Twelve Best Practice Principles for Court Appointed Family Therapy

Family therapy is often the most effective means of understanding and treating and solving family problems in divorce and custody disputes, including resist/refusal, family violence and juvenile behavioral problems.

Family therapists:

  1. Analyze family problems from a comprehensive systemic perspective, open to a wide range of interpretations of problematic behavior and focuses on inductive, not deductive, reasoning in recognizing family of origin/intergenerational learning.
  2. Provide the required rapid diagnostic assessment of entire family functioning and focus on structural relationship issues in the attachment and security of parent–child bonds in the context of problematic behavior.
  3. Practice evidence–based accountability in defining treatment plans with behavioral objectives in the context of promoting healthy problem identification, communication, coping strategies, and positive solution focused thinking.
  4. Enable case management to ensure accountability for all family members and sharing and problem-solving forum family therapy provides.
  5. Provide systemic and structural formulation of a problem through facilitating collaboration between family and individual therapist(s) in mutual recognition of problem definition and diagnostic issues enabling enhanced teamwork, and more effective/regular communication.
  6. Coordinate treatment that decreases splitting and promotes functional and strategic model of care.
  7. Recognize long-term patterns of dysfunctional behavior, enabling more effective assessment of deeper-rooted personality disordered behaviors. It may involve individual and family therapist cooperatively providing conjoint couples and family work. 
  8. Court issued orders mandating counseling communicates recognition of the seriousness of problem to every member of the family, which assists in the effectiveness of their alignment with the family therapist. Predictable denial is confronted, and “face-saving” in enabled, especially for adolescents. 
  9. Maintain flexibility in short term treatment plan to incentivize mandated client to achieve progress as evidence supports.  The appointment enables short-term treatment objectives to be evaluated in real-time depending on the progress reviewed in family therapy. 
  10. Provide evidence-based behavioral objectives, defined and documented for client and appropriate authority, including Courts. In higher risk cases, monitoring and treatment by a family therapist will enable graduated standards for normalization and termination of Court role when longer-term results can be assured with more confidence. 
  11. Apply best practice case methods involve recording the session, enabling full participation rather than being a note-taker. Critically, it enables the most objective post session critique, summary and evaluation. Video and audio recording enables Family therapist to be authoritative in holding clients to be accountable in statement and behavior.
  12. Adhere to AFCC standards for “Court Involved Therapists” as well as professional ethics and guidelines require and HIPPA standards mandate. Individual case consultation as well as group peer supervision is encouraged.

For more information, please join our Divorce and Custody Study Group on the first Fridays of the month from 12-1:30!

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