When the relationship between a parent and child has been disrupted, and it is desirable for them to be reunited, courts often enlist the help of a therapist to facilitate reunification. Most commonly, the non-custodial parent and the child have spent significant time apart. The therapist’s role includes making sure the parent and child reestablish their relationship in a safe manner and at a pace that is right for the child.
Reunification therapy involves different kinds of sessions, usually once per week over 8 to 12 weeks. Reestablishing the connection between a parent and child can be a relatively simple process, or it can be moderately or extremely complicated depending on the circumstances. In more complicated cases, there may be many sessions with the child prior to involving the non-custodial parent. While much of the process can come naturally for some parents and some children, there are many pitfalls that can be avoided with an experienced professional’s guidance.
Whatever the reasons may be for the original disruption of the parent-child relationship, there can be much that is unknown about what the relationship will be like going forward. It is very normal for a custodial parent to have many concerns. Specially trained reunification therapists make sure they understand these concerns before they begin sessions between the non-custodial parent and the child. In my practice, I prefer to meet with the custodial parent in my office. This gives us a chance to go over her or his concerns and review what ground rules will be in place. If there is a high level of conflict or a history of domestic violence in the family, it could be important to implement procedures that prevent the parents from interacting with each other or even being in the same place at the same time. Meeting with the custodial parent is also a chance to review policies, including what will be expected in terms of not obstructing the reunification process.