Reunification Counseling is a process that can be started voluntarily if both parents are in agreement or it can be court-ordered. It is aimed at helping a parent and child re-establish a relationship after a period of separation or trauma. The counselor will need to understand what occurred that led up to the lack of contact. Reunification is child-focused to determine if a healthy and stable relationship can be developed.
During counseling, the child will have an opportunity to process their feelings and have their voice heard. In these situations, the parent and child will work with the Reunification Counselor to address the specific concerns that occurred in their family. If the child feels that they were wronged or treated unfairly, the parent will need to apologize and rebuild trust in their relationship.
When children have a disrupted relationship with one parent there is a long-term risk for stress-related physical and emotional health problems. Research has shown that a disrupted parent & child relationship will have a negative emotional impact on children of all ages. Reunification Counseling with a qualified professional is in the best interest to support the child’s emotional health.
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait; it’s how we behave while we waiting.” – Joyce Meyer
Family Legal Options
If a parent does not agree to allow the other parent to see a child, it may be useful to seek the assistance of a family law attorney or mediator. To resolve the issue, a qualified mental health professional may be assigned to support the healing of your relationship with your child. Your attorney can request that reunification counseling be ordered. Both parents will need to cooperate with the counselor and follow the recommendations.
Preparation for Reunification Counseling
The Reunification Counselor will meet with each parent individually. Each parent will have an opportunity to discuss what they feel is important for the counselor to be aware of to help their family. The counselor may also request to talk with other individuals that know the child well – Ex. teachers, extended family members, or coaches. The counselor will then meet with the children individually for at least 1-6 sessions (this varies with each family).
The Reunification Counselor needs to develop a positive working relationship with the children and engage both parents in the process. During the process, the counselor will encourage both parents to put their feelings aside and work to improve communication.
Family and Individual Sessions
It will be necessary for the Reunification Counselor to meet with the children and the non-custodial parent. Every case is different and we follow a Child First and Child Focused Reunification Counseling Plan. During family meetings, the priority is to address the emotions and feelings of the children. The goal is for the children to feel safe and so they express their feelings. The counselor will support the child emotionally during all of the counseling sessions.
During sessions, the parent may hear statements from the child that upset them. I suggest that parents seek out their own counselor to support them individually. The counselor will monitor the interactions of the parent and children. The goal of reunification counseling is to gradually increase the amount of time that children spend with the non-custodial parent if it is clinically recommended. This will not occur until the family consistently has worked through developing a healthy relationship, open communication, and conflict has decreased between family members.
Results of Reunification Counseling
The results of reunification counseling will vary in each family system. Both parents will need to engage in the reunification process. The goal is to improve communication for the best interest of their children.