Every family has their disagreements. Unfortunately, some parents take things to the extreme, and deny parenting time to the other. When that happens, reunification therapy may be the best option to rekindle the lost relationship between a parent and child. If you are involved in a challenging situation with another parent, we are here to help.
Quite often, in these situations, the underlying conflict among parents will turn into alienation of one parent. That parent becomes estranged (e.g., absent) from the child’s life, while the other assumes the role of being the “protective” parent. A court order is often issued for reunification therapy to help restore contact with the child through therapeutic assistance. The Court will frequently refer to the parents as the “familiar” parent and “unfamiliar” parent. These matters are some of the most complex situations to resolve.
THREE STAGES OF REUNIFICATION THERAPY
The therapist will try to understand the issue that led to the estrangement of one parent. Typically, the barriers are identified at this stage. The reunification therapist will ask many questions, to get as much detail as possible. A request for each parent to fill out a questionnaire is not out of the ordinary. Your family will meet with the therapist and will assess the situation to move forward with the commitment and planning stage. This stage can last up to 30 days.
At this stage, the therapist will voice any past blaming issues and thoroughly examine each blame individually and plan accordingly to how to plan for the future. Children are not expected to understand the specifics that led to estrangement but is very important for the child to release any bottled up emotions or guilt. At this stage the therapist will note the level of commitment that the unfamiliar parent has to reunification therapy. He or she will do so by tracking all pattern of attendance and participation during therapy. Typically this stage lasts 30-90 days.
Once the commitment stage is settled, visitation of the estranged parent will begin during the integration stage. There are many types of visitation that can follow, including, phone contact, in-person visits and overnight stays. The frequency of visitation will depend on each family’s situation. No matter what type of visitation occurs, the main goal is to show the child that the estranged parent is caring, and has interest in reunification. This stage can last from 60-120 days.