Reunification Therapy is a practice that is now becoming more common for families who have experienced a high-conflict divorce or separation. Reunification Therapy can be defined as a kind of therapy used to re-introduce the parents and children to a supportive relationship, under the supervision and therapeutic guidance of a skilled therapist. Typically, the amount of time the process will take relies on the level of resistance from each of the parents, as well as the cooperation of the children. The time it takes to fully assess each individual involved will also play a large role in the length of the overall process.
Although organization such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) have not yet established “official” protocols for reunification therapy, our Palm Beach County forensic psychologists and mental health providers utilize current literature and the research published in peer reviewed journal articles to guide the reunification process.
Here is a quick look at how Reunification Therapy works at our agency. If you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to give our office a call: 561-429-2140
1. Review Records
The first step of the process is to review as many records (i.e., psychological evaluations, medical records, mental health records, legal history, etc.) as possible, to screen for important details about the family members, as well as the family’s specific issues that need to be addressed. This will be one of the most important steps, as this is where the therapist can begin to build a unique treatment plan for the family members and identify potential safety issues.
Once the therapist has finished reviewing all of the records, an intake appointment is then made with each of the family members to review all of the forms, answer questions, and begin to assist the family in understanding what the reunification process will look like. During this meeting, if additional services were recommended in the evaluation (such as individual therapy, parenting skills, etc.), the therapist could get each family member set up with one of our other clinicians to begin the recommended services.
Although it is not a requirement, keeping all family members and services in one practice can sometimes help keep the process smooth and cohesive.
In order to get the reunification therapy started, each parent will meet with the therapist individually about 2-4 times each. The reason for this is to get an overview of the family history, their primary concerns, and commitment level. During this process our therapist will also assess the parent for specific needs for services such as psycho-education or individual therapy, which are both services our agency provides. This will also be one of the longest stages of reunification.
Shortly after beginning to work with parents, the therapist will begin to see the children individually (usually between 4 to 6 sessions each) to help them understand the reunification process and allow them to begin expressing their feelings about the situation. Over several sessions, the therapist and child will begin to address any firm decisions that were previously made regarding the relationship with their parents, clarify boundaries, review realistic expectations, and establish a clear schedule for reunification.
The process of reunifying will begin with therapeutic supervised communication that is not in person (i.e., texting, emails, phone contact, Skype). During this phase, the therapist is able to correct or guide the parent(s) in learning appropriate behaviors when interacting with their children. Once the therapist feels all members involved are ready to progress to the next level, supervised visits are then introduced. Supervised visitation allows the parents to interact with the children in a controlled environment where if any “mistakes” are made, the therapist will be present and able to suggest appropriate behaviors and/or actions.
Once the family has graduated from supervised visitations, the family can then engage in unsupervised contact which will eventually lead to unsupervised timesharing with progressively longer visits. Although every situation is different, the long-term goal is generally to have the estranged parent(s) become regularly involved in the child’s life, while eventually establishing or resuming an active parenting role. Families will generally have a follow-up visit from the therapist about a month after successfully completed reunification therapy to evaluate how the family has been doing.
Q: Can your agency provide both supervised visitations and reunification therapy?
A: Yes, our agency is fully equipped with the tools, staff, and expertise required to provide any and all necessary services.
Q: What if there is Parental Alienation?
A: Our therapists have experience and knowledge in identifying parental alienation behaviors and will work with the appropriate members of the family to ensure the treatment of the parental alienation.
Q: Why is it so hard to find therapists that provide Reunification Therapy?
A: Usually Reunification Therapy is court-ordered, which means additional reporting to the court may be necessary throughout the entire process. Ideally the therapist should have some legal knowledge and/or experience in the courtroom.
Q: My children aren’t ready to see the other parent, nor do they want to!
A: It is a very important part of reunification therapy that the custodial parent encourages and support the participation of their children in building a new relationship with the non-custodial parent. It is also the custodial parent’s responsibility to support and encourage the non-custodial’s involvement in the process.
Q: Will my insurance cover these services? How will I pay for these services?
A: Currently, our agency does not accept insurance. Our rates depend on which clinician is chosen for your case; our agency currently has social workers, doctoral candidates, and licensed psychologists on staff. Rates will be discussed during the initial consultation session. We take all major credit cards, checks, and cash.
Call our office today for to schedule a free consultation on Reunification Therapy: