Flooding therapy for “enmeshed” children
Flodding therapy – In the recent case of Habib & Ibrahim, the court made orders for a child who was living with Parent A and rejecting Parent B, to live with Parent B and spend no time with Parent A for a period of 4 months.
An except from the case:
- Dr E reported that:
One therapeutic approach is a graduated exposure to decrease the anxiety and for there to be a good outcome of reconnecting with the father. Should that fail the other form of treatment is flooding. Flooding is where an individual with anxiety is put into the situation of fearfulness and then where there is learning to cope with that situation. I suggested that if the floodingtechnique was needed that [the child] would need to be perhaps place with the father during the next school holidays for 2 weeks with no contact with the mother or telephone contact. [The mother] did not like this idea and said she would prefer to try the graduated approach.
- Ultimately Dr E reported:
I indicated that [Dr J] was still hopeful that therapy could be successful and that [the child’s] anxiety could be overcome. I suggested that he needed to comply with the treatment process for at least another 3 months and at that point he and his lawyer may need to assess whether this is more of a legal problem than a therapeutic problem. By this I mean legal problem in that the intention of the parties is not to comply. A therapeutic problem would mean that there is still further therapeutic approaches that need to be explored. I will review in 3 months.
- Dr E made a further appointment to see the child on 7 March 2017. That appointment was cancelled by the mother.
- An appointment had been made for the child to attend further on Dr J on 23 February 2017. The mother cancelled the appointment asserting that the child was unwell.
- The father’s solicitors wrote to the mother’s solicitors on 8 March 2017 expressing concerns as to the lack of progress in the therapeutic engagement of the family with Dr J.
- Subsequently further appointments on 16 and 23 March 2017 were cancelled and a further appointment was made for the child to attend on Dr J on 30 March 2017 on which date the father was to attend.
- On 30 March 2017 the father attended on Dr J. While sitting in the waiting room he observed the mother and child leave Dr J’s office, the mother taking the child’s hand and hurrying out of the waiting room. Dr J said to him:
The report was sent from [Dr E], he has recommended that if therapy with me is not progressing it may be appropriate for [the child] to spend a block period of time with you in the school holidays. This is called “flooding”. [The mother] is very upset about this recommendation and is definitely not happy with flooding. I don’t think [the mother] is going back to [Dr E]. Be ready, I think [the mother] is going to change [the child’s] psychiatrist.
- The mother cancelled the child appointment with Dr J on 6 April 2017 asserting that the child was unwell. The father attended upon Dr J on 20 April 2017. All he saw of the child was the mother and her partner each holding the child’s hand leaving the premises. Dr J reported to the father that she was informed by the mother that she would not be returning to see Dr E as “she did not like his advice” and that the mother was seeing a new GP seeking a referral to a new psychiatrist. Dr J also observed that “I get the impression that [the mother] does not want to bring [the child] here anymore”. Dr J informed the father that she had been given doctor’s certificates for the child’s missed appointments but each time it is from a different doctor.
- The father attended again on Dr J on 4 May 2017. He bought a small book and a gift for the child. The only glimpse he had of his son was the mother and child quickly leaving Dr J’s premises after the mother took the book from the father. Dr J told the father “I am resigned that if nothing changes drastically we just have to do flooding”.
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