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 trauma or separation. Counseling is focused on identifying and processing issues that have occurred that led up to the lack of contact. The reunification process is child-focused. The goal is to help the parent understand their child’s needs as they begin to develop an ongoing and healthy relationship. Reunification Counseling may be court-ordered, or both parents may agree to seek counseling. It is essential to address these issues and seek the support of an experienced professional.
Reunification counseling is also available in situations where a child may be refusing to spend time with one parent. Reunification may be recommended 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 for the child. It is vital for the child to have an opportunity to process their feelings and have their voice heard by the parent. In these situations, the parent and child will work with a counselor to address the specific concerns that occurred in the family system. If the child feels that they were wronged or mistreated, the parent needs to apologize and rebuild trust with the child.
Reunification Counseling Research
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. The child must know that both parents are committed to fulfilling parental roles. Reunification is a vital step to build a healthy, safe, and stable parent and child relationship.
“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 family law attorney or family mediator. If you are not able to agree on a counselor on your own, the court may identify a qualified counselor that can work to support the healing of your relationship with your child. If the court does order reunification counseling, the order should document that both parents will cooperate and attend reunification counseling sessions as recommended.
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 information is important for the counselor to be aware of to help the children. The reunification counselor may also request to talk with other individuals that know the child well – Ex. Teachers, Extended Family Members, Coaches. Both parents must be 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 child to express their feelings to their parents, and parents must be prepared to listen to the children and discuss difficult topics. The reunification counselor will develop a positive working relationship with the children and engage parents in the process.
Family and Individual Sessions
After interviewing the family members individually, the counselor will eventually begin to meet with the children and the non-custodial parent. The counselor at what point they feel the child is ready for the first reunification session. At Ocean Vista Counseling, we follow a Child First and Child Focused Reunification 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, and we encourage parents not to 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 sessions, 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 clinically recommended. Reunification will not occur until the family consistently has worked through developing a healthy relationship, open communication, trust, and improve co-parenting.
Results of Reunification Counseling
The results of reunification counseling will vary in each family system. The initial sessions are utilized to discuss the reasons that caused the separation. Both parents must understand that during the process, their behaviors need to change for the benefit of their children. As parents interact with one another in the future, they will need to monitor their actions, tones, and responses so that the child is not feeling they are placed in the middle.
Ocean Vista Counseling offers the following services:
In addition to Reunification Counseling, our office also offers Co-Parent Counseling, Family Mediation, and Parenting Coordination. Please feel free to contact the office directly at 610-248-0059 and ask to talk with Kathleen Coughlin, LCSW.