Reunification Therapy/Co-Parent Counseling
Hello and I welcome you to the beginning of a process that will likely improve the well-being of your child or children well into their adulthood. I believe you will find my services professional, congenial, objective, and helpful. There is some information for you to review and some paperwork to get out of the way before our first meeting.
Reunification Therapy (RT) is a recently developed (over the last 20 – 25 years) intervention for post-divorce or separated families in which a child is exhibiting resist/refuse dynamics (RRD). The professional literature in this area overwhelmingly advocates the inclusion of Co-Parent Counseling (CC) in RT efforts, therefore RT requires both parents to attend sessions and participate in reunification efforts. CC can also stand alone as an intervention (without RT) when separated or divorced parents simply want to provide their child with a wholesome and conflict-free childhood or adolescence.
RRD involves a child who rejects one parent and does not want to spend time with that parent, while exhibiting a strong preference for the other parent. Essentially, the child has become so attached to his or her comfort zone (the preferred parent) that he or she refuses to venture into the less comfortable world of the rejected parent. Sometimes the source of the child's discomfort is the behavior of the rejected parent, sometimes the behavior of the preferred parent, and in most cases some combination of the two. Treatment plans are developed accordingly, with an eye toward helping the child deal with discomfort without relying on avoidance strategies (an important life skill), helping the preferred parent to form a working relationship with the rejected parent and support the RT goals, and assisting the rejected parent to deal with the child's discomfort effectively and build a warmer relationship.
After initial interviews with the parents, CC involves a number of co-parenting counseling (sessions with the co-parents) and likely some later sessions with both parents and the child. In RT, in addition to these initial sessions, there will also be sessions with the child and the rejected parent, sessions with the child and the preferred parent, and individual sessions with the child.
Both RT and CC are based on education and skill-building, not on confrontation, blaming, or dwelling in the past. Each family member learns the skills necessary to function effectively and happily within the present family system.
Many preferred parents (as opposed to the rejected parents) do not initially understand why their involvement in RT is necessary. They reason that the problem is between the other parent and the child. Although this may sound plausible on the surface, in actual practice family systems are more complicated than that. The rejected parent's relationship with the child is very much affected by 1) the preferred parent's relationship with the child and 2) the preferred parent's relationship with the rejected parent.
Research indicates that in divorce cases a child's emotional well-being depends as much upon the post-divorce relationship between the parents as any other factor (Amato & Keith 1991). Think about it: would you put two co-managers (parents) in charge of a business (child) and expect the business to flourish if the co-managers did not have fluid communication and a general agreement on how to run the business? Your child has a much better chance of flourishing with cooperative and communicative co-parents. We almost never see RRD when the co-parents present to the child as a communicative, cooperative team (Birnbaum & Bala, 2010). Therefore, co-parenting work in RT is never optional.
Likewise, all attorneys representing the parents, Guardians ad Litem, Parenting Coordinators, and therapists treating the parents or child must be supportive of the RT or CC. Unless all parties are supportive of the RT or CC, I will not take the case. That means, among other things, that the parents cannot be litigating with each other over child issues while in RT or CC.
Before beginning RT or CC, I require the co-parents to carefully read the information in the links below and complete the forms below before setting up an appointment. The first three appointments will be 1) individual intake with parent one 2) individual intake with parent two, and 3) meeting with both parents. Each of these initial sessions will be 75 minutes in length.
Lets be candid from the beginning - this is an expensive and time consuming process, but no more so than extended litigation. Most CC interventions take about 3-6 months, while RT interventions usually take about 6-12 months.
The RT/CC provider does not make recommendations to the court or court-appointed officials about parenting time or custody, as that would constitute a “dual-role” of the therapist.