Reunification counseling is used when one or more children have lost contact with a parent, usually as a result of a challenging separation or divorce. A loss of parent-child relationship can be particularly damaging to a child emotionally in the long term, and professional, therapeutic intervention is often necessary.

The process of reunification and the role of the reunification therapist usually includes the following components:

  • Build a trusting, therapeutic relationship with the child/children. This can take time, because children who are estranged from a parent tend to be more frightened, anxious, and mistrusting of adults in their world, particularly new adults.
  • Build a relationship with both parents, and sometimes other family members. Both parents should feel understood and supported by the reunification therapist, and trust his or her clinical experience, even though the reunification therapist may be asking both of them to act outside of their current beliefs and comfort zones.
  • It is the reunification therapist’s role to hold each parent accountable for the steps each has to take to ensure a successful reunification. Ultimately, both parents must believe the reunification therapist is not taking sides in the parents’ conflict and is strictly acting on behalf of their children. If relevant, the past hurts, anger, and failures in the marriage must be released in order to make way for a new beginning as co-parents.
  • Individual therapy is often necessary for children and parents for support and to separate out individual challenges that may be impeding the progress of the reunification.
  • It is also essential that the professionals involved work in a collaborative spirit giving hope to the family that one plan can evolve to successfully move the family forward.

Success in the reunification process will be achieved if both parents place equal faith in the professionals they engage. It is important that parents:

  • Engage a reunification therapist that they both trust and believe will work well with their children.
  • Engage a reunification therapist who understands the role of any court-appointed neutral, such as a Parenting Consultant, and is willing to work in tandem with him/her.
  • Support each other’s role as parent to the children in words and actions.
  • Make decisions about the children in meetings with the professionals and follow through on these decisions to the best of their ability.

Adapted from www.councilforrelationships.org, 2017


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Still unsure?

We get it! Getting help is a big decision. If you are curious to learn more about how family counseling works before jumping in, submit your name and email address and we’ll send you more information.