Reunification Counseling – Kathleen Coughlin, LCSW – (60-Minutes)
Reunification Counseling is aimed at helping a parent and child re-establish a relationship after a period of separation or trauma. The counseling is aimed at identifying and processing issues that have occurred as a result of or leading up to the lack of contact. The reunification process is child-focused. The goal is to help the parent understand their child’s needs for an ongoing and healthy relationship. Reunification Counseling may be court-ordered or both parents may agree to the counseling occurring. It is important to address these issues and seek the support of a qualified professional.
Reunification counseling is also recommended in situations where a child may be refusing to spend time with one parent. This may occur in families that are going through a high conflict separation or divorce. In some cases, a parent and child may have had a conflict that was emotionally stressful on the child. It is important for the child to have an opportunity to process their feelings and have their voice heard by the parent. In these situations, it is imperative for the parent and child to work with a counselor to address the specific concerns that occurred in your family. If the child feels that they were wronged or treated unfairly, it is important for the parent to apologize and rebuild trust with the child.
Reunification counseling is a vital step to build a healthy, safe, and stable parent and child relationship. Research has shown that disrupted parent & child relationships have a negative impact on children of all ages. Children and adolescents who have a disrupted relationship with one parent are at long-term risk for stress-related physical health problems, anxiety, depression, sexual impulsivity, substance abuse, academic issues, and challenges in social settings. Reunification counseling with a qualified professional is in the best interest of the children. It is important that the child knows that both parents are committed to fulfilling parental roles.
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait; it’s how we behave while we waiting.” – Joyce Meyer
Family Legal Options
If the other parent is not agreeing to allow a parent to see a child, it may be useful to seek the assistance of a mediator or family law attorney. If you are not able to resolve the issue at mediation, a judge will identify a qualified licensed counselor that can work to support the healing of your relationship with the child. If the court does order reunification counseling, it is helpful if the order outlines that both parents should cooperate with the reunification counseling and the counselor’s recommendations.
Reunification Counseling Assessment and Preparation
Reunification counseling preparation begins with the counselor meeting with each parent and the children individually for at least 1-2 sessions. Each party will have an opportunity to share what they feel is important for the counselor to be aware of to help the family. The reunification counselor may also request to talk with other individuals that know the child well – Ex. Teachers, Extended Family Members, Coaches. It is important that both parents are able to put their feelings aside so that they can be supportive participants in the reunification process. Assigning blame to either parent is not helpful and can be damaging to the relationship with the children. The reunification counselor will encourage the parents to keep their feelings aside and not be confrontative in front of the children. The reunification counselor will develop a positive working relationship with the children and engage both parents in the process.
Family and Individual Sessions
After interviewing family members individually, the reunification counselor will begin to meet with the children and the non-custodial parent. Every case is different and at Ocean Vista Counseling, we follow a Child First and Child Focused Reunification Counseling Plan. During family meetings, the priority will be to address the emotions and feelings of the children. The goal is for the children to feel safe and be able to express their feelings openly during the sessions. The reunification counselor will be present to support the child during all of the counseling sessions. The parent may hear things from the child that upsets them, we encourage parents to not discuss their feelings with the children. We suggest that parents may want to seek out their own professional counseling services during the process.
During the reunification counseling, the counselor will monitor the interactions of the parent and children. The goal of counseling is to gradually increase the amount of time that children spend with the non-custodial parent if it is clinically recommended. This would not occur until the family consistently has worked through developing a healthy relationship, open communication, and conflict has decreased.
Results of Reunification Counseling
The results of reunification counseling will vary in each family system. The initial sessions will be used to discuss the reasons that caused the separation. It is important that both parents understand that during the process their own behaviors need to change for the benefit of their children. As they interact with one another in the future, they will need to monitor their behaviors so that the child is not placed in the middle.
Ocean Vista Counseling Offers the following services
In addition to Reunification Counseling, our office also offers Co-Parent Counseling, Supervised Visitation, Family Mediation, and Parenting Coordination. Please feel free to contact the office directly at 386-449-8600 and ask to talk with Kathleen Coughlin, LCSW.