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Repatriation Counseling - Understanding An Old Concept under a Newer Name

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Atty Chris Pearsall

Authored By:  Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a.  " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "

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Recently in a case I filed a Motion for Repatriation Counseling.  This is a concept I've been familiar with for several years not by virtue of my own reading but by my associations with mental health counselors and therapists.  

In my particular case I learned that the terminology I used was not necessarily "mainstream."  

Though I have been referring to "repatriation counseling" for years it is not known by that name by many therapists, attorneys and judges.

Personally while I was puzzled and a bit disappointed that the court denied my client's motion simply because it looked up the word "repatriation" and found that in Webster's Dictionary the word means "returning or sending one back to one's own country."  Since that definition of "repatriation" wasn't consistent with the more modern meaning as I've known it to be in therapeutic settings the motion fell flat before the court.  I was, in actuality surprised that that court had not heard of "repatriation counseling" between a parent and child.  However, I later discovered that several counselors I knew were not familiar with the concept while others were not.

Repatriation Counseling typically has been counseling for men and women who have returned to their own home country either after having been prisoners of war or having been detained in another country, etc.. but these individuals have needed counseling to be reassociated with their wives and children and vice versa.

However, in more recent years repatriation has been become associated in modern circles specifically with the reunification of a parent and child (and sometimes children) of younger years who have either become alienated or estranged from one another for one reason or another.

In Rhode Island DCYF Motions have Frequently contained the word Repatriation in their motions and yet the concept still remains outside the mainstream because of the older traditional definition of "repatriation."

So, for the time being though the term "Repatriation Counseling" continues to grow as an alternative term for parent-child reunification counseling, I would recommend that people filing motions to reunite a parent and a child (or children) use the word "reunification" instead of "repatriation."  Trust me, it could save you some grief.