Reunification therapy is a process designed to improve or reestablish the relationship between a parent and child. The focus of reunification therapy is on ascertaining the source of the refuse-resist dynamic between the rejected parent and child and thereafter working with the family to build or rebuild a healthy and connected relationship with the rejected parent. Reunification therapy is not an alienation evaluation. While recommendations may be made related to the therapeutic process itself, custody or parenting time recommendations will not be made as doing so would interfere with the child’s or coparents neutrality of the therapist. A reunification therapist helps the child(ren) work through his/her perceptions of the family conflict, and each parent distinguish valid concerns from overly negative, critical, and generalized views relating to the other parent.
Tailored Interventions Based in Research: Cases of parent-child contact problems are complex and multidetermined; therefore, a child may resist or reject a parent to varying degrees and for many reasons or combination of reasons. Having formalized training on interventions for children’s alignment and resistance, Dr. Forshee is trained to assess, conceptualize and intervene from a research-oriented and objective approach using a systems-based, multi-factor model that provides guidance to explain why some children resist contact or reject one parent and remain aligned with the other. Several interacting factors typically create a “perfect storm” for a continuum of parent-child contact problems.
Review of Relevant Documentation (Assessment Phase Part I): Any and all documents that are deemed relevant to Dr. Forshee’s role and responsibilities are reviewed. Each party is responsible to have his/her attorney send any documents that are deemed relevant to her responsibilities as Reunification Therapist. These include, but are not limited to any judicial or consent orders) that have been signed in connection with your case and that are relevant to the issues in dispute; any final judgment of divorce that may have been entered; custody/ parenting time evaluations that may have been completed by an expert; relevant pleadings; any written post-judgment parenting plans that may be in effect, and any other documents or information deemed relevant or necessary.
Clinical Interviews & Collateral (Assessment Phase Part II): Individual interviews occur with each coparent and children in the family, sometimes including children who are not resisting contact or estranged. Interviews with the children are conducted without the parents present. Throughout this process, Dr. Forshee will meet with the parents, their spouses or significant others (if applicable), the child(ren), any other individuals deemed necessary by Dr. Forshee to the reunification process or as otherwise agreed upon by the Parties or Court. Dr. Forshee will determine if any given appointment will be joint or separate. The purpose of the interviews is to allow Dr. Forshee to obtain the relevant facts and assess the issues surrounding the refuse-resist dynamic. If applicable, Dr. Forshee may also require interviewing any spouses, significant others, or other individuals deemed necessary. As a part of the assessment phase, Dr. Forshee may require obtaining information from certain collateral sources (e.g., custody evaluator, pervious or current therapist for parents and children, etc).
Intervention Phase: Upon completion of the assessment phase, a clinical conceptualization of the interacting factors resulting in refuse-resist dynamic may be provided to attorneys and the court (if applicable) and the parents. A proposed plan of action for reunification therapy will be submitted. Dr. Forshee will discuss the child(ren)’s readiness for contact with the rejected parent and assist the child(ren) to prepare for upcoming encounters with this parent. All efforts are made in this process to proceed at an appropriate pace for the child (which may be different for each child). This does not mean, however, that the child chooses when the first contact with the reunifying parent will occur. Sometimes when children have not had meaningful contact with the rejected parent for an extended period, they become anxious about resuming contact and must be encouraged to have this first encounter. This will not occur until Dr. Forshee deems that they are psychologically ready for the encounter. It is Dr. Forshee’s goal and intent to conduct joint sessions with the rejected parent and child(ren) as soon as possible, so long as consistent with the emotional safety and stability of the child(ren) and in their best interest. In this regard it is imperative that both parents meaningfully participate in and encourage the process.