Reunification therapy in a child custody case is court-mandated therapy with the goal of reuniting children and parents and attempting to repair a parent-child relationship.
Reunification therapy is a kind of family therapy. It is often used in situations where a child is refusing to visit with or have a relationship with a parent. A damaged parent-child relationship could be caused by any number of issues including, for example, parental alienation, physical abuse, emotional abuse, lack of co-parenting, divorce conflict, and intense conflict between the parents both before and after the separation.
Therapy may progress in any number of ways. Typically the reunification therapist is working with a team that includes individual counselors for the parents and child. It might start out with an exchange of letters while individual therapy is progressing before the parent and child are ever brought together. When the therapy progresses to the stage where a parent and child are together in the reunification therapist’s office, the goal may be simply to have them do things together like play games before turning to issues in the parent and child relationship. On later with the focus turn to problems in their relationship.
Time spent in reunification therapy is not visitation. It is therapy with specific goals. While the reunification therapist will work towards the goals established by the court, he or she must do so in the context of the individuals in the case before them. Each family is different and there is no “one size fits all” solution. Sometimes there are setbacks that must be addressed. The parties are coached by the reunification therapist to learn how to listen, respond, and focus on making small steps.