My spouse — soon to be ex-spouse — and I have been separated for a year. I’m really struggling to manage the complex feelings that come with our pending divorce and I’m wondering if counseling could help me and my children. What are the benefits of counseling during divorce?
Even if you’ve never needed therapy before, divorce is an intensely stressful process for both adults and children. Many times problems and issues surface during times of stress and change. It can be soothing and helpful to have the support of an experienced counselor along the journey of divorce. Here are some ways that counseling benefits individuals, couples, and families during divorce:
Counseling helps you cope with the stress of divorce and rebuild your life. Talking with an experienced individual therapist about the negative ways that stress impacts your life will lead to helpful conversations about how to cope in more positive ways. For example, your therapist might teach you stress reduction strategies, like mindfulness meditation or focused muscle relaxation. Individual counseling can also help you rebuild your life by equipping you to recover from the residual anger, frustration, sadness, or loss. Understanding what happened in your marriage and the problems that you faced will help you form new relationships in the future.
Counseling helps you work better with your lawyer. Individual therapy is a place separate from legal negotiations where you can process the emotional issues of divorce. You are likely to make better judgements and decisions about access to children and financial settlements when you’re clear about how you feel and what is best for you emotionally. Lawyers are not trained in psychotherapy, and therapists are not trained to give legal advice, but when they work together you’ll have support from a team. Some types of divorce processes, such as Collaborative Divorce, purposefully include the support of a mental health professional.
Counseling helps you and your children cope with the changing family. Family therapy from a licensed marriage and family therapist provides a safe place for you and your children to process the break-up of their family as they have known it. Many children and teenagers feel frightened, angry, and confused about a divorce, and sometimes they feel responsible for it, too. It is important to minimize the damage they’re exposed to between you and your ex-spouse, and family therapy will guide your family through healing and rebuilding. Family therapy is also helpful for you and your ex-spouse as co-parents. Children’s interests and well-being is best supported when the two of you maintain a courteous and respectful stance towards the other. When you’re not able to set aside your marital differences and put the needs of your children first, family therapy can help everyone learn new strategies to communicate and cooperate peacefully.
Counseling helps you and your spouse be sure about the divorce. For many couples, one spouse is more confident about the decision to end the marriage than the other. For the sake of your children, as well as your own futures (including your financial futures), it is worthwhile to explore the possibility of saving the marriage. Discernment Counseling is a specific type of therapy that has the sole goal of taking one final look at a marriage before deciding to divorce. Discernment counseling differs from regular marriage counseling in three important ways: a) the goal is not to solve problems in the marriage, but to figure out whether the problems can be solved; b) the process involves mainly individual conversations with each spouse, since you each have different needs and agendas, and c) it is always short term.
If you or someone you know is struggling through a divorce, we hope you share this post with them. Our experienced individual counselors, family therapists, and discernment counselors are ready to help. Contact Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD today!