REAL Family is Made, Not Born! From Attachment to Self-Care, Expert Dr. Denise Wagner Offers Top Tips on Parenting and Adoption!

IAOL 15 | Healthy Parenting

We often believe that families are based on shared genes—that biology itself creates family. Yet in my professional and personal experience, I’ve surely found that the healthiest of families are based not on genetics but on deep love and connection. Through this lens, we can appreciate that children who are adopted can be embraced as part of a family with as much love and devotion as biological children. Although adoptive parents and their children may encounter unique blessings and challenges, the truth is that REAL family is created, not born. By embracing parenting as a journey of personal growth and healthy parent-child attachment, both parents and children thrive. Join Dr. Carla and expert Dr. Denise Wagner for a powerful conversation on what it takes to create a terrific parent-child relationship for both adopted and biological children. This special podcast offers highlights that offer tremendous insights for blended families, adoptive families, and biological families.



Books by Dr. Carla Manly: 

Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly 

Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend  

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond 

The Joy of Imperfect Love: The Art of Creating Healthy, Securely Attached Relationships 


Connect with Dr. Carla Manly: 









Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

REAL Family is Made, Not Born! From Attachment to Self-Care, Expert Dr. Denise Wagner Offers Top Tips on Parenting and Adoption!

Healthy Attachment Strategies Create the Foundation of Love and Safety Every Child (and Adult) Needs!

We often believe that families are based on shared genes and that biology itself creates families. In my professional and personal experience, I’ve truly found that the healthiest of families are based not on genetics but on deep love and connection. Through this lens, we might appreciate that children who are adopted can be embraced as part of a family with as much love and devotion as children who are biologically related.

Although adoptive parents and their children may encounter unique blessings and challenges, the truth is real family is created and not born. We’ll focus on this reader’s real-life question, “My partner and I can’t have children. We’ve been looking into adopting a baby, but I have some concerns. My adoptive parents were not perfect. They treated me differently from my bio sister, so I have some trauma around not feeling like part of the family. I am excited about bringing a child into our lives, but I’m afraid my history will get in the way. How can my partner and I be good adoptive parents?” With that question as the focus of our episode, I’m Dr. Carla Marie Manly, and this is Imperfect Love.

IAOL 15 | Healthy Parenting

I’m joined by a very special guest, Dr. Denise Wagner, who will be sharing her expertise on parenting, adoption, and creating a loving home for adopted children. Welcome to the show, Dr. Denise. I am so excited and delighted to share time with you. I know you have such an extensive background not just in psychotherapy, parenting, and adopting but in so many other realms of what it takes to make a happy and healthy relationship, partnership, and a wonderful family. Welcome. I can’t wait to discuss our question with you.

Thank you. I’m happy to be here. This reader has an excellent question.

Before we dive into the reader’s question, which I know will take us in many directions, and that’ll be fabulous, tell us a little bit about what makes you you.

I always think of the fact that I grew up in San Francisco. It’s a big part of my identity and all the music I was exposed to. Growing up in San Francisco was great. I didn’t discover that I was creative until about many years ago when I was at a family camp with my son. They had arts and crafts for the kids and for the adults. There was a mosaic workshop. I walked by and I thought, “I’m not creative. I can’t do that.” The woman who was leading this said, “You can’t do anything wrong with mosaics. Do it.” I did it, and since then, I’ve improved and grown in my art. That’s a big part of how I keep my sanity.

I love that. I’ve seen some of your mosaic work. In fact, I have a beautiful piece of your pottery, one of your owls, which I adore. What is the name of your mosaic company so that our readers can maybe find you?

It’s Labor of Love Mosaics. I came up with the name because that’s exactly what it is. It takes me to a different place. When I’m doing that, I don’t think about anything else. We all need some of that in our lives.

Parenting struggles? Want to know more about attachment and healthy parenting? From the challenges and blessings of adoption to the importance of parents' self-care, Dr. Carla is joined by expert Dr. Denise Wagner for a heartening exploration… Share on X

Thank you for bringing that up. You also made me a mosaic with a piece of my mother’s history in it. It is certainly a labor of love. Not only for you, it keeps you grounded, balanced, and sane, yet when I think of all the gifts that you give to other people through the loving pieces that you make. I am so glad we touched on that because it reminded me of that essential and very beautiful part of you. Now, let’s dive into the piece about adoption. Tell us a little bit about what you, as a clinician, see first in the realm of adoption for the adoptive parents and the adoptive children. How does that set the stage for some of the unique challenges and blessings that come when we integrate a family?

This reader hit the nail on the head when she said, “I’m aware that I have some trauma. I’m not sure if that’s going to interfere with me being a parent.” She’s got fertile ground for growth there because we have to see parenting, whether it’s adopted children or birth children, there’s a lot of skills involved that we’re not born with.

There’s education that needs to happen. More people than we know have a family trauma history. The best thing before having a child place is to find a therapist who has training and attachment therapy. I would make sure that you ask the therapist what training they’ve had because a lot of people are thrown around attachment. However, it’s very specific when you’re working with children who’ve been in foster care and are being adopted, which is where the majority of adoptions happen.



If they could find a therapist that they can start with and when a child does come with them, then the therapist knows the couple well and will be able to do probably more work in a quicker way. The other thing, too, is dealing with the loss of infertility. It’s because if that’s not worked through, it’ll make it difficult because there will be regret of not being able to have their own child when they’re faced with challenges with their adoptive child. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed as well.

Thank you so much for pointing out these pieces, which is why this is your specialty. You know all the nuances. A flurry of questions is coming up in my own mind. When we are looking at this parent or this woman who wants to be a parent and be a mom, you’re saying, “Get therapy to deal with any trauma from your family of origin that is not resolved,” which makes sense because whether we’re adopting a child or having our own children, we want to deal with any trauma that’s unresolved.

Some people think it goes away with chronological time. You and I both know as clinicians that trauma will exist until you get hold of it. You’re advising her very wisely. Get therapy so that anything that is unresolved from your family or adoptive family and all those hurts and wounds, you’ve worked through them or are working through them. You’re saying now you’re grieving your loss of fertility. That’s something separate, and I hadn’t thought of that piece. You’re saying, “Let’s look in this therapeutic setting with the counselor that you engage with. Look at how you will be grieving the loss of this part of being a mom. That way, you can fully embrace rather than regret or resent this new little being coming into your life.”

We often believe that biology creates family. Yet healthy families are based not on genetics but on love and connection. Whether adopted or biological, the basics of attachment apply to all children! Dr. Carla and expert Dr. Denise Wagner dive… Share on X

That’s true. Many women who want to be mothers start having that fantasy when they’re maybe 4 or 5 years old. A typical age of an adoptive parent is mid-30s to 40s. That’s where the big group is because that’s when infertility strikes during those years. Unless the infertility is due to surgery, it’s a big dream that has to be let go.

Thank you again for pointing that out because we often think of a divorce. There’s grieving there. A parting of a long-term relationship, the death of a partner, a parent, or a child, all those things are grieving, yet I love that you’re highlighting a loss of fertility is also something that hopes and dreams. From the time a child of any gender holds their first baby doll and does the feeding and the diapering, there is a part that might be imagining someday, “I’m going to be a parent with a real baby and doing all of this.” It’s an excellent advice. Thank you. Let’s go to another question that I had. When you were talking about adoption and the foster care piece, most babies or children who are adopted are not adopted at birth. They are mostly adopted from foster care.

That’s true.

What’s the average age of a child being adopted from foster care?

I believe it’s about 5 or 6.

This child had 5 to 6 years at least because some people are going to adopt younger. Some are going to adopt it as an 11, 12, or 14-year-old. When we’re looking at this babe, this child has been on the planet for 5 to 6 years, sometimes through multiple homes or through significant trauma by the time they are adopted. You’re the expert here. That’s a big piece.

It’s huge. I’ll tell you a story about a client that I have. This little girl was seven when I started seeing her. With the model of therapy that I use, I always have the parent and the child together in the therapy because the therapists can model what the parenting should look like. They’re learning that. The goal is not for the child to become attached to me. The goal is for the attachment to develop and grow with the adoptive parent.

With the model of therapy that I use, I always have the parent and the child together in the therapy because the therapists can model what parenting really should look like. Share on X

This little girl had been in 3 or 4 foster homes. They say the child failed placement. The placement didn’t work. It wasn’t the child’s fault. I was seeing her, and she was having difficulty within caprices. She would put soil her underwear at school and have accidents at home. I was working for her I would say at least three months. We had talked about eating it with her birth mom before, but we got more specific about it, and I asked her, “Did she feed herself? How did she get food?”

A lot of times, there wasn’t any food in the house. She wasn’t pooping because she had no nutrition. She wasn’t eating. That was something that happened naturally. Now she’s in a situation where if she’s going to have a bowel movement, it’s a new experience for her. It’s scary. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Something like this is out of the experience of most of us unless we have experienced similar trauma. It can be shocking to the parents. They may wonder like, “What did I get myself into? This is way over my head,” and create more of a barrier to the attachment.

It’s a sad yet important story that illuminates how when you’re adopting a child, particularly when they are not adopted straight at birth, you are inheriting as part and parcel of that adoption. All of that child’s history may not and likely be not filled with love, consistency, excellent, healthy food, and all of the things that we as clinicians know are essentials for a child to grow up and develop.

What we are focusing on next is the safe and loving attachment. I agree with you. That word is now in vogue. People are talking about, “Attachment this. Attachment that. I’ll take an attachment quiz.” Not realizing how attachment is one of the most well-researched elements in the world of psychotherapy and how important it is for us to realize that attachment isn’t just, “I’m secure. I’m insecure or securely attached. I’m avoidant. I’m anxious about attachment.”

We have to go back to the roots of attachment and look at how a child from birth forward is learning from watching and being with the parent and those parents’ interactions and how it feels to be in the world. Is the world a safe, loving, and good enough place to be, or is it a scary and inconsistent place to be? You’re the expert here. We’re looking at children. I would hazard a guess, but you tell me that most children who are adopted probably have a very insecure history or are not securely attached.

That’s a fair assumption. Some children are more resilient than others. If they develop a good attachment with the foster parent or adoptive parent, then they can grow from there. It might be an easier journey. We learn about ourselves from our parents, and I’m going to say mother because, most times, it’s the mother. The act of breastfeeding, having eye contact, and being held are very important parts of attachment.

We talk a lot about emotional regulation so if we want the child to be emotionally regulated, whether they’re crying as an infant or throwing a tantrum when they’re older, we have to stay calm. If I pick up my baby and my baby is crying and upset and maybe I don’t know why, to pick up the baby, hold and soothe the baby, the baby will pick up on my emotional state and be able to calm down. This is true throughout. They’re growing up even with teenagers. That’s an important skill.



Let’s weave it back because this is such a critical point. For the emotional regulation, I could imagine this reader who wrote saying, “I’m working through my trauma and my sense of not being part of this family. Now I have a baby and the baby is screaming.” Even a mom who has a child of bio child, we get these moments where we want to scream. When the baby is screaming, we want to scream. If the baby is crying, we want to run to the other room to help alleviate some of her fears around this.

How would you suggest that she or any parent who’s feeling, “I hear Dr. Denise talking about how great it is to sit, but I’m tired, anxious, and sleep deprived?” How would you recommend that someone who is not feeling emotionally regulated themselves? How would you suggest that they find that skill?

Hopefully, some of that happens in therapy and training if they’re foster parents and they become adoptive parents. They do go through a certain amount of training to prepare them for that. We all have times when we’re overwhelmed and feel like, “I cannot take anymore.” We have to talk to ourselves by saying, “I’m tired. I’m feeling anxious. I need to take a deep breath. This is only going to last for a while. I can help my baby to calm down.” Have that mantra and nap when the baby naps.

If you have a partner, get your partner involved, whether it’s doing some of the housework, cooking some of the meals, taking care of the baby while you get a massage, or whatever it is that helps you take care of yourself. When I was talking about doing mosaics, the research that they’ve done says that artwork gives you the same benefit as meditation. A lot of people feel like they can’t meditate, but getting into that zone where you’re not thinking about anything else can be very healing.

Artwork gives you the same benefit as meditation. Share on X

The mom needs to think about what soothes her and make sure that she builds that into her everyday life and builds more confidence. She’s tired and anxious but she can do this. She’s got this in there. She loves her baby. I’m not talking about babies with colic. Readers might think, “She thinks everything is all hunky-dory.” No. There are some problems that need other intervention as well but asking for help, believing in yourself, and taking care of yourself is important.

I appreciate that you brought up the creative piece again because that is often something, whether we’re using an adult coloring book or you with mosaics. Maybe for some people, it’s cooking. We often think meditation means, “I need 30 minutes to sit in yoga style and be comfortable.” No, meditation can be walking, raking leaves, gardening, or creating. For me, I love vacuuming. I find the sound of vacuuming very meditative and sweeping a floor.

It can be anything that gets you into that zone. I love that you’re recommending this for our readers but for all parents. This will give you that internal resilience and sustenance so that when your child is emotionally dysregulated, you have enough inside yourself. You can take that deep breath in and deep breath out as you said. Even though it feels like it’s lasting forever, it’s temporary. The other piece that you said is to look for your support in your partner.

We often think as parents or as a mom, we need to do it alone so having a partner or someone there to support. The other piece we tend not to talk enough about is the fact that there are resources available. Often, free resources. Could you tell us a little bit, in your experience, what those resources in people’s communities may look like?

Until the adoption is final, which takes some time, they have a social worker. There are parenting coaches, wraparound services, and watching videos. A therapist is a good resource of what’s available as well. We’re talking about this baby. A lot of times, when children are placed, they’re older than that. When I was first doing attachment work, I went back to school to get my Doctorate because I wanted to learn more about attachment.

I was an adoption social worker in California at that time. I had to learn anything about attachment in my Doctoral program, but I started training with Daniel Hughes. He developed a form of therapy called Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. That’s the parent and child. Some of his acronyms is PLACE: Playfulness, Loving, Accepting, Curious, and Empathic. With a child that is 4 or 5 or beyond and is upset, the parent should not put the child in their room or make them have a timeout.

The thing is, they need to say to the child, “What’s going on? Why are you so angry? Help me understand.” The child tells their side of it. It might be something we don’t buy into, but we accept what they’re saying because this is their story. You’re like, “I can understand now why you would feel that way. I might feel that way if that happened to me.” Being curious and asking more questions. The empathy is in there all the way.

What you’re doing is opening up for the connection for yourself and for the child, especially for the child, instead of getting stressed out and punishing the child. One of the other techniques that I learned from Dr. Hughes is instead of doing timeout and time in, it came from theraplay. Typically, you’d put in a timeout and you said, “You need to be near me more, so you can calm down and have some quiet time.” You put in something, have them on the kitchen table, and color. It’s not a consequence as you would think of a consequence, but it’s an intervention that you’re doing.

Instead of getting stressed out and punishing the child, one technique you can use is play therapy. Share on X

I’m going to pause here because this is such fabulous advice for every adoptive parent, not bio parents. PLACE: Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious, and Empathic. Let’s put this up in our kitchen for everybody. That’s perfect because that’s easy. We can all get our arms around. When in doubt, can I find something in PLACE? Is there a part of me that can turn this into a playful PLACE? I can always find something in my gut that allows me to be loving.

As you said, I can accept this child’s story. It’s their story. They’re seeing things in a way I can’t see them because I’m not in their shoes. The accepting part is curious. It’s one of my favorite words. Asking questions and not judging. Curiosity takes us away from judging and reprimanding punitive behaviors into saying why, then the empathy is something we can use in every relationship.

If the parent isn’t able to do that and a certain situation comes up with their child where they can’t get to that place, then that’s an indication something is going on there that’s triggering. It could be something that happened to them at that age. When my son was a teenager, I remember where we stood in everything. We were having this argument, and he wasn’t accepting what I was saying. I felt rejected. I could feel it in my gut then I thought, “When I was his age, I felt rejected.” Sometimes friends or somebody that I like that didn’t like me rock my world. Once I understood what it was about, it was so much easier to move forward.

Thank you for sharing that because it highlights a piece. You and I know this as clinicians and understand this. We have to work on ourselves a lot to be good therapists. Most parents aren’t clinicians and psychologists. I have to pause because you hit on something so critical, particularly for this reader’s question where she’s acknowledging, “I have trauma here.” As much as we work on our trauma, we also have to appreciate it. It doesn’t dissolve it. They are even good at trauma work.

There will be moments when a little piece of it, like a dandelion, pops up because we didn’t fully get that route. That’s part of life. Trauma is trauma. We can work on it and think we got it all, but often there’s something that’ll find its way up, and that’s normal and natural. I love how you focused on something in you and your gut. I’ve had that sense too where it’s almost like you can feel this is old stuff.

It’s too big or too something. It’s not about this interaction with this child or with this partner. This is something old. You modeled how beautifully you were able to realize it at the moment because you’ve done a lot of work. You’re able to realize it to a course correction, but for those who haven’t done a lot of self-work, in the middle of a lot of self-work, or have worked on their trauma, it’s fine. It’s still popping up at times. It’s not that you’re bad, broken, or a horrible parent or person.

It’s that you’re like the rest of us. You’re imperfect and because we are imperfect and parenting is imperfect, all we want to do is to learn and listen to those pieces, like what came up for you with your son. If you need help with it because it’s not something you know how to handle, either in the moment or when you have time later, that’s when you get to go back to your therapist or seek a therapist to say, “This is coming up and I want to resolve it.”

The flip side of that is imagine you have a child in your home who’s been left alone for three days because a parent was on a drug run or there was a lot of domestic violence. They were witness to that. There’s physical and sexual abuse. They build up defenses against that in terms of that gut-level feeling. There are two types of memories when we’re talking about development. One is implicit, and one is explicit.

Implicit memories happen before the child begins to talk. Once they’re talking and have words for it, it becomes explicit. If the child was a baby and was left alone for three days with no food, love, or anything, that is frightening. That’s internalized. We feel things in our bodies. Our body has a memory of things. A child who had experienced that, a feeling came up. They have no idea where it came from and they act out. That’s part of therapy, too, to work with the child to develop a coherent narrative. How do you make sense of this? If they have a coherent life story, then they begin to have more security.

I love that you brought up how important it is to have a child because we do have that. We all have implicit memories. Memories are stored in the body and they get triggered by things. We may not realize what it’s about, then the explicit memory and the ability to say, “I remember when Mom and Dad left me at the gas station.” They’re able to verbalize it but how important that is for children who are being adopted to be able to make it through that to make a story that makes sense.

Again, taking it back to humanity as a whole, you remind me how, for most people, there is some of this work to do. A lot of children who are adopted have it much worse than many people can ever imagine but these are concepts. We’re not trying to scare people away from adopting children at all. We’re trying to say these are things that happen in many households in bio families.

I work a lot with adults. I work with adults who have these implicit memories hidden, running the show, and causing them to act out in adult relationships. A lot of people who are not adopted have these very same issues. We’re not in this conversation trying to scare people. It’s simply to raise awareness and say, “This is another element and you may not realize once you bring this lovely child into your own that there’s going to be some extra special healing work.” I love to look at it that way where it’s about helping this child heal and come into your fold. The fold of your imperfect but very safe and loving family.

IAOL 15 | Healthy Parenting

There’s a wide range of behaviors that you’re going to see, and not every child is going to have disturbing behaviors. Some of them can heal faster than others. There’s a honeymoon period of about three months where everything has flown along and everything is lovely, and all of a sudden, it starts acting up. It’s about if the parent can anticipate that some of this may happen and lower their expectations.

When they were doing the infertility work, what was their vision of their child? Was it having an A-student? Was it having somebody that looks like them? Was it having somebody that’s athletic? What’s going to happen if that is your ideal and you adopt a child that is not those things? You have to shift and lower your expectations. If a child is here emotionally and developmentally and you’re coming at them this way, it’s not going to work. You have to get down to where they are and realize where they are. Help them to grow from there. You can’t cut off certain things. You got to take it at their speed and help to move them along.

Thanks for pointing out that part about expectations because even in bio families, that is often so much of the rub where the mom or the dad wants the child who’s a carbon copy of them. They don’t get that so they’re hard on the child or making the child feel like an utter disappointment. Thank you for tying it back into looking at the grieving around fertility.

I had never thought of this as a component of it, so thank you. You’re so wise to look and say, “If these are my expectations, I want a child who is 6-foot, brown-eyed, and black hair, and I get a child who has red hair and who will be a tiny little thing, I need out of service to myself and to this other human beings to allow them to be who they are,” which is the essence of parenting.

In any event, to get what you’re saying, if I’m hearing you right, bring it into awareness, have conversations, and be real about this instead of turning your back on this child who just wants to be loved. Every child wants to be loved, safe, and adored. That’s what kids want. Thank you for focusing on that. It’s so important. I know we could talk for hours about this. Is there any other piece that you think it’s important to highlight?

In my adoption career outside of my private practice, I placed 100 children. I looked at my stats when I left that job. Most of them were successful adoptions. Not all of them had severe issues. Kids need to have a family. If people feel that they have the capacity to parent and they have roadblocks, don’t stop there. Get some help for yourself, get educated, and ask questions.

It’s one thing we didn’t talk about. If you’re adopting a child from foster care, there’s going to likely be a reunification period where they may be having visits with the birth parents. That’s pretty hard for the adoptive parents, but if it’s good for the child, then it should happen. It may give the child a better way of understanding and being able to say goodbye to their birth parents. I think that anything we do in life, whether it’s academic goals, personal goals, or career goals is not all smooth along the way. There are bumps in the road. For most adoptive families, things can work out and the child can heal.



Thank you for that element. It’s so important to look at things like reunification visits with parents and having to have your own personal house in order to be able to tolerate that because that could be very triggering. It’s taking us back to doing your personal work and knowing you may need to do a lot of personal work.

I personally love doing personal work because more challenges come up. It’s like, “I’ve got to go back and address this.” I continue to evolve. I want to touch on the one piece where you mentioned the three-month honeymoon period. This is me imagining. I would imagine that in the child’s first three months, everything is good, new, and fun for everyone.

Once we hit somewhere about four months, where the child says, “I’m going to test the waters to see.” They’re not doing it consciously, but I could imagine them unconsciously testing, is this new family safe? Is this Mom and Dad going to boot me out like this foster family, that family, or like my own mom and dad? I’m imagining you’re the expert here, is that what starts to happen?

Part of it is the testing, and the other part of it is they may start to feel comfortable by then and they relax and let it all hang out. I do think part of it is, “Do you love me now that I did this? Are you still going to keep me?” That’s a fear they have that this is going to be temporary like every other placement was.

I’m smiling a bit because it reminds me of how this is part of being human. When we get into love relationships and we’re dating, there’s that honeymoon period. As people start saying, “Now, how do you like me when I have anxiety? Do you like me when I have a temper tantrum? Do you like me when I don’t balance my finances very well?” We can look at all of these parts of adoption as very special and unique yet also a part of the natural journey of being a human, a parent, and a loving person on the planet.

That’s true. As you said, there’s so much more that we could talk about. There’s no way we can cover everything, but if people are committed, educate themselves, and get the therapy they need for themselves, then they start to value therapy too. When the child is in therapy, they’ll value it more. Adoptions are a wonderful thing. I feel for the kids so much that I hope that more people will consider adopting.

Adoptions are a wonderful thing. More people should consider adopting. Share on X

I can see how it’s a win-win. If you have unresolved stuff, which everybody does, and if you don’t want to dive into your personal world and become a better person for yourself, which is the ideal and that’s what we want to do, here’s another reason to do it. It’s another reason to be a better parent to a bio child and an adoptive child. Kudos to you, Dr. Denise. You have placed 100 children, which means there are 100 fewer children in foster homes, out on the street, or wherever they would have ended up without your loving gift and guidance. Thank you for the work you do and continue to do.

IAOL 15 | Healthy Parenting

It’s been a real gift to me, too.

Where can our readers find you?

I’m from California, but for a few years, I’ve been living in Southern New Mexico. I do a lot of online therapy. I still have some clients in California. I do parent coaching online sometimes if something comes up. Sometimes, it’s something that you can address in a bit of time without people making months of commitment.

Parent coaching is a fabulous resource. Do you have an email address or website address?

My email is [email protected].

Thank you so much for joining us. It’s such a wealth of wisdom and information, Dr. Denise. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. For our readers and for all parents out there, you have given us so much rich and heartfelt information.

Thank you for having me.

It’s a pleasure. Readers, thank you for joining us. This is Imperfect Love.

Important Links

About Dr. Denise Wagner

IAOL 15 | Healthy ParentingDr Denise Wagner, PsyD, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her clinical experience is varied and extensive including working as an Adoption Specialist for the State of California Adoptions, individual and family counselor with the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice System, and Medical Social Worker for Kaiser Hospital, Santa Rosa, California, while simultaneously working in her own private practice. Her primary role has been and continues to be that of a private practice psychotherapist working with foster and adoptive family from an attachment perspective. Having trained with Dr. Daniel Hughes over the span of 5 years, she bases her clinical work on Dr. Hughes’ treatment model, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. Dr. Wagner has a passion for working with children and families. A native of San Francisco, California and a resident of Sonoma County for decades, Dr. Wagner now lives in Southern New Mexico. When the opportunity arises, Dr. Wagner can be found working on mosaics for her creative side business, Labor of Love Mosaics.