Reunification Counseling is a process that can be started voluntarily if both parents agree 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 your family. If the child feels that they were wronged or treated unfairly, the parent will need to apologize and rebuild trust with the child.
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 impact on children of all ages. Reunification Counseling with a qualified professional is in the best interest to support the child.
“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 professional may be assigned to support the healing of your relationship with your child. Your attorney can request that the court order reunification counseling. Both parents should cooperate with the reunification 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 the 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 1-6 sessions, this is determined by the counselor.
It is important for the Reunification Counselor to develop a positive working relationship with the children and engage both parents in the process. Both parents will need to put their feelings aside so that they can be supportive participants in the reunification process. During the process, the counselor will encourage both parents to put their feelings aside and behave positively in front of their children.
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 be able to express their feelings openly. The counselor will be present to support the child emotionally during all of the counseling sessions.
During sessions, the parent may hear things from the child that upsets them. We 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 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 decreased conflict.
Results of Reunification Counseling
The results of reunification counseling will vary in each family system. Both parents must 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.