Reunification Therapy Services
What Is Reunification Therapy?
Reunification Therapy is a relatively new therapeutic intervention that has been gaining popularity in family court. This intervention is a form of family therapy, which occurs between parent and child whose relationship has been severed. The goal of this therapeutic intervention is to restore the relationship between the parent and child. Although Reunification Therapy is under the umbrella of family therapy it is a more focused kind of therapy.Typically, the work includes just the affected parent and child and may be focused on select events that occurred during the relationship.
Often this type of therapy is recommended when “parental alienation” is suspected. However, a child’s refusal to have a relationship with a parent or strong preference for one parent over another does not automatically mean that there has been an attempt by one parent to alienate a child from the other parent. For example, a child who has typically shown distress when transitioning from the preferred parent’s home to the non-preferred parent’s home(e.g., crying, saying they don’t want to go with the other parent) may show increasing resistance behaviors (e.g., not getting out of the preferred parent’s vehicle, leaving the non-preferred parent’s home to go back to preferred parent home before the visit is scheduled to be over, repeatedly asking the non-preferred parent to take them back to the preferred parent’s home before the visit is scheduled to be over, or calling the preferred parent repeatedly and asking them to pick them up before the visit is scheduled to be over). In these situations, the behaviors may escalate until the non-preferred parent agrees to changing visitation schedule (e.g., foregoing overnight visitation).
This type of therapy may also be recommended when a parent and child have a long history of separation due to a variety of circumstances. For example, a parent may have attempted to see the child for many years but was not allowed contact by the other parent. The parent may have opted for many years to avoid conflict. A parent and child may have been separated due to a parent’s substance use or mental health problems and or legal problems.
How Can Reunification Therapy Be Helpful?
Reunification Therapy (RT) is helpful for families whose child-parent relationships have been estranged due to conflict in families. RT may be helpful in establishing co-parenting boundaries, addressing estrangement in the family, eliminating or reducing alienation of estranged parents, and safety planning.
Although the typical scenario for reunification is a period of separation or estrangement between a parent and child, reunification therapy can be helpful to families where children are refusing and resisting spending time with one parent.
Who Is Involved in Reunification Therapy?
Typically family members including the custodial parent (or primary caregiver/legal guardian), the reunifying parent, and the child are involved. However, the reunification therapy will likely need to collaborate with other third parties including other providers involved with the family (e.g., child or parent’s individual therapist). Additionally, the reunification therapist may need to report to other third parties who may be monitoring the family such as parental coordinators, attorneys, and judges.
What Happens During Reunification Therapy?
While the procedure for reunification therapy may differ for professionals in the therapeutic community, WFP has procedures that are an attempt to standardize and operationalize the process. This process will be disclosed in more detail in your WFP paperwork. However, in general terms, the WFP reunification process is a model that anticipates involving both non-custodial/reunifying parent and the custodial parent. Reunification therapy can last from six to twenty or more sessions. The length of time is dependent upon severity of problems and level of support from the custodial parent. Each family’s reunification process may be different as it will be specific to their family’s circumstances. In general, the reunification therapy process starts with small steps and those steps build as the parent-child relationship is strengthened.
Wynns Family Psychology offers other forensic or court-related services such as Custody Evaluations, Forensic Expert Services, Co-Parenting Therapy, Supervised Therapeutic Visitation, or Court-Ordered Psychological Evaluations.