Guide to Therapy during and after Divorce
- What is divorce therapy?
- What is discussed in divorce therapy?
- Why would a divorcing person need divorce therapy?
- Types of divorce therapy
- Finding a divorce therapist
- Other resources for divorce therapy
Divorce is so much more than a legal or financial process – it's a whole experience that keeps evolving. It's one of the most emotionally stressful life events you will go through. If you're divorced or thinking about a divorce, therapy can help you deal with tough issues like co-parenting, grieving the loss of your relationship, and embracing your new identity.
What is divorce therapy?
Divorce therapy, also called divorce counseling, is a type of psychotherapy in which a marital relationship is a central focus. In this type of therapy, couples work with a therapist to explore and sometimes resolve, the conflicts that prompted them to consider divorce. A divorce therapist is a licensed professional counselor. Their goal is to help clients in their relationships, whether they end up reconciling or dissolving their marriage.
- You might see a divorce therapist if you're considering divorce. The therapist can help you explore marital issues and guide you as you decide whether divorce is the right path for you.
- You might see a divorce therapist as you sort through the aftermath of a separation. Therapy can help you analyze and work through personal issues such as anger, denial, and grief. It can help you get on track for a healthy future as you gain your newfound freedom and establish a new single "identity."
What is discussed in divorce therapy?
Myriad issues may be discussed in divorce therapy. A good therapist will tailor your sessions to your needs to maximize a positive outcome. Issues commonly explored in divorce therapy include the following:
- Communication styles
- Division of household responsibilities
- Child-rearing disagreements
- Intimacy problems
- Healing from trauma or illness
- Divorce arrangements (child support, child custody, alimony)
- Grief and loss of a relationship or role
- Planning for the future
In some cases, a divorce therapist's primary job is to help a client recover from a destructive relationship. The therapist provides the perspective, clarity, professional help, and sometimes even the motivation you need to understand that you can get back on your feet, move on, and enjoy life again.
Why would a divorcing person need divorce therapy?
"I've already made the decision to divorce. How can divorce therapy help?" Some people wonder why they'd need a therapist after they've made the difficult decision to end their marriage. The thing is, the divorce process is extremely overwhelming, even in the most amicable of circumstances. It's the unwinding of one of the most significant relationships of your life.
You may worry that you won't recover from your separation, especially if it wasn't your idea. But divorce recovery is possible, and divorce therapy can help you see that.
Co-parenting can cause you to grapple with all sorts of issues, from keeping healthy boundaries to involving your ex (and their family members) in the upbringing of your kids. Therapy can help you deal with co-parenting issues that crop up post-divorce. For example, you can discuss your co-parenting goals and styles in divorce therapy.
As you negotiate your divorce, it's completely normal to seek professional help. In fact, when it comes to child custody planning, mediation is often ordered by the court. It's okay if you need a mental health professional to mediate between you and your spouse. Involving a neutral third party who can keep both of you calm and focused as you work through tough issues can be a game-changer.
Types of divorce therapy
The word "therapy" may entail services from a broad range of professionals, including psychologists, licensed counselors, and psychiatrists. Here's a brief look at the different "types" of therapy that can be helpful in divorce:
Whereas divorce counseling is for couples, individualized therapy provides individualized attention and help. You can seek individualized therapy at any point in your journey: pre-divorce, during divorce, or post-divorce. A therapist can help you move through the natural stages of grief that accompany divorce. They can provide you with coping tools to help you through your toughest times.
Unlike a support group, private therapy allows you to work through your issues in a self-focused manner. Therapy can be especially helpful if your marital issues impact your physical or emotional health. Examples of problems you might be having include sleep disturbance, social anxiety, and a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
Individualized therapy for children and teens
The divorcing couple may experience a range of troublesome emotions – grief, anger, fear, depression. But adults are not the only ones impacted by divorce. Children and teens are also an important part of the equation. When children are involved in a divorce, consider therapy for them, too.
Family therapy is another option. Each family member is given space to share their feelings and ask questions, either in a group setting or one-on-one with a therapist. The primary goals of family therapy may be to improve communication, cultivate a healthier family dynamic, or address specific concerns, such as conflicting parenting styles or how to help a child struggling with the divorce.
Most divorce therapists are only able to offer talk therapy. They are not medical doctors. If you think you might benefit from prescription medication, seek a therapist with the proper credentials or one who can work directly with a prescribing physician.
Divorce support groups
Many people benefit from attending divorce support group meetings in person or online. While the leader of a divorce support group may not have the same credentials or expertise as a licensed psychotherapist, finding a community of support can boost your emotional well-being. You will not receive one-on-one advice or treatment in a support group, but you may have the opportunity to share your story, make friends, and gain valuable insights from others in the group. A few of our favorite avenues for finding a divorce support group include the website Mental Health America and Psychology Today.
Try Circles's online divorce support community – download their free app.
Finding a divorce therapist
How do you find a good divorce therapist? Here are some of our favorite resources:
- To get matched to a compatible therapist who accepts your health insurance, head over to headway.co for options that fit your schedule and budget.
- Enter the name of your city and zip code to find a list of qualified divorce therapists through Psychology Today's extensive network.
Other resources for divorce therapy
Headspace is a downloadable app that encourages you to focus on personal issues and goals, from managing anxiety to getting a better night's sleep. Your first 14 days are free, so consider giving the complimentary trial a spin. It's not the same as working face-to-face with a therapist, but for some people, the app fits their lifestyle.
You can also get on-demand mental health support from a trained professional at ginger.com. No need to make an appointment – just reach out when you need help, whether it's at 2 a.m. or on a major national holiday.
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