San Diego Program for Healing Estrangement in Parent-Child Relationships

Intensive Family Restructuring Program

Intensive Family Restructuring Program (IFRP) is a family services program unique to the Transitions Family Program at Hannah's House. Susan Griffin, LMFT, Executive Director, designed the IFRP specifically to heal family relationships fractured by the adversarial Family Court process, and the unsuccessful transition from living in 1 home to living in 2 homes.

There are 4 levels of intervention intensity offered:

  1. 60 day (2 months) program consisting of 2-3 hours of service weekly
  2. 30 day (1 month) program consisting of 4-6 hours of service weekly
  3. 3 day live-in retreat program - Check in evening of day 1 - 3 full days of retreat - Check out morning of 5th day. Retreat is followed by Level 2 and then Level 1.
  4. Retreat only

Placement of the children during Levels 1 and 2 depend on the ability of the custodial parent to support the therapeutic intervention to heal the relationship between the estranged parent and the child(ren). If the custodial parent is blocking or not supporting the intervention process, alternative transportation of the children and/or living arrangements may be suggested.

Level 1 is $2000. Level 2 is $3000. Full intervention program with retreat followed by Level 1 and Level 2 is $15,000. Retreat only is $10,000. Scholarships are available for low income and very low income clients.

IFRP is the delivery of specific services to a family system and subsets of that system when family members have become estranged from one another during the restructuring of a family following breakup.

The primary focus of the intervention is improving the relationship between the parent and the child(ren) that are estranged from one another.

The secondary focus is improving the coparenting relationship.

The Court sometimes describes the critical issues for the focus of intervention.

Assessment is required for all significant members of the family system, to include both nuclear and extended. 

What To Refer / What Family Situations

  1. The child(ren) and/or parents have difficulty adjusting to the family breakup longer than 1 year following the family transition
  2. Safety issues such as domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse and/or child abuse led to family estrangement
  3. Ongoing conflict between the parents over parenting and custody issues caused family estrangement
  4. Parent re-enters the parenting role and coparenting relationship after an extended period of drop-out
  5. Family has gotten "stuck" in the supervised visitation setting or in the transition phase of the family breakup itself - unresolved trust issues from the past usually

Participants in the program include immediate and extended family members at the discretion of the primary Service Provider based on assessment needs and intervention/treatment strategies.

Family Support Action Teams (FAST) are a unique aspect of treatment available to all members of the family system, in the agency setting and in the home setting, or community. These are individuals with specific training assigned to be in a support role to each family member as needed. 

IFRP goals depend on the history of the situation; how much time has passed; the developmental needs of the child(ren); and the specific orders of the Court.

Examples of common goals in the IFRP:

  1. Repair and renewal of a pre-existing parent/child relationship that has been disrupted.
  2. Creating and  nurturing of a new parent/child relationship where the parent and child have never met or where the child(ren) was too young at the time of separation to have any memory of the parent.
  3. Integration of re-integration of the estranged parent into a healthy shared parenting family structure.

Phases of Intervention
For most families, IFRP services occur in phases that vary from family to family and there is no pre-determined path in terms of the amount of time spent in each phase. Phases tend to move from carefully planned and structured contacts for regular and brief periods (e.g. 1-2 times per week for 1-3 hours) to more open and less structured contacts for longer periods of time (e.g. 2-3 times weekly for 3-8 hours each time). Two different intensive programs of successive days may be used with some families.

Transitions from one phase to another are based primarily on the adjustment and needs of the children.

IFRP Services in a Supervised Visitation Agency Setting
At Transitions Family Program, IFRP services are offered in the context of a supervised visitation agency which includes any activity within the facility, or within walking distance or through use of public transportation.

Safety and security is ensured for all IFRP participants so that family contacts are accomplished in a planned manner which allows all family members to prepare and participate in a positive manner.

As families move through the phases of the process, sessions will transition into the community and into the family home.

About the Services
Transitions Family Program restructures the whole family system, rather than just a subset of that system. We offer IFRP services, with a foundation of Structural Family Therapy

Our intervention is grounded in the understanding that each family system works to capacity to respond to the task of restructuring from one impaired family into two new healthy family systems following the breakup of a family.

For some families the necessary restructuring does not succeed during the first year of separation or effort, and the result is two impaired family systems, neither of which is able to utilize the strengths and resources available to them. 

Therapeutic Units, Components, and Phases of Treatment
In IFRP, the primary therapeutic unit is the distanced parent and the child(ren). Sometimes they will meet together with the parent if there is more than one child and sometimes separately. It depends on the individual relationships.

  • The first phase of IFRP with the primary unit typically focuses on exploring and processing issues that have led to a sense of estrangement.
  • The second phase involves work on healing the areas of the relationship which have become difficult and tenuous.
  • In the third phase parties will have resolved their past emotional estrangement and will move into a more stable relationship.

In IFRP, the secondary therapeutic unit is the two coparents.

  • During the first phase they will meet individually with a member of the Family Action Support Team (FAST) assigned to their case for parenting education and coaching.
  • During the second phase they will meet together for some meetings and separately for others as the relationship issues in the primary treatment unit change the parenting dynamic for each member of the coparenting unit. 
  • In the third phase, the coparents will meet together for facilitated meetings and create coparenting agreements that facilitate positive child sharing between the two homes.

During this intervention process, it is acknowledged that the primary parent also experiences their own stressors. As such, the primary parent is able to use their FAST contact to check in and process questions and gain support and understanding of their critical supporting role.  During any FAST appointment, client confidentiality of the primary therapeutic unit will be maintained and the particulars of the conjoint sessions will not be disclosed. 

Therapist/Coach Role and Reports
The therapist/coach is only in the role of therapist/coach and is not acting as an advocate or evaluator. As such, the therapist/coach will not give recommendations for custody/visitation. The therapist/coach may make observations and suggestions about what might be of benefit to assist the family

If the court orders that a report be submitted, it will outline the progress as it relates to the stages described above and include any critical incidents which may occur during the process.

Outside of a court order that specifies that a report is to be issued, no report will be generated to ensure compliance with  confidentiality and privilege requirements.

Role of the Therapist
A therapist in the role providing court-ordered therapy cannot make recommendations to the court but can make suggestions based on observations and experiences with all family members.

Recommendations can only be made by a therapist when that therapist has been court ordered to take an evaluator role, rather than the role of a therapist, and has been specifically ordered by the court to make recommendations. IFRP therapists are not evaluators.

A therapist cannot make recommendations or suggestions to the court about a child unless the Court, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), or a Minor's Counsel has waived the privilege of the child.  This waiver can be addressed by the court ordering the therapist to write a report on the progress of therapy.

Consultation with Other Professionals
Transitions staff will consult with other mental health professionals with a history of providing services to family members enrolled in IFRP services.  Treating therapists may make a referral to any Level of the IFRP 1-4, with the family returning to the therapist for aftercare immediately following the intervention. 

Transitions Family Program is a training facility. Our goal is to provide specialized training to prospective Marriage Family Therapists in a challenging and important area of family work. We train student trainees, registered interns, and newly licensed therapists who are volunteers. What each of our providers have in common is a deep interest in and commitment to the needs of Family Court-involved parents and children. Their work is supervised by Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., LMFT and Susan Griffin, LMFT, Senior Transitions Clinician.

Ms. Griffin, LMFT, also offers these services in her private practice but has very limited openings. If you would like a specific court order for Ms Griffin to provide the IFRP protocol, it is critical that you first have a consultation to ensure it is a good fit and that she has openings.