Policy for Working with Child of Separated/Divorced Parents
When the therapist is working with a child with separated or divorced parents, the counselling process can face many challenges. As a result, the therapist adheres to this policy to guide the counselling process in order to ensure that the best interests of your child are addressed throughout the counselling process.
- Therapy is more effective when a child is viewed within the context of their family. Your child’s therapist will involve all active and engaged caregivers to create the most significant and lasting change for your child.
- Even though the parents have decided that separating is the right choice for them, the child may not share this view. Children benefit from an ongoing relationship with both parents, unless serious parental deficits and/or abuse and/or neglect are occurring which could significantly impact the health (physical and mental) and safety of the child.
- A child typically experiences the best outcomes in therapy if he or she believes that the therapist can be trusted to explore thoughts, feelings and opinions. If the expectation is that the therapist will reveal the content of the session to the parent(s), the child can and will shut down and will no longer benefit from counselling.
- The goal of the therapist is to help your child to cope with the challenges that the separation or divorce has caused them and to develop the skills to overcome those challenges. The goal of the therapist is to help the parents and family in a way that is appropriate to help your child to achieve these skills. Your child’s therapist will not pick sides or identify one parent as the right or best parent. The therapist will not lecture one parent into complying with the demands of the other parent. This approach is counterproductive and not helpful to the child, and can be detrimental to the counselling process and the mental wellbeing of your child.
- The involvement of court hearings and proceedings is counterproductive to the goals of the counselling relationship and the therapist hopes that parents involved in their child’s counselling will take a step back from court proceedings regarding custody and recommendations for the child until the counselling experience has been completed. This does not include court proceedings related to child abuse and/or neglect.
- Your child’s therapist will require a copy of court documentation indicating custody arrangements, allowances or restrictions for contact between parent and child, court orders for counselling or any other legal documentation related to the medical care of the child before any counselling will take place.
- The therapist will try to include both parents in the counselling process except for in cases when it is expected that doing so would cause serious detriment to the child.
- Parents should understand that ALL verbal and written communication (face-to-face, phone call, email, written communication, or any other documentation provided to the therapist) is allowed to be shared with the other parent and with the child if the therapist deems it necessary. Any written communication will become part of the child’s clinical file as record of communication. It is unethical for the therapist to withhold information regarding threats of bringing the other parent back to court, allegations of the other parent being the ‘cause’ of the child’s problems, threats to sabotage the parent’s relationship with the child, etc. Aside from suspected abuse and neglect, the therapist must remain transparent about all communication in order to create the most healthy and productive working relationship.
- The law indicates that parents have the right to access records of their child’s treatment, however, parents should understand the difference between mental health records and medical records and the sensitive information contained within them. Mental health professionals have the right to refuse release of these records to parents or any other entity if they believe that doing so would cause harm to the child. In cases of separation and/or divorce, this is almost always the case as information shared within these records can never be un-read by the parents and can and will impact the parent-child relationship going forward. Therefore, the therapist will not release the mental health record of the child to the parent when it is not in the child’s best interests to do so, unless required by law.
- The therapist urges the parents to respect this policy as it is in place to protect the well-being of your child as well as the quality of the relationship between you and your child.
- Your child’s therapist may include extended family and/or step-family into the counselling process as necessary and appropriate for the course of treatment. However, in order for the therapist to communicate with other family members besides the biological family (biological parents and siblings), both parents must sign a release of information allowing that communication.
- Communication with extended family and/or step-family will not be allowed unless both parents consent to that communication. Depending on the age of the child, the child’s consent may also be required.
- The therapist is not responsible for communication outside of the session with any parent who chooses not to attend the appointments. For example, the therapist will not contact the non-attending parent via phone or email after each session. It is not realistic to expect the therapist to provide a summary letter, email or phone call the parent who chooses not to come to sessions. Please note that health plan insurance providers typically do not cover email, letter or phone conversations.
- The therapist expects that parents will communicate with each other regarding the child’s treatment and recommendations. Please note that the therapist will NOT arrange for additional communication outside of the session. To do so would result in an unhealthy co-parenting relationship.
- The therapist will NOT accept phone calls, voice mails, emails or other communications directed at pitting the therapist against the other parent. If/when these communications are received, the other parent will be notified. Such communications include, but are not limited to:
- Facebook messages, posts
- Video and/or tape recordings
- Voice mails
- Other communication aimed at proving the other parent’s wrong doing and encouraging the therapist to pick a side
- It is the therapist’s duty to understand the history of the child and their family and what has contributed to the reason for counselling. This should not be misconstrued to mean that the therapist should be required to read or listen to any information that the parent(s) deem appropriate to share. The therapist reserves the right to dictate what information is appropriate and inappropriate for the counselling relationship and to refuse to accept information that isn’t appropriate for counselling. Unless required by law, the therapist also reserves the right to ignore and/or not respond to any communication that is not appropriate for the counselling relationship, including but not limited to:
- Requests for reviewing court documents
- Journals/written records of behaviours
- Phone calls of inappropriate content
- Text messages between parent/parents and others
- Email correspondence between the parent/parents and others
- Facebook messages, posts
- Video, pictures and/or tape recordings of the other parent
- Voice mails
- The parent who initially sets up counselling for the child is considered the guarantor. This means that this parent is considered financially responsible for covering the cost of services and communicating cost and reimbursement with the other parent. Our office requires a valid credit card on file prior to booking appointments.
- It is the responsibility of the parents to provide the appropriate payments to the therapist, not the responsibility of the therapist to provide billing according to court ordered co-parenting financial agreements. It is not feasible to expect the therapist to send separate, divided bills to each parent according to their agreed-upon percentage rates.
- When requested, the therapist will provide receipt of payment to the parent(s) for their payments. It is the parents’ responsibility to work together to share receipts, not the therapist’s responsibility to update parents on what the other has and has not paid.
- The therapist expects parents to communicate regarding scheduled appointments. The therapist will NOT be responsible for scheduling sessions according to non-custodial parent’s visit schedule. It is not feasible to expect the therapist to remember the visit schedule and any changes to that schedule. The therapist expects that the parent scheduling the session will show respect to the needs of the child to spend time with both parents and will refrain from specifically scheduling appointments as a way to take time away from the other parent.
- In some cases, one or both parents may decide to take legal action regarding custody of the child. Therapy and legal testimony are very different services and the therapist’s goal first and foremost is to create a supportive, safe relationship with your child for the purpose of achieving therapy goals. The therapist will NOT provide recommendations regarding custody of your child. The therapist will communicate with legal professionals as required by law, but all professionals and parents should know that the therapist’s responsibility is for confidentiality and protection of the counselling relationship with your child, not to assist one parent in ‘winning’ their case.
- The therapist will not speak to one parent’s attorney without the consent of the other parent. This is counterproductive to therapy. When required by law, the therapist will communicate with legal professionals.