a variety of mental health settings including home based services with foster care children, adoption services (home and school), school-based and home based services to low-income families in Central Indiana. Kerrie is married and has two young children.  She is active in her local church and other community activities.

Lynn Grubb 

Lynn Grubb is a Baby Scoop Era adoptee and adoptive parent.  She graduated from Wright State University and is a certified paralegal.  Although born and adopted in the Chicago, Illinois, area, Lynn and her adoptive family settled in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where Lynn spent her childhood reading Nancy Drew mysteries, swimming, playing soccer and participating in the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Lynn enjoys writing about the complexities of adoption and recently edited the adoption anthology, The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools. Lynn’s other passions include genetic genealogy, reading non-fiction, watching true crime T.V., singing and playing the keyboard and violin. Lynn blogs at Lost Daughters and No Apologies for Being Me.

Annie Jacobs 

Annie Jacobs is a midwesterner at heart who has lived in NYC for the past 11 years. She is a theatre professional who has educated herself on the complexities of adoption after relinquishing her only child in 2010. Since her son was born, she has spent her time cultivating a relationship with her son and his adoptive parents - a gay couple who also lived in NYC. She spends some of her spare time trying to educate others about what open adoption can be and what her experience as a birth parent has been. 

Jodi Haywood 

Taken at age two, Jodi grew up in a closed relative adoption and eventually reunited with both parents. Married with a teenage daughter and adult stepdaughter, Jodi has contributed to Adoption Therapy (Entourage, 2014), The Adoptee Survival Guide (2015) and Flip the Script (The AN-YA Project, 2015). Also a fiction writer and a proud member of the Marathon Maniacs running club, Jodi is working toward a bachelor's degree in psychology and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. She plans to continue her studies and work in post-adoption counseling, with a focus on neurological disorders.

Bari Benjamin, LCSW, BCD

Bari Benjamin is a former English teacher turned psychotherapist who practices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She lives with her husband and her nineteen year old adopted daughter originally from Moscow. She is also the stepmom to four adult children. She has published memoir essays in Adoption Today and StepMom magazines as well as several anthologies and Chicken Soup of the Soul books. She is currently working on a book of letters to her daughter. 

Erik Deckers

Erik Deckers is a professional writer, book author, and owner of a content marketing agency. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, and No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. He is also a newspaper columnist and professional speaker. He and his wife Toni are the proud parents of three adopted children from Bolivia and Haiti, Maddie, Emma, and Ben.

Mary McBride 

Mary McBride is an American turned Londoner, a wife to a tech geek husband, a mother of two Ethiopian daughters, a home educator, and a chocolate and doughnut enthusiast. She is passionate about adoptive parent education, adoptee rights, open adoption, and pursuing best case scenarios for children who have experienced trauma. She might not get things right the first time, but she will keep trying. 

Kimberly Paglino

Kimberly Paglino is a New Jersey born and raised adopted person. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland, she went on to earn a Masters degree in Social Work from Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Kimberly has past professional experience in the area of child welfare, including as a case worker for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. She additionally has developed and presented educational seminars for pre and post adoptive parents at various adoption agencies and parent groups throughout New Jersey and in New York. She has prior served as an Instructor at Monmouth University, teaching in areas of Social Welfare Policy & Services and Human Rights and Social Justice.

Since 2007, Kimberly has been an advocate with the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJ CARE) and has testified for adoptee’s rights before the New Jersey State Legislature. She is proud to have been a part of the effort to have enacted the New Jersey Birthright Bill signed into law on May 27, 2014, by Governor Chris Christie, which allows New Jersey adopted persons to access their original birth certificates.

Deanna Binkofsky

I was raised in Richmond Heights Ohio by Joe (1933) & Aggie Pullella (1936-2008). My dad, a proud Italian from Little Italy, and my mom, a Syrian Queen (at least that’s what she told us) loved shopping for antiques and cooking. My parents were always more than good to me. I was about seven years old when my mom came to me with a children’s book explaining adoption, we read it together and she told me I was adopted. I still have that book. 

My Dad worked as an Electrician, my Mom stayed home with me and my older brother, Joe (also adopted at birth, no not my “real” brother…I hate that question!). We had a fairy tale life, for the most part - spoiled rotten and loved and accepted by so many! I dropped out of high school my senior year, got my GED in 1996 and have been working at Progressive Insurance since 1999. My Husband and I married in 1998. We have four kids Alisandra, Gabrielle, Luke, and Joseph. We live Timberlake, Ohio, with our dogs Lola and Georgie.

Deanna Doss Shrodes 

Deanna Shrodes is the Women's Ministries Director for the Pen-Florida District of the Assemblies of God. She is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and served for 28 years as co-pastor alongside her husband, Larry who is lead pastor of Celebration Church Tampa (AG). She is a speaker in demand in the United States and abroad, an accomplished musician, worship leader, songwriter and certified coach. Deanna is an award winning writer and contributing author of five highly acclaimed anthologies and sole author of the books, JUGGLE: Manage Your Time, Change Your Life; Worthy to Be Found; and RESTORED, all published by Entourage Publishing. She has been featured in many publications worldwide, including The Huffington Post.

Karen Belanger 

Karen Belanger is an adult adoptee and the author of "Assembling Self" an adoption poetry book and writes at her blog of the same name. She has contributed at The Lost Daughters bloggers and is included in the "Lost Daughters Anthology" as well as "Adoption Therapy" books. She has a piece published in the book "The Adoptee Survival Guide" and is now working on her second book. She inherited her biological mother's love of dance, cooking from scratch, growing roses, and her great grandmother's musical talent. Karen is the mother of three grown children and in her spare time she also enjoys reading, working out, and helping other adoptees on their paths towards healing."

Wendy Barkett 

Wendy was born in 1972 and raised in a closed adoption in Ohio. She began her search for truth at the age of 18 and found some of her answers 14 years later in 2004. She continues to write from the heart without any filters in hopes of bringing a better understanding to those who decide to join her journey. She is the author of Shadows of a Dark-Alley Adoptee and contributed to the adoption anthology, The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and ToolsAs the first adoptee to receive her OBC on March 20th, 2015, she continues to speak of her search as well as the feelings surrounding it with hopes that all states will open their records to adoptees.

Jeff Chafin

Jeff Chafin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1966, but relocated to Georgia in 1985 during his senior year of high school. He attended Savannah College of Art and Design. He is currently a freelance graphic designer in the printing business. Growing up with an identical twin brother did not feel like a normal childhood, and they fought to establish their own identities. Jeff event tattooed his own finger in 6th grade to help people be able to tell them apart. He was 25 when his life took an unexpected change. He reluctantly signed adoption papers knowing that someone would be able to give his daughter more then he could. He married at age 34 and had no other children. He is very recently reunited with his daughter and navigating that new relationship.  

Lucy Sheen 

Made in Hong Kong and exported to the UK as a transracial adoptee. Lucy is a dyslexic actor, published writer, filmmaker, trainer and transracial adoptee advocate. She loves Dim sum and Yorkshire puddings.

Her first professional job was the female lead in the British feature film PING PONG (1987), the first ever UK feature to look at the history and issues of the British-Chinese community. Other films credits include: Secrets & Lies (1996), Something Good:The Mercury Factor (2013). Theatre credits include: Julius Caesar-Bristol Old Vic (1987); Drink the Mercury nominated for a TMA (first British East Asian actress to be so nominated in1990); Hungry Ghosts Tim Luscombe, nominated an OFFIE (Of West End) for best actress 2010. Plenty directed by the award Thea Sharrock (2011). TV credits include: Prime Suspect 2; Eastenders; Lovejoy and Nighty Night series 2. Radio credits include: Words On A Night Breeze, Bound Feet and Western Dress. Lucy’s documentary Abandoned, Adopted, Here is now complete, she’s finished a writing commission for the renowned Royal Court Theatre in central London, Restrain your grief and adapt to the mishap and is working on two new full-length plays. Her next performance is an extract from Ungrateful-A Paper Daughter on The Southbank

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