What is Reunification Therapy?
Reunification Therapy is a therapeutic intervention that works to reunite a parent with their estranged child. Commonly, reunification therapy is a court-mandated therapeutic intervention in high-conflict divorced families where one parent (the aligned, or custodial parent) has primary contact with the child and the other parent (the rejected or estranged parent) has limited contact. The dissolution of a marriage or intimate relationship can be a very difficult time for both partners, and children may be used by one parent to pressure, hurt, punish, or alienate the other parent. In such cases children may become triangulated and polarized in their relationships with their parents and will sometimes refuse to have a relationship with one parent.
When children have witnessed intense parental discord and/or familial violence they may refuse a relationship with one parent as an attempt to end further arguments between their parents. At times, a child might agree with the custodial parent that it is in their best interest to avoid further contact with the estranged parent because they do not want to either physically or emotionally abandon the custodial parent. Moreover, children may fear their relationship with the aligned parent may be compromised if they partake of and enjoy a relationship with the estranged parent. On occasion, children may be pressured by the aligned parent into believing that the estranged parent “is a bad parent,” and therefore does not deserve a primary parental role.
While one partner may disapprove of, or distrust their ex-partner, their dislike is not justification to end or significantly limit a child’s relationship with the other parent. Unless a parent is truly a danger to their own children, parental alienation is not necessarily in the best interest of the children or the family system. With some exceptions, a parent has the right to continue a parental role throughout their child’s life. Reunification counselling is a valid and useful way to re-stablish a relationship between an estranged parent and their children. Within this framework, the goal is to work through the obstacles in the family
system so that children can derive the benefits of healthy involvement of both parents.
Reunification therapy is best suited for:
- A parent who has not seen their child(ren) for a significant period of time.
- An estranged parent who has attempted to independently re-establish a
relationship with their child(ren) several times without success.
- An estranged parent who believes that they have been alienated from their
Structure of the Treatment
There is an increasing body of literature which suggests the most effective treatment modality to support the reunification process utilizes a family therapy approach. From this lens, every family member should be involved in the therapeutic process as all family members are considered to be part of the solution to ongoing family difficulties. Within this approach, the aligned parent’s collaboration with the therapeutic goals acts as a catalyst for change. Because this approach entails involvement from the entire family, family therapy is considered to the be the optimal treatment modality.
With this approach, treatment goals are set not only for the family as a system, but also for each individual family member. While we increase the aligned parent’s support for the child’s relationship with the other parent, we simultaneously build up the relationship between the child and the estranged parent. At the same time, we support improved communication and cooperation between parents and establish appropriate roles and boundaries within the family.
Prospective clients or their lawyers are welcome to request Reunification Counselling from one of our trained associates at Toronto Psychological Services. We begin with a one-hour consultation with the alienated parent. If our terms of service are deemed satisfactory to all parties, we will draft a uniquely tailored plan for this therapeutic intervention which will be submitted to the client and/or their counsel.
At Toronto Psychological Services, we offer sensitive, experienced and professional services that facilitate reconnection between children and their estranged parents. All parties involved will be supported by a clinician with significant education, training and expertise in psychological functioning, child psychology, family systems therapy, developmental psychology, and adult psychology. For more information about our Reunification Counselling Services or to book an appointment with one of our clinical therapists, call (416) 531-0727 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.