Divorce therapist meeting with a client

If you were headed out on a road trip to somewhere unfamiliar, you wouldn’t hesitate to use your GPS. If you started experiencing a sharp, unfamiliar pain, you would naturally contact your doctor. And if you wanted to learn a new skill, you’d seek out a teacher.

Going through a divorce is some combination of all of these things: a painful, unfamiliar journey that requires new skills to navigate. A therapist is some combination of guide, healer, and teacher to help you get from the difficult place in which you find yourself to a more hopeful future. When it’s put that way, it’s hard to imagine why anyone going through a divorce wouldn’t consult a therapist.

Still, many people resist seeking out a therapist for divorce-related issues. Some may feel that they don’t have time for therapy; others think that their expenses are high enough in divorce without adding a therapist’s fees into the mix. Still other people may worry about the stigma attached to mental health treatment, or that their spouse might use the fact that they are in therapy against them in a child custody dispute.

Of course, therapy does take time and cost money (though perhaps less than you imagine, if you have insurance). But therapy shouldn’t be looked at as a needless expense or a selfish indulgence. Working with a divorce therapist is no less than an investment in your future and that of your children’s future. However, one of the often-overlooked reasons to utilize a therapist during your divorce is the fact that the money you invest in therapy now might just turn out to be money you save later in attorney fees.

Who Can Benefit from Divorce Therapy?

The short answer is–everyone going through a divorce. For most people, divorce is uncharted territory. Even if it’s not your first divorce, it is almost certainly your first divorce from your current spouse, which means the dynamics are different. In short, everyone can use some guidance to get through this challenging period.

With that said, there are some people for whom working with a therapist during a divorce is especially helpful. They include:

  • People who want to minimize the negative effect of divorce upon their children
  • People who do not want to divorce, although their spouse does
  • People whose spouse committed adultery or other marital misconduct
  • People who continue to share a household with their spouse during the divorce process
  • People who are divorcing a narcissist, or similar other mental illness, or are otherwise going through a high-conflict divorce
  • People who are simply tired of regularly arguing with their “soon-to-be ex” spouse

If you see yourself in any of the above situations, or if you just want to preserve your own well-being during and after divorce, a divorce therapist can be an invaluable part of your divorce team.

Advantages of Therapy in Divorce

If you want specific reasons to pursue therapy while you are experiencing a divorce, here are several for you to ponder:

To Relieve Stress (Productively)

Even an amicable divorce is stressful. That means, to get through your divorce, you will need to regularly vent your emotions to someone other than your spouse. There are helpful ways to do that, and less helpful ways. For example, airing your grievances about your spouse on social media is one of the worst things you could do during your divorce. Talking with a trusted friend is better, but there is always the risk that the friend might gossip or stoke your anger toward your spouse – which is certainly less than ideal. A therapist will not only listen to your thoughts and feelings, but a good therapist will help you find constructive ways to manage your emotions so that they don’t negatively impact your children, or the divorce process.

To Protect Your Children

You are not the only one going through this divorce; your children are going through this upheaval too. When you are angry, stressed, and hurting, you may not have the emotional reserve to meet (or even understand) your children’s needs during this time. Working with an experienced divorce therapist can provide you the support you need to be there for your children during a time when they need you most. (And moreover, your child could probably benefit from having a therapist of his/her own).

To Hold Up a Mirror

When you vent about your divorce to friends or family, they are probably going to tell you what you want to hear. Conversely, a therapist will help you hear what you need to hear. That may involve helping you realize your contribution in bringing about the end of your marriage, or how clinging to righteousness, or victimhood, is keeping you from recognizing your inner strengths and moving forward. A therapist’s job is not to tell you what the problem is, but instead they are meant to guide you toward insights about your own life so that changes you make will be lasting.

To Give You Tools for Growth and Change

Achieving insight is great, but to benefit from new insights, you need to find ways to put those insights into action. Another thing that therapists can often help teach to people is how to set and enforce boundaries—a critical skill in divorce and beyond. Setting boundaries doesn’t involve telling other people what they can, or can’t, do; it’s about telling them what you are willing to put up with and accept from them.

For instance, if your spouse asks you inappropriate questions during phone calls about the kids, a good therapist can help you recognize when your spouse, or ex, is speaking inappropriately and construct a clear, productive way to respond, like: “This phone call is about how we’re going to exchange the kids this weekend. If you’re going to keep asking me about my personal life, I’m going to end the call for now.”

To Allow You to Grieve

There are a lot of emotions experienced during a divorce: anger, anxiety, fear, relief, hope, confusion, and more. Anger often comes to the forefront, not because it’s justified (though it could be), but because it’s more comfortable to be angry than sad, scared, or grieving. Yet it’s necessary to grieve the loss of your marriage in order to move on with your life. Working with an experienced therapist gives you a safe space in which to work out the process of grieving so you don’t have to stay on an emotional hamster-wheel – doing the same things over and over without really getting anywhere.

Can Therapists Testify in Divorce Court?

While anyone, including therapists may be subpoenaed to testify in court, confidentiality rules limit what a therapist is permitted to disclose without your permission. For that reason, the opposing party does not often call therapists to testify in divorce and custody cases since you generally hold the power to limit what they can say. However, there may be limited situations in which your own therapist may, or must, disclose what you tell them. These typically involve information involving a likelihood of a planned harm to yourself or your children, or a report of child abuse.

To learn more about the benefits of working with a therapist in divorce, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Divorce