The Adoption Story Cards

A Diagnostic and Therapeutic Instrument for Eliciting Psychodynamic Information from the Adopted Child


  • Aids the therapist in learning about a child’s reactions to adoption
  • Reveals child’s thoughts and feelings about birth and adoptive parents
  • Elicited material serves as departure for psychotherapeutic interchanges

Most therapists agree that adopted children are at greater risk than biological children for developing psychopathology and that they are overrepresented in the patient population. This is not surprising when one considers that the adopted child has to deal with the painful fact that its mother voluntarily gave it away to strangers. Most often, the child has no memory of its biological mother and has only minimal (if any) information about her.

The therapist who works with adopted children may have great difficulty eliciting from patients information on these vital issues that may be playing a crucial role in their psychopathology. In the attempt to obtain meaningful information in these areas, Dr. Richard Gardner has devised six picture cards that he has found useful for eliciting such material. Each illustration (drawn by Mr. Alfred Lowenheim) depicts a scene that is likely to elicit a fantasy related to adoption in the child who is concerned (either consciously or unconsciously) with this issue. The cards therefore may provide an avenue to material that might not otherwise have been so readily obtained. Although primarily designed to provide diagnostic in formation, the cards may have therapeutic value as well because the material elicited can serve as a point of departure for therapeutic discussions with the child and/or parents.