Title: What happens in reunification therapy?
00:00:00 Speaker 1
After parental alienation and losing your child in a custody battle, is it still possible
to reunify? Well, let's talk about that today on tips on teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a
licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families
live happier lives. I lead two organizations teen Therapists Therapy Center and the nonprofit
501 c three organization, child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California.
Everyone's day at noon, I jump onto Facebook Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's
answer today's. My husband and I got divorced a little while back. I lost custody of my daughter.
Unfortunately, a lot of lies were told about me in court and to my daughter. Now the court is mandating
reunification therapy. How do I turn the narrative around about me that has been told to my daughter?
Thank you very much for your question. My heart goes out to you and your daughter and your family.
This is never an easy situation for
00:01:07 Speaker 1
anyone. It's a really tough slog, and it's not an easy fix. First thing you want to consider is
when you decide on a reunification therapist. This reunification therapist should probably
meet with your daughter individually several times. I don't know if that's three times, six
times. I don't know what that number is. It depends on the need for your daughter to feel safe
with that therapist, because right now, whether it was your fault or not your fault, she doesn't
trust you. She doesn't feel safe with you. And again, we wish that wasn't the case, but that's
the case. We have to deal with that. But we need her to feel safe with her therapist. So once she
has that safety and they have kind of set some boundaries of what they want, what your daughter
needs to get this situation going, then you join the session and your daughter is prepared and
ready for that. Because your daughter is going to come into that session arms folded, angry,
resentful, avoidant, whatever that may be. She's scared
00:02:13 Speaker 1
of this process, and there could be a lot of different reasons. Number one, based on her personal
experiences, number two, based on what she's been told, there could be a lot of feelings of,
hey, things are okay now. I like the way it is. I don't want to upset the apple cart. Allowing you
back in my life is scary. Even if you're not a physical danger, you're not harmed to her emotionally,
it may be really terrifying to her to open that door back up, because in her mind, the fear is I
can get disappointed again. I could get heartbroken again. I can get hurt again in some way.
Also, if there's parental alienation going on, there could be a lot of, well, I need to protect
my other parent, because if I accept you, I'm hurting the parent who's been so good to me over
the last year or whatever that is. And for a child or a teenager, that can be really confusing
and it's hard. And this is going to be a marathon. But when you start the process of reunification
therapy, don't defend yourself. Stay
00:03:15 Speaker 1
positive, stay warm, stay loving. Don't talk about the other parents, don't talk about the
injustices that happened to you. This is very challenging because this has been a big part of
your life and you just want to explain your point of view to your daughter. But she's not in a place
where she can hear it. She doesn't trust you. So anything you say is going to come across as you're
lying, you're misconstruing something, you're trying to manipulate me. So you just want to
stay positive, loving and accepting, so you can start repairing that trust little by little
with the therapist's help. And it's challenged. I wish there was an easy way to do this, and this
can take a long time. Also, we have to determine how old is your daughter. I don't really know
the age of your daughter, but her maturity level, where is she at maturity wise? A 17 year old
is going to deal with it much different than a seven year old and also depending on what's going
on in their lives. So there's a lot going on here.
00:04:10 Speaker 1
But what I would say is don't give up. If this is your reality, you feel you've been wronged. You
feel that lies been told about you. You feel like you are a good, loving, competent parent. Keep
showing up that way, keep taking the higher ground. It's not in these sessions, it's not about
your feelings and what you need. It's all about what she needs. And it's going to be a while for
her to get used to this process. But if you keep showing up, it's like a feral cat that you're trying
to warm up to. That feral cat is not going to eat out of your hand the first day. You have to put food
near her and slowly lure her. Lure is probably not the best word, but earn her trust towards you
until she's sitting in your lap and she's purring. That could take a while and you just have to
be patient. I wish there was an easy way around this, but unfortunately, when there's parental
alienation, most often it's the kids who suffer the most and it's horrible. But this is your
situation. I wish it was different.
00:05:12 Speaker 1
So make sure you find a good therapist who understands kids and teens who are going to take a neutral
point of view because that therapist, again, doesn't know all the details. That therapist
wasn't there, that therapist didn't see it. Firsthand therapist got your point of view, god,
Dad's point of view. Maybe even getting your daughter's point of view where the objective truth
is could be somewhere in the middle. I don't know. It's not for us to decide as therapists. It's
not for us to tell you who the right parent is and who the wrong parent is. It's our job to create
the environment where there's safety for respectful and honest communication. And then you
guys decide what you want. Anyways, my heart goes out to you again. It's a really tough situation.
Good luck to you again. My name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling.
If you'd like me to answer one of your questions here on tips on teens, email us at tipson email@example.com.
Or you can
00:06:11 Speaker 1
direct message us here on Facebook, instagram. We love your questions. Keep them coming. I
will see you next Wednesday at noon. Bye. Bye, guys.
it’s a marathon
For families going through the reunification process it’s important to remember that it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s never an easy situation and there’s no quick fix. Parents who are trying to connect with an estranged child need to know that the key to success is keeping a long view, keep showing up, and not giving up.
We recommend that parents just try to stay positive, warm and loving. And of course always resist talking about the other parent involved. These are the keys to rebuilding that all important trust.
For the kids…
For kids in reunification therapy there can be a lot of fear involved. Kids can have a lot of complicated emotions around allowing an estranged parent back into their life. A child can be scared of the process because of what they’ve experienced or what they’ve been told about a parent. They can also have conflicting emotions around how it might change their relationship with the other parent who is not in reunification therapy.
There’s a lot more to say about the topic, and we bring it all together in this Tips on Teens:
“My husband and I got divorced a little while back. I lost custody of my daughter. Unfortunately a lot of lies were told about me in court and to my daughter. Now the court is mandating reunification therapy. How do I turn the narrative around about me that has been told to my daughter?”
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.