This very helpful article was written by Tiffany Rochester and is reprinted with her permission. You can find themOriginal article here, along with other posts from his blog.
Please note that this article was written in Australia and references to legal principles are relevant to Australia only.
It is nothing new to say that parents' separation/divorce has a significant impact on children. In the short term, this includes the initial trauma of separation and adjustment to new living conditions. Even with the most amicable, conscientious, and child-centered breakup, a child faces the daunting task of coming to terms with the fact that the two people they love most in the world no longer love each other. In the meantime, these two people are trying to become parents while going through one of life's most stressful and painful challenges. Not surprisingly, parental separation is associated with a range of negative consequences for children, including psychological adjustment, academic performance, behavioral problems, self-concept, and social adjustment  (this is the bad news).
However, most children of divorce grow up well and 70% of risk factors are preventable or modifiable . To reduce this risk and manage a child's healthy development, many parents may at some point enlist the assistance of a clinical psychologist or other therapist to provide support for their child and family. Ideally, this would be a joint parental decision, but sometimes one parent acts unilaterally, over objection (or ignorance) from the other parent.This post is for parents who are concerned or opposed to their ex taking their child to a psychologist, and will hopefully put your mind at ease by explaining the ethical and legal safeguards within which the psychologist works.
What will the psychologist do?
Involving a psychologist for a short or longer period in your child's life is a great way to ensure that all their developmental, social and emotional needs are met, in every home and in touch with all caregivers. The psychologist will use their clinical skills, knowledge, tools and assessments to:
Gather appropriate information to inform your opinion and treatment plan, including (if applicable) obtaining parental permission to contact the child's school/daycare AND - of course -the other father.
Form an informed opinion about your child's developmental, social, and emotional needs.
see where and how these needs are being met; and any areas where your child could use more support or development.
Draw on current research and best-practice guidelines on attachment, development, family dynamics, the impact of family violence and abuse, family members' mental health, and children's perspectives to design and implement interventions that support your son's healthy development .
Discontinue your service when no treatment is deemed acceptable or when treatment goals have been met.
Can my ex take my child to a psychologist without my consent/knowledge?
Yes, perhaps. A lot depends on the terms of your separation, particularly parental orders. Although the consent and involvement of both parents is generally desirable,There is no legal or ethical obligation for the psychologist to contact the other parentBeforeBeginning of a therapeutic relationship with the child. The psychologist has the legal and ethical authority to take over prior to the first appointment and the parent making the appointment has the authority and consent to do so.
It is reasonable to expect that at the initial consultation, the psychologist will clarify all parental mandates and responsibilities and determine whether it is legal, ethical, or appropriate to proceed with the consent of a single parent. The psychologist must weigh the benefits and risks to your child of proceeding with a single parent's consent. If a psychologist determines that it would not be in the child's best interest to involve the other parent,They can legally and ethically document their reason and proceed with the consent of a single parent. In this case, according to a psychologist's ethical guidelines, they are not allowed to confirm or deny to you whether your child is a client in their practice.
„In the absence of the consent of the parent and the young personfor disclosing information to the other parent and when the other parent seeks information about the psychological care of the young person, psychologists have a duty to respect the confidentiality of the young person, which includesNo indication as to whether a psychological service was rendered or not.“
APS Ethical Guidelines for Working with Young People, s8.2, added underlined emphasis
However, the guidelines also guide the psychologist to assess the appropriateness of guidance and involvement in the therapeutic process during reception:
“In situations where the adolescent's parents are separated, the psychologist clarifies with the parent-client and the adolescentat the starta mental health service, the extent of potential involvement of the other parent and what information, if any, should be disclosed to the other parent and the possible consequences of non-disclosure.”
APS Ethical Guidelines for Working with Young People, s8.1, added underlined emphasis
Therefore, from the outset, the psychologist will talk to the other parent about how to include them in therapy—and the risks and benefits of doing so. Interestingly, in the vast majority of families I worked with, this meant that my first action after the initial consultation(s) was to contact the other parent and invite them to participate.
I worry that somehow this will lead to a reduction in the amount of time I spend with my children.
Working with children in bitter breakups is a specialized area of work, and it is reasonable to expect and require that any psychologist involved in the care of your child have training and experience working with separated families.
The Family (Shared Parental Responsibility) Amendment Act 2006 specifically states that each parent retains parental responsibility unaffected by changes in the relationship (261C) and therefore the court must apply the presumption thatIt is in the child's best interest that parents have equal parental responsibilities“. Exceptions to this are made when there is reason to believe that child abuse or domestic violence is occurring. The law ensures that the best interests of children are served by ensuring children havethe best interests of both parents to the maximum extent compatible with the best interests of the child, to ensure that children receive appropriate and appropriate parental care to enable them to reach their full potential and to ensure that parents fulfill their duties and responsibilities.
It is in children's best interests for their long-term health and well-being, including their ability to recognize and form healthy friendships and romantic bonds, that any difficulties in contact with a "disadvantaged parent" are resolved to their satisfaction. Therefore, the psychologist has an obligation to seek every opportunity to support the healthy development of his child, including, whenever possible, a healthy relationship with both parents. If you are concerned (rightly or wrongly) that your ex is trying to alienate you or build an unfair and/or false case against you, your ex will not find an accomplice and co-conspirator in a psychologist.
What if I contact the psychologist to express that this is the case?Nota joint decision and I do not consent to the treatment of my child?
First of all, I would like to remind you of the above information – there is a lot to be gained by hiring a psychologist to ensure the healthy development of your child. Here are some concerns I've heard in the past:
My co-parent will give false information about me
I don't think my child needs treatment
My co-parent is trying to alienate me
It is my co-parent's behavior that is causing the "problems".
My co-parent "coaches" the kids what to say
My co-parent is "Therapist Shopping"
All of these concerns are understandable, depending on the context of the breakup between you and your co-parent. Psychologists are trained to make various hypotheses about your child's background, including what causes and perpetuates your child's present (alleged) problem. There are many complex assessment skills in which your psychologist has been extensively trained and supervised. They do not simply take the client and parent's perspective (indeed, in many cases, that would be very unhelpful). If your child's psychologist determines that your ex is intentionally or unintentionally trying to put you in a bad light, alienate you, or otherwise discredit you, this will be noted and discussed with that parent. If it is the ex's parental behavior that is "causative," the psychologist will either help that parent apply different skills and behaviors or refer that parent to a suitably qualified peer. If the psychologist determines that your child does not need treatment, the treatment will be stopped.
In fact, if you are interested in your child's healthy development - of course you are - then you have nothing to fear and your child will benefit greatly from having your child see the psychologist your ex has chosen. Remember that the counselor is interested in helping your child to have a healthy relationship with BOTH as much as possible. This could be the opportunity you need.
I still disagree. Should the psychologist cancel my child's appointment if I don't agree?
Ethically, the psychologist is always guided by the best interests of the child - therefore the psychologist must weigh the risks and benefits of proceeding without his consent. If the risks to the child outweigh the benefits, the contacting parent is advised that treatment cannot proceed until consent issues are resolved. However, the psychologist cannot form this opinion without at least meeting with the parent who arranged the initial consultation.
Okay, any tips for me when I contact the psychologist?
Yes, I'm so glad you asked! The psychologist is aware of his legal and ethical obligations. No matter how much they like (or dislike) you, your mom or dad, or your kids,You will not risk your reputation and records for your family. This means they are unlikely to act in a way that will intentionally make your life difficult or thwart a process. We want to help people alleviate suffering - not increase it. So…
If you have concerns, be polite when addressing them. There's no point in starting a conversation by accusing the psychologist of unethical, uneducated, or biased behavior. You can be sure that the psychologist will judge you based on your choice of presenting yourself - do your best and assume that they want to help and listen to you.
A short, polite email will likely help the counselor with little time, rather than an unsolicited phone call.
In my opinion it is appropriate to politely check (if you are concerned) that the psychologist has all the relevant information (e.g. court orders; court reports they are allowed to read); and who have training/experience working with separated families.
TL/DR - What are my take home points?
In most cases, if your ex decides to take your child to a psychologist, it should be done with your consent. However, depending on the parent's orders or the other parent's concerns about the risk to their child, they may do so with the consent of the single parent.
The psychologist always works in the best interests of the child and is guided by a clear code of ethics and related policies.
In certain circumstances, the psychologist cannot interrupt or terminate treatment at your request and may not even be able to confirm or deny appointments. But youI canPolitely inform the psychologist that you disagree and the psychologist will discuss this with your co-parent and incorporate this information into their overall assessment.
You may want to discuss the legal ramifications of advising against non-consent with your attorney.
Your further involvement will be discussed with the responsible parent at the admission date(s).
If the child lives, spends time or communicates with you, and the parents and children present do notNotConsent to share information with you, the psychologist is required to discuss the potential implications with the assisting parent and child (if applicable).earlieragree to provide a psychological service and can actually decideNotto carry out a treatment if a transfer to you has not been agreed. There are many factors that the psychologist will consider when making this decision, and the most important of all is what is best for your child.
In short, the psychologist's intervention in the child's life is always guided by the child's best interests. Assuming this is also your starting position (of course it is), then you and the psychologist are already on the same team and they will appreciate and rely heavily on your willingness to participate in the process. Your child will benefit greatly when both parents can parent on the same page, even if the only bond between you is the child you are both raising.
See for exampleSeijo, Fariña, Corras, Novo & Arce, 2016
Bernardini, S.C., Jenkins, J.M. (2002) A review of the risks and safeguards for children in separation and divorce. Presentation to the Family, Children and Youth Division of the Department of Justice, Canada
Familiengesetz 1975 (Cth)