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Can "forced" family therapy be successful for reconciliation?

answered 08:17 PM EST, Fri January 20, 2012
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I have liver cancer and my prognosis is not good. I will likely die before the end of the year. I have 2 girls who are now in their 30s. They do not talk to each other because of a lot of family drama that occurred around the time of their mother’s passing a few years ago. One thinks the other is controlling and manipulative and the other thinks her sister is irresponsible and free loading. I am sorry to say that in my opinion they are both right to some degree, but there is so much more that is good and beautiful about each of them.

I do not want to die before seeing them reconcile and become family again. I believe I can force them to sit down together with a therapist at least one time. Is reconciliation therapy at all likely to work though if both parties are forced to participate rather unwillingly?

Cynthia Klatte Says...

Cynthia Klatte C. Klatte

Dear Anonymous,

First, I am deeply sorry for the devastating news you’ve received about your condition. My heart goes out to you and your daughters. Second, I think that your wish is a beautiful one and I empathize with your desire to have the peace of mind that comes with your children being there for one another through a family crisis. Unfortunately, it sounds as if the turbulence during the crisis period when they lost their mother pushed them apart instead of pulling them together. It can go both ways. In response to your question about whether or not forced reconciliation therapy can work, while involuntary therapy is less likely to be effective, there is ALWAYS the possibility that it can work. There is always hope. Growth, healing and forgiveness have occurred in even the bleakest of cases.

The word crisis in Chinese is made from combining the characters for danger and opportunity. A crisis brings with it danger or adversity, but it also creates an opportunity for growth. When things fall apart, sometimes they can be reorganized and rebuilt.

For family therapy to have a chance at success, there does need to be some willingness on both their parts to come to the table to participate in the process. I think you are in a good position to ask your daughters to agree to meet with you and a family therapist with the goal of facilitating family communication during this crisis. Ask them to agree to a “truce”. Perhaps for now, focusing on this coming year and your needs at this time for all to be involved might be more successful than asking for complete reconciliation and forgiveness. And if they experience positive growth now, they may become more willing to consider reconciliation in the future. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

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Page last updated Jan 20, 2012

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