Can Reunification Therapy Help Children Suffering from Parental Alienation?

When one parent deliberately alienates a child from another parent, the resulting harm can be profound. Children suffering from parental alienation risk growing up to be troubled adults with an unbalanced, unhealthy perspective of the world. As adults, they often experience lifelong feelings of guilt, shame, and resentment associated with the alienation. Furthermore, they can have difficulty forming close relationships, due to the intolerant or “rigid” way of thinking that stems from alienation.

Alienation can yield these consequences because a child is biologically hard-wired to love both parents. Fortunately, there is a treatment, known as reunification therapy that has helped even severely alienated children re-establish a healthy relationship with both parents.

What Does Reunification Therapy Involve?

Typically, the goal of reunification therapy for a child suffering from parental alienation is to spend incremental or extended periods of time with the alienated parent. The therapy component can involve a structured setting where professionals monitor the progress of the reunification after initially evaluating the status or severity of the child’s alienation.

Additionally, the alienated parent can be trained on how to react to some of the more troubling behaviors of alienated children. Some researchers place high confidence in reunification therapy, maintaining that many children essentially ‘snap back’ to normal as if the relationship had never been dampened in the first place.

For some children, this result can take weeks. For other children, the relationship normalizes in a matter of hours. For the process to be successful, the alienated parent must maintain a supportive environment and demonstrate that he or she does not blame the child for the alienation. (Woodall 222).

Can the Court Order Reunification Therapy?

Records show that at least one Virginia court has ordered reunification therapy in a child custody or visitation context (Owmby, 2018). In that and other Virginia cases, reunification therapy was contemplated as a mechanism to supervise or facilitate a reunion between a parent and child who had not seen each other in a long time for varying reasons. In other jurisdictions, however, reunification therapy has been ordered as a specific remedy for children alienated from one parent (Lanzana, 2017).

For more information on Parental Alienation as a syndrome, see our previous blog post.

Are you a parent experiencing the rejection and hopelessness that comes with being alienated from your child? Are you having custody and visitation issues? An experienced family law attorney, like any of the attorneys at Keithley Law, PLLC, can properly advise you on how to proceed. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

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