After more than a decade of practicing family law I began to notice a pattern emerging in cases that I handled regarding a type of therapy called “reunification therapy”. The pattern went something like this:
1. Children became resistant to visiting a parent.
2. Children stopped visiting parent.
3. Other parent claims the children stopped visiting because the other parent is abusive.
In those cases where there was no evidence of abuse, and no evidence of any type of prior existing abuse of the children, or the former spouse, or anyone at all, the court would order visitation which, inevitably, would not happen.
At that stage, if it was not already ordered, the court would order “reunification therapy”.
The “reunification therapist” meets with the children, who then determines when they should meet with the parent who the children refuse to visit with. In cases like this, with no evidence of abuse, eventually the children meet with the parent and usually the children, at some point, attack the parent, make accusations against the parent, and repeat unsupported allegations in vague terms about alleged events for which there is no evidence at all.
Repeat and rinse.
In other words, reunification in cases like this are a “road to nowhere” where nothing happens. The children get older, they continue to refuse to visit, the parent under court order cannot be held in contempt because it’s “not their fault” and the children are “just expressing themselves”, and any return to court inevitably results in more therapy that goes nowhere. Thus it has all the appearance of being an effective measure without any of the actuality of it. Without a court willing to take the therapists out of the loop and have real consequences for the parent who are the root of the problem, the alienating parent wins. It’s a tried and true strategy that remains ultimately very effective unless the court chooses to exercise strong leadership and look at the facts.
As written by Craig Childress in his article, “On Unicorns, the Tooth Fairy, and Reunification Therapy”, simply put “There is no such thing as reunification therapy.”
If a therapist says that he or she does “reunification therapy,” ask for a citation reference regarding what “reunification therapy” is so that you can read up on “reunification therapy.” You will get no reference citation, because none exists. No model of “reunification therapy” has ever been proposed at any time, anywhere.
This does not mean it never works, it simply means that it is vastly more complicated than it appears at first glance, and that unless that person really knows what they are doing, it is unlikely to be effective.