Rosa Silvestro is a child psychologist who specialises in acting as a Family Consultant in Family Court matters. She spoke to the Victorian Bar about the utility of obtaining family therapy in family law matters. Family therapy is frequently used where the family dynamic needs to change and the family needs to be brought together to bring about change in the family dynamic.

It focuses on the present not the past and on what and how. For example, how was it hearing your father speak to your mother like that? What is your experience?

Family therapy tries to get rid of dysfunctional behaviours in families and to hone communication styles.

Ms Silvestro talked about the necessity for very clear orders to be made when family therapy is agreed upon in a Court setting. These could apply even in the event that Court proceedings were not issued. She gave examples of the types of orders that would be useful:

  1. That the goals of the therapy are set out clearly;
  2. That there is a mechanism to communicate with the Court;
  3. An example would be that the parties do all things necessary to attend upon (the therapist) for psycho-education/to improve or effect more effective communication/facilitating the introduction of the child to a parent;
  4. That within 7 days the Mother get a mental health plan for the child (name of child);
  5. That within 48 hours the Mother contact the therapist to arrange an appointment;
  6. That the parties and the children attend all appointments as requested by the therapist.

Ms Silvestro considered that making family therapy reportable to the Court could violate the principle of safe and trusting counselling and that if there was to be reportable counselling there need to be very clear objectives expressed as to what was sought to be achieved by the counselling at the commencement.

If you need advice about your family law matter and there is an issue about a child, for example being alienated from a parent, please book a free 15 minute consultation with one of our lawyers.