When To Seek Therapy For A Divorce Process

Divorce With Dignity is a divorce facilitation service with the goal of getting people through their divorce in a holistic, cooperative, peaceful, and cost-effective way. One of the benefits we offer our clients is referrals for additional services they may need to make the divorce a smoother transition. For example, some clients may be in situations where they have a need to seek therapy or counseling during the divorce process. In these cases, we refer them to professionals like Susan Regan, MFT. Susan is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, who is also trained as a Mediator. We asked Susan to share her thoughts on when it would be appropriate to seek therapy when going through a divorce.

Divorce is difficult for everyone, but what are the signs that someone may need some professional counseling, therapy, or mediation to deal with divorce issues?

There are many situations that call for professional help when working through a divorce. Some of these are –

  • mental instability on the part of either spouse
  • depression / thoughts of suicide
  • addiction issues
  • learning how to co-parent in changing circumstances
  • when one spouse is incapable of caring for the children
  • unemployment / fear of dependency
  • changing roles, such as one spouse becoming the stay-at-home parent or going out into the workforce
  • when one spouse feels that the other one is trying to control them
  • abusive behavior toward the spouse or the children

I want to draw attention to the issue of depression and suicidal thoughts or statements. If one partner is potentially suicidal, it can make the other partner feel trapped into staying in the relationship. They may feel like they can’t leave without the threat of the other person doing self harm. In this case, professional therapy on several levels is called for.

I’d also like to say more about abusive behavior situations. When people try to leave an abusive partner, it’s an incredibly sensitive and fragile time for them. They want to know, “How can I leave and still be safe?” If they rush out and file for divorce, that can start an explosion in the family, and people become much more vulnerable in these situations.

Instead of rushing into things, it’s wise to get help to plan how to separate in a less explosive way. With a professional therapist or mediator, they will have someone managing the discussion, assuring both parties that they will be involved in the decisions and can have some say about how and when the divorce happens. This can cool down a potentially volatile situation, and helps both parties to feel more settled and that their concerns are being heard.

If the couple has children, I can talk with the kids about the divorce and also about their parents’ behavior toward them. This provides an opportunity to help the parents address any behavioral issues that need modification as they become divorced co-parents.

If there is a control or abuse issue in the spousal relationship, the day when the person moves out or comes back to get their stuff can be tense and possibly explosive. It’s important to have some support people there to help keep things under control.

With the help of legal and counseling professionals, planning a divorce can take some of the explosiveness and unpredictability out of the situation, and put a damper on the drama.

What are the main benefits that can be gained from therapy during and after a divorce?

During the divorce, it helps the couple have actual discussions instead of having shouting matches or making unilateral decisions. Negotiated agreements may not get each person exactly what they want, but will get them an agreement they both can feel comfortable with.

Therapy or counseling sessions can also help people navigate the transition to their new roles and circumstances. They can learn how to reinvent their lives, check in with me about their kids and how they are doing after the divorce, and get co-parenting counseling.

If you would like to learn more about how you can begin therapy, or have any questions please call 415-563-4342 or 510-883-9312, or email me directly at [email protected].


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