Reunification Therapy

Reunification Therapy after Divorce: An Efficacious Approach to Rebuilding Parent-Child Relationships

Divorce is a life-changing event that dramatically reshapes family structures. While it can be a necessary step towards healthier lives for adults, children often find themselves in the crossfire, resulting in damaged parent-child relationships. One therapeutic intervention that has gained recognition for its ability to mend these fractured relationships is reunification therapy.

Parent and Family Stabilization Course

Reunification therapy is a therapeutic approach that aims to restore relationships between parents and children post-divorce. The goal is to establish a functional, positive relationship where conflict or estrangement has occurred (Fidler & Greenberg, 2012). This form of therapy is particularly beneficial when one parent has been alienated, either intentionally or unintentionally, following a divorce.

Research indicates that reunification therapy can significantly enhance the quality of parent-child relationships post-divorce. Saini et al. (2016) conducted a systematic review of studies on interventions for parental alienation and found that reunification therapy was one of the most effective approaches to rebuilding parent-child relationships. The authors noted that the therapy facilitated enhanced communication, empathy, and understanding between parents and children.

Another study by Warshak (2010) found that, after participating in reunification therapy, almost 90% of children who were previously alienated from a parent showed improved relationships. This included enhanced trust, open communication, and affection. The therapy also helps parents understand their children’s needs and emotions better, leading to more effective parenting (Warshak, 2010).

Reunification therapy utilizes several techniques to foster improved relationships. One common method is Family Systems Therapy, which seeks to understand and address the family as an interconnected system. It can help identify and rectify negative patterns of interaction (Nichols & Davis, 2020). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is also commonly used in reunification therapy. CBT can help parents and children challenge and change destructive thought patterns and behaviors, which can pave the way for improved communication and conflict resolution (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, & Fang, 2012).

Group sessions form another crucial part of reunification therapy. These sessions allow children to express their feelings openly and safely, and parents to listen and respond empathetically. They also provide a platform for parents to learn and practice effective parenting skills (Fidler & Greenberg, 2012).

Despite its efficacy, reunification therapy is not without challenges. The success of the therapy largely depends on the willingness and motivation of the parents and children involved. Resistance or lack of cooperation from either party can impede progress. Additionally, the therapy may not be effective in cases of severe parental alienation or where there are allegations of abuse (Drozd, Olesen, & Saini, 2018).

In summary, reunification therapy offers a promising approach to repairing and strengthening parent-child relationships following a divorce. It provides a structured, therapeutic environment where families can address their issues and work towards healthy, functional relationships. It is a versatile and effective tool, but its success hinges on the active participation and commitment of both parents and children. Further research is needed to explore the long-term effects of this therapy and to identify strategies for overcoming potential challenges.


  • Fidler, B.J., & Greenberg, L.R. (2012). Child Custody Assessments: A Resource Guide for Legal and Mental Health Professionals.
  • Saini, M., Johnston, J.R., Fidler, B.J., & Bala, N. (2016). Empirical studies of alienation. Family Court Review, 54(4), 680-699.
  • Warshak, R.A. (2010). Family Bridges: Using insights from social science to reconnect parents and alienated children. Family Court Review, 48(1), 48-80.
  • Nichols, M.P., & Davis, S.D. (2020). The essentials of family therapy. Pearson.
  • Hofmann, S.G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I.J.J., Sawyer, A.T., & Fang, A. (2012). The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognitive therapy and research, 36(5), 427-440.
  • Drozd, L., Olesen, N.W., & Saini, M.A. (2018). Parenting plan and child custody evaluations: Using decision trees to increase evaluator competence and avoid preventable errors. Springer.

Understanding Friedlander’s Approach to Reunification Therapy

Reunification therapy is a valuable intervention for addressing parent-child relationships post-divorce. Among the different approaches to this therapy, the model proposed by Dr. Marjorie Gans Walters and Dr. Milfred “Bud” Dale, and later modified by Dr. Michael Friedlander, is particularly noteworthy.

The Friedlander approach to reunification therapy, as described in Friedlander et al. (2011), is rooted in the concept of ‘therapeutic jurisprudence.’ This approach involves a balanced, family-systems perspective that integrates the legal and psychological components of the divorce process. Here, the therapist or psychologist plays a dual role, as a family therapist or psychologist, and as an arm of the court, acting as an adjunct to the judicial process.

Friedlander’s model establishes a structure for reunification therapy that focuses on three primary components: assessment, psychoeducation, and reunification interventions. The process begins with an assessment phase, which involves thorough individual and family assessments to understand the dynamics of the family and the sources of alienation or estrangement (Friedlander et al., 2011).

The psychoeducation phase aims to equip the family with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the post-divorce landscape. This includes educating parents about their children’s developmental needs, the harmful effects of parental conflict, and the importance of a relationship with both parents. Psychoeducation also involves teaching parents appropriate communication and parenting skills (Friedlander et al., 2011).

The final phase involves reunification interventions tailored to the specific needs of the family. These interventions can range from facilitating constructive communication to teaching emotion regulation skills. The psychologist or therapist maintains a neutral stance, focusing on the child’s best interest and fostering a positive relationship with both parents (Friedlander et al., 2011).

However, while Friedlander’s approach is promising, it is not without challenges. Resistance from either parent or the child can hinder progress (Friedlander et al., 2011). Additionally, allegations of abuse or severe parental alienation may require more specialized interventions.

In conclusion, Friedlander’s approach to reunification therapy presents a balanced, comprehensive model for rebuilding parent-child relationships post-divorce. It integrates assessment, psychoeducation, and tailored interventions, promoting healthier communication and improved relationships within the family. Further research is necessary to explore the long-term impacts of this approach and to address potential barriers to its implementation.


  • Friedlander, M. L., Walters, M. G., & Walters, M. G. (2011). When a child rejects a parent: Tailoring the intervention to fit the problem. Family Court Review, 49(1), 98-111.

We have several seasoned psychologists and family therapists who provide reunification therapy. We always recommend that reunification therapy should be done under a court order. Contact us for more information at [email protected] or 904-379-8094.

We also offer a high conflict coparenting course and the official court ordered parent education and family stabilization course. Both are completed online.


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