Reunification therapy works to bring children who have been separated from parents back into a positive relationship with them. It seeks to identify communication issues and rebuild trust between a child and an estranged parent. The therapy begins by examining what issues resulted in the separation in the first place and then coming up with goals on how to rebuild that relationship. Reunification therapy often results from a court order.
Unlike most therapies, the counselor in reunification therapy is often responsible to the courts, not to the patient. The counselor serves as a mediator and meets with both the child and the reunifying parent individually before talking with them together. By serving as a safe person for both the parent and the child, the therapist must navigate what things must occur to mend the relationship in a safe and beneficial way for both parties.
According to E.M. Ellis, in an article that appeared in American Journal of Family Therapy, alienated parents should have five goals in reunification therapy:
- Work to change a children’s negative image of the parent
- Avoid actions that immerse the child in greater conflict
- Consider ways to deal with their own anger and negative feelings
- Look for ways to break down the walls between the child and alienated parent
- Do not stop working on trying to reunify with your child.
Children who have been separated from parents are often emotionally and psychologically damaged and are more cautious to enter into the trusting relationship that is needed in order for reunification therapy to be successful. Often, it is beneficial for the child and both parents to be participating in individual therapy as well. By growing healthier individually, relationships can often be mended more quickly. The most important part of reunification therapy is that the counselor and both parents have the best interest of the child at heart.