The Role of Co-parenting Therapy in IFTs
Parents and attorneys often question the reasoning for co-parenting therapy sessions within the therapeutic process. The importance of attending to the co-parenting relationship is related to the potential impact on children. The research trends suggest that exposure to parental conflict can have significant negative effects on children. In particular, children can develop externalizing or internalizing symptoms or behaviors. Externalizing behaviors common in children exposed to parental conflict include anger and aggression, sexual acting out, and/or drug or alcohol use. Internalizing behaviors frequently found in children of high conflict parents include depression, anxiety, nightmares, and fear. Children may also experience challenges in school and relationships resulting from the increased stress of parental conflict.
Due to the potential for children to experience significant and longstanding effects resulting from exposure to parental conflict, it is imperative for parents to work together to develop healthier modes of communication and collaboration. During the IFT, parents are educated about the impact of parental conflict on children. There is an emphasis on shifting the co-parenting relationship to a business-like relationship that is focused on the goal of raising healthy well-adjusted children. In addition, sessions are used to help the parents reach agreement about future communication guidelines and techniques for resolving problems or disagreements. Without the distraction of co-parenting tension and conflicts, a child’s perceived need to choose between his or her parents will decrease and their focus can be redirected toward the ultimate goal of establishing a healthy parent-child relationship.
We recognize a perception that it is more cost effective to focus solely on the parent-child relationships and the child’s resistance to a parent. At FCE, we distinguish the relationship between the parents and their ability to work effectively together as an integral factor in encouraging the child’s adjustment and relationship with the estranged parent. Ultimately, parent-child dysfunction is often a result of multiple familial dynamics, not just issues within a single relationship. We have found that reducing the parental conflict is directly correlated with stabilization for children and health within their relationships with each parent. By attending to multiple relationships, including the co-parenting relationship, we maximize long-term success and family stabilization. As such, the intensive becomes the means to a shorter, cost effective and more efficacious process.