Community & Connection: Sunday Oct 9th, noon pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern Time

TOPIC: Mindfulness Practices to Cope with your MPE

Join Jason Hobbs, LCSW, MDiv, as he leads us in a discussion of how to use mindfulness practices to help you cope with your DNA surprise. We will learn a few basic mindfulness practices, how these practices help us self-regulate when stressed or worried, and consider how a “present moment” focus can help when we remember the wounds of the past or the worries about the future.

Jason is a licensed clinical social worker in Georgia in an outpatient mental health clinic. He has been in private practice for fifteen years in addition to having worked in hospice and homeless services. Jason also pastored a small United Methodist congregation near Savannah for three years. Jason’s own journey with a DNA discovery came three years ago, just as he was publishing a book about the father he knew. He and his wife are also transracial adoptive parents. He has led mindfulness training groups in his practice using Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. He has been trained in Mindfulness and Cognitive Therapy in addition to other therapeutic modalities.

Sunday June 5th, noon pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern Time

TOPIC: The stranger within our families

Join Carla Barnes, MS, LPC as she leads us in a discussion about feeling like a stranger or that something is off in our raising families and how this impacts our relationships with our parents.

Carla first became familiar with misattributed parentage in 2017 with the discovery that she had an MPE myself. The emotions that she felt were unexpected, and led to feeling alone because no one around her understood what she was going through. What she learned through this experience is that there are others out there like her, and that there is hope and healing through this journey.

Sunday May 15th, noon pm PST / 3:00 pm EST

TOPIC: Your Relationship with your MoM

Join Lisa Tahir, LCSW, LPC-MHSP as she leads us in a discussion about our complex relationships with our mothers and the impacts of misattributed parentage.

Lisa has been a licensed therapist for over 20 years and is interested in working with people experiencing misattributed parentage experiences (MPEs) as these experiences can cause you to question the identity you have formulated about yourself and cause emotional duress. She offers a complimentary 20-minute consultation, and provides Zoom, phone, FaceTime, and phone sessions to you so that you can be in the comfort of your own home. Visit her website to subscribe to her mental health and wellness podcast, ‘All Things Therapy’ and order my book endorsed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, “The Chiron Effect: Healing Our Core Wounds through Astrology, Empathy and Self-Forgiveness.

SUNDAY, April 3rd NOON - 1:30 PST

TOPIC: Managing Your Anger for Those who Kept your True Conception a Secret

Erika Schmidtt, MSW, LSW

Erika’s background in adoption, and new work with donor-conceived, combined with her comprehensive training in trauma and grief over the past 14 years, allows her to easily connect with individuals struggling with aspects related to their genetic identity.

Erika is licensed in the state of Pennsylvania.

SUNDAY, March 6th NOON - 1:30 PST

TOPIC: coping with losing connection with raising & genetic family

Krista was born to a teen mother and was a child of the foster care system for four years before she was adopted.  Dr. Krista Driver started out as the epitome of the “underdog.” It was as an adult that she discovered she was also an NPE and has focused her clinical practice on working with others who have a Misattributed Parentage Experience ( MPE) to navigate their discovery journey, as well as help them build their tree’s and locate living bio-relatives. 

As a licensed marriage and family therapist with a doctorate in psychology, Dr. Driver has dedicated her career to working with the most vulnerable in her community. As the CEO of Mariposa Women and Family Center, a nonprofit counseling center that specializes in providing mental health services to women and children, Dr. Driver is perpetually looking for innovative ideas for the agency and ways to build relevant programming to meet the needs of Orange County and beyond. 

Krista is licensed in the state of California. Dr. Driver’s presentation for RTK

SUNDAY, Feb 6TH NOON - 1:30 PST

TOPIC: How to come back from Rejection

I discovered my MPE status after my sister and I tested in 2019. The numbers were off and I realized that I had no matches on my birth certificate father’s side. I was mostly hurt that I would not be inheriting Dad’s longevity since he lived to be nearly 100 years old. My younger brother had died just a year earlier so my own mortality was on my mind when I decided to research my biological family history. I then realized that my mother had been an MPE as well, raised by her grandmother and never having a relationship with her own mother. That has helped me to understand the MPE experience with added depth. We had taken her family history for granted. I have since researched her family and discovered generations of trauma and loss that was passed down to me. That historical research has been most healing, as the strange feelings I had since childhood began to make more sense. I am currently working on a memoir tentatively titled “My Mother’s Ghosts.”
 
John is licensed in the state of Pennsylvania. Watch his short video on Rejection.

TOPIC: rebuilding trust after betrayal

SUNDAY, Jan 9TH NOON - 1:30 PST

Jana is a licensed professional counselor and consultant specializing in fertility and family building. Her best-selling book, Three Makes Baby-How to Parent Your Donor-Conceived Child, introduced the “five common fears” that parents face as they contemplate having a non-biological child. Thousands of readers around the world have trusted the wisdom and guidance because she knows firsthand what it’s like to be in a non-biological family, as an adoptee and adoptive mom.

She also faced infertility and has helped thousands of people face the challenges of infertility as well as those preparing to grow their family in non-traditional ways. Working as an independent, Rupnow has fostered relationships with endocrinologists across the United States. Rupnow’s work, including the Three Makes Baby podcast, encourages communication between donor-conceived parents and donor-conceived adults, to raise awareness of the inherent challenges donor-conceived families may face across the lifespan. Jana is licensed in the state of Texas.

If your trust was broken, read Jana’s Rebuilding Trust Handout. She also recommends using this Forgiveness Guide by Heather Carlile, MA, LPC as a great resource. Understanding the Five Languages of Apology can help ensure your apology is heard. 

TOPIC: Balancing family, secrets, stress, grief, and the holidays

SUNDAY, dec 5TH NOON - 1:30 PST

Anxiety, depression, grief, and childhood trauma are my specialties. This work coincides well when working with adults who are processing the unique and often overwhelming misattributed parentage experience. Exploring a client’s unique story is a huge privilege and I take the work I do very seriously. I know that it takes a lot of guts to enter a therapy relationship. Trusting someone new when you’ve discovered that your parental relationship was not what you had believed can add an extra layer of complexity. As a therapist, I have an affinity for working with people experiencing anxiety or undue stress brought on by life transitions (career, relationships, grief). Personally, and professionally, I’m part of the LGBTQ+ and adoptee communities.

Here’s Kate’s presentation plus some suggested resources. 

TOPIC: FINDING IDENTITY AFTER AN MPE

SUNDAY, NOV 7TH NOON - 1:30 PST

Jodi’s passion for the NPE population was born from her own 2016 DNA discovery, leading her to create the Sex, Lies & The Truth podcast, the Finding Family blog on Psychology Today and pioneering the only clinical training for mental health professionals she coined, Parental Identity Discovery™. Jodi uses her expertise to guide people and their families through the unique and challenging process of discovering surprise DNA revelations and the necessary skills to cope with them.

Jodi received a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University in San Rafael and obtained licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 2004. She is currently a doctoral student at Touro University where she expects to receive a PsyD in Human and Organizational Psychology in 2022. She is recognized for an empathic and direct style in connecting with clients and is skilled at dealing with difficult issues in trauma and family dynamics. Trained by EMDR founder Francine Shapiro, she is an expert in addressing grief, trauma, feelings of belonging, identity confusion, rejection, worth and self-esteem.

TOPIC: Rejection in MPEs

Sunday, OCT 3rd noon - 1:30 PST

Dr. Gina Daniel is a licensed clinical social worker. She has worked in public education as a school social worker for over twenty years and also works in her private practice in central Pennsylvania primarily focused on individual and family work. Gina discovered her NPE status in June 2018 and subsequently completed her doctoral dissertation with a focus on unexpected paternity discoveries through direct-to-consumer DNA ancestry testing.

TOPIC: Grief, Loss & the MPE Mask

Sunday, Sept 12 noon - 1:30 PST

We will explore the grief and loss connected with the misattributed parentage experience. We’ll be working through creative imagery to explore thoughts and feelings, but don’t worry: no artistic skill is required. A willingness to engage, trust the process, and a few simple materials are all that’s needed. Please have basic drawing supplies (pencils, paper, markers) and collage materials (at least ten random magazine images, a glue stick, and scissors) on hand. Additionally, please print out one of the masks attached. 

 

Please note: Art-making can stir deep emotions and memories. While this workshop may be therapeutic, it is distinctly not therapy. If you have any questions about the difference, please don’t hesitate to ask. Additionally, it is expected that participants will respect one another’s privacy by keeping all artwork and conversations confidential to our meeting space.

Stephanie is an art therapist and licensed mental health counselor in private practice on the Kitsap Peninsula. She works with clients of all ages, helping them process trauma, grief and loss, and life transitions. She loves working with groups and incorporating eco-art, writing and mindfulness techniques.

TOPIC: Identity and MPEs.

SUNDAY, JULY 11 NOON - 1:30 PST

She’s going to lead us through some experiential exercises to foster identity understanding and formation.

Jodi’s passion for the NPE population was born from her own 2016 DNA discovery, leading her to create the Sex, Lies & The Truth podcast, the Finding Family blog on Psychology Today and pioneering the only clinical training for mental health professionals she coined, Parental Identity Discovery™. Jodi uses her expertise to guide people and their families through the unique and challenging process of discovering surprise DNA revelations and the necessary skills to cope with them.

Jodi received a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University in San Rafael and obtained licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 2004. She is currently a doctoral student at Touro University where she expects to receive a PsyD in Human and Organizational Psychology in 2022. She is recognized for an empathic and direct style in connecting with clients and is skilled at dealing with difficult issues in trauma and family dynamics. Trained by EMDR founder Francine Shapiro, she is an expert in addressing grief, trauma, feelings of belonging, identity confusion, rejection, worth and self-esteem.

TOPIC: A Look at Discomfort Surrounding MPEs

Sunday, June 6 noon - 1:30 PST

Eve had an MPE in 2018, and has dedicated herself to spreading the word about this global phenomenon ever since. As a licensed therapist, Eve invites people from all aspects of the misattributed parentage experience to heal through psychotherapy in her private practice. She launched her DNA-discovery podcast, “Everything’s Relative with Eve Sturges” in 2019 and is proud to be airing its third season. She lives in LA with her family, including a dog named Johnny Cash. 

TOPIC: A Look at Loss & Grief in MPEs

Sunday, May 2 noon - 1:30 PST

Cotey has a soft spot for working with MPE clients as they navigate their surprise DNA discoveries, late discovery adoptions and donor-conceived experiences. This passion to help comes from discovering that Cotey has an MPE myself. Cotey understands the emotions that ensue from an experience such as making an unexpected finding. He focuses on the importance of identity as well as processing heavy emotions and forming meaning.

TOPIC: The Importance of Finding your Tribe & Feeling Supported

Sunday, april 11 noon - 1:30 PST

You’ve made your way to RTK but may not even realize what a critical step you’ve taken. Finding others who understand you without] endless explanation, people with lots of new information & experience to share, a community who will help you over the many hurdles yet in store.

Leslie is a seasoned and well-respected therapist in the adoption community who works with individuals, families, and couples and runs several groups. In addition to her general practice, she specializes in working with individuals and families conceived through adoption and third-party reproduction. Leslie is a nationally known trainer who travels across the country training therapists, agencies and child welfare workers about psychological issues inherent in adoption and third-party reproduction.

Tips For Creating An MPE Community

  • Studies prove having a reliable community to turn to in highly stressful times, will improve your emotional and physical well-being, both of which, suffer in isolation.
  • Find on-line or face-to-face groups of people dealing with similar issues.
  • Look for additional resources by exploring the internet about the topic which is bringing you stress.
  • Bibliotherapy—my term for reading everything you can, on a particular subject.
  • Look for organizations that provide learning and communal opportunities amongst their membership.
  • Volunteer, specifically within the subject area you have encountered. i.e. efforts to change legislation.
  • Be a good listener. It promotes others coming to your support. Those who take up all the air space in various forums and then split, will end up being ignored over time.
  • Be sure to stick to reputable sites and be cautious when setting up face-to-face meetings.

TOPIC: Reaching Out to Bio-Family & Coping with the Response

Sunday, march 7 noon - 1:30 PST

Erika’s background in adoption, and new work with donor-conceived, combined with her comprehensive training in trauma and grief over the past 14 years, allows her to easily connect with individuals struggling with aspects related to their genetic identity.

Tips

    • This is hard. What is your support plan? Family/Friends? This group? Counselor? All of the above would be good and I really can’t emphasize enough how helpful seeking a competent counselor can be when processing all of the complex emotions that go with this.
    • Plan and be prepared to the best that you can. Know why you are doing this and what information you want. Go in with realistic expectations.
    • Find a way to have patience during this process, with yourself and others. Practice mindfulness and gratitude each day.
    • This is your journey. Whatever you decide and need to do for you is OK. Your emotional health comes first. Take breaks, put on pause, let somebody know you need a breather in contact, or anything else that is necessary for your mental well-being.

Here is a good resource we refer people to with adoption. It is adoption specific so some of it doesn’t apply to everybody.

TOPIC: The Ebb & Flow of Loss

Sunday, Feb 7 noon - 1:30 PST

Joni Mantell, MSW, LCSW

Joni understands that finding a family member through adoption search/reunion or DNA discovery is just the beginning of the journey, not the endpoint. The emotional reactions come in layers, and she helps people work through each complex feeling and the question of identity and relationship as we revise your personal narrative to include this new information.

Tips

  • A person may experience the variety of emotions in the popular stages of grief in any order and may go back and forth from one stage to another—that’s okay.
  • The grief cycle does not punctuate with ACCEPTANCE…even though we can come to accept what we have lost. Believing grief punctuates with acceptance can lead to guilt or unease for not feeling that.
  • Grief ebbs and flows. Sometimes we feel it and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we feel it a little, and sometimes we are triggered to feel it a lot.
  • Grief is like an onion – it has layers. It is best to accept and submerge yourself in the layer you feel. Honor the layer you are going through. That is the best way to process it and get to the next level.
  • We cannot avoid the layers of what we feel BUT we can learn to manage the grief as it ebbs and flows throughout our lives. Locate your feeling, name it, experience it, and let it flow.
  • Get support for your experience. Meet and talk with other people experiencing similar losses. Support groups have been demonstrated to help enormously with grief – there is shared communication, validation and even humor. If you are suffering or just need someone to talk to, get support. Call RTK’s Resource Hotline 323-TALK-MPE or schedule an appointment with a therapist.