Reunification Counseling is a clinical procedure intended to reunify a child with an estranged parent in a manner that will be beneficial to the child and to both parents. Reunification counseling is usually not confidential and often includes one or more reports to the court, Family Court Services, another agency, or the child’s attorneys, if there is one.
This is one of the most difficult clinical procedures. My approach is to proceed very carefully. I first establish a relationship with both parents starting with the custodial parent. During this phase, I try to identify the major obstacles to reunification and devise an overall plan that is supported by both parents. I do not involve the child until after this is done. I then establish a relationship with the child through the custodial parent and then bring in the estranged parent. It is critical to keep the custodial parent informed and involved at each step in the reunification process.
Reunification counseling can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more, depending on the nature and the length of the estrangement. If it is done too quickly, there can be adverse reactions that can set the process back by months or years. The cost is typically about $2,000 to $4,000 for the first 2-3 months and then between $300 and $500 per month after that. The cost will be about $1,000-$2,000 more if a report is required. We can usually begin work within a few days if we can get the contracts signed and collect the retainers. The retainer is usually the estimated cost of the first two months of work and is renewable monthly.
If the child is currently in therapy, the reunification work must be closely coordinated with the child therapist. If the child is not already in therapy, I may recommend that it be started before proceeding with the reunification work. It is not uncommon for the estranged parent to become impatient with what seems like a very slow process, but I have found that moving very carefully offers the best chance for success in the shortest overall time.