Whole Family Interventions
Family conflict is best resolved with the whole family in mind. At CFR, we invite the participation of all family members living in each home to participate in programs. One of the most common reasons families seek intensive intervention is when children are resisting contact or not seeing one of their parents after the parents separate or divorce. Reunification is often a goal for the family. Children resist contact with a parent for a variety of reasons including*:
1. A fragile or vulnerable child due to a unique temperament, or a child who has symptoms of anxiety, is fearful, emotionally troubled, or has special needs with poor coping and reality testing
2. Developmental factors such as age-appropriate separation anxiety, normal response to conflict
3. Alienating behavior of the parent favored by the child which may or may not be accompanied by over-parenting (infantilizing the child), under-parenting (parentifying the child) or other practices that interfere with healthy development of the individual and/or critical thinking skills
4. Problematic aspects of the resisted parent’s personality including counter-rejection;
5. Domestic violence/abuse and child abuse or neglect
6. Chronic litigation, which often involves various third parties in each parent’s social circle who may act as a negative influence further polarizing the family
7. Sibling dynamics or dynamics introduced by new significant others /spouses and pressures arising from within the family system
* taken from Polak et al, Responding to Severe Parent-Child Rejection Cases Without a Parentectomy. Family Court Review, April 2020.
A combination of education and corrective emotional experiences are typically required to remedy the issues. Sessions can take place in two primary formats – sessions in an office setting, or an intensive weekend program. A hybrid format is available when suitable for an individual family.
We are a group of experienced professionals who specialize in working with complex family situations. We are all committed to a family-systems model, recognizing that all family members contribute to the situation in multiple ways. Each family will have a team of professionals to support and intervene in the family dynamic. Working with us, families create their playbook for moving forward.
- Quality, Age-appropriate Parenting
- Promote healthy development
- Create safe environments
- Positive communication
- Cooperative Co-Parenting
- Effective communication
- Parent Growth
- Flexible thinking
- Emotional regulation
Sessions in an office setting are one or two hours in length and take place over many months. Family members meet with the professionals in various combinations (child only, child and either parent, child and both parents, only the parents, only one parent). Sessions are typically $150 – $180 per hour and this service is not covered by insurance.
The intensive weekend intervention typically runs from 1:00 pm on Friday to 1:00 pm on Monday, and is held at a camp or other facility with adventure and team-building activities on site. The children stay at a secure facility with overnight supervision so they are not in the care of either parent. The weekend intervention costs vary depending on the venue, activities and staffing requirements. This service is not covered by insurance. Shorter intensive interventions are available when suitable for an individual family.
In either format, the following steps make it possible to restructure the family dynamic and create enduring change:
1. Effective court orders. Orders must include all expectations for the parties to engage within the intervention intake process, the intervention, and include a follow-up timeline for a return to court for finalizing any agreements made during the intervention or address remaining issues not agreed upon.
2. Professional team. A team is typically made up of a therapist for the child, a coach for each of the parents, and a team lead or program director. Other professionals for in-office programs may include a guardian ad litem or parenting coordinator. Staff for the intensive weekend include the recreation staff and overnight supervisors for the children. The team must be well-trained to work together and model healthy functioning for the family.
3. Preparation of the parents. For an effective intervention, the focus is on created shared messages for the parents to deliver, jointly and separately to the children. The parents work individually with the professionals so they are able to demonstrate responsibility, managed emotions, an open mind, flexible thinking, and positivity for a new future. The parents work jointly to create or restore a family dynamic where the parents make the decisions supported by both parents. Parents learn to thoughtfully engage with the children and listen to the child’s voice without giving children authority to make adult decisions. The parents learn to understand the impact of their behavior on the children and the overall dynamic.
4. Engaging activities. The family has the opportunity to have fun and problem-solve together during the intervention. In-office sessions include games as well as facilitated conversation. The intensive weekend intervention includes several hours of facilitated conversation, and up to six hours of recreational and learning activities each day. Parents and the child engage in activities both individually with their support person or coach, as well as engaging in activities together, which provides a corrective emotional experience among family members.
5. New behaviors. During the intervention each parent identifies actions they could have taken that would have assisted the family functioning. The parents present a new family narrative to the child, emphasizing the shift from blame to responsibility and cooperation. Parents determine what behaviors they can commit to going forward to ease the situation and keep the child from the middle of adult conflict. Parents declare their commitments to each other and to the child.
6. Co-parent support. The child observes the parents working together. Parents work toward maintaining positive communication and healthy boundaries. Parents work together to create new agreements for communication, on-going decision making, parenting time, financial issues, or other matters affecting co-parenting. All agreements are documented so that parents have them in writing for an attorney to draft and file legal paperwork.
7. After-care. Typically, the after-care specialist is part of the professional team during the intervention. This professional works with the family to continue to support on-going change.