You’re tired of carrying the weight of your divorce on your shoulders and emotionally, you’re drained. Is is time to see a divorce therapist? Here are four ways counseling can help you get through your divorce with most of your sanity intact, as well as pointers on the type of therapist that may best match your needs.
Why you should see a therapist specializing in divorce
Most therapists are trained to facilitate couple’s relationships. They get plenty of training in graduate school about how to help couples work through their problems, but virtually no training on what to do if they can’t. It may come as a surprise, but many therapists may be nervous when one or both members of a divorcing couple come to see them, often because they’re afraid of being dragged into a legal battle. On the other hand, a therapist trained to work with divorcing clients is less likely to be overwhelmed by the intensity that often emanates from people going through divorce, and may have experience in court proceedings, or at least be knowledgeable about the divorce process.
So what will a divorce therapist do for me, exactly?
– A divorce therapist can provide realistic advice about how to emotionally cope with the end of a marriage, including how to help children adjust. Contrary to what conventional wisdom would have people believe, not everyone “gets over it,” and not every couple can co-parent. For anyone going through high-conflict divorce, it’s essential to learn about personality traits and disorders that contribute to ongoing conflict. A divorce therapist can help you understand what kind of divorce you have so you can make strategies for how best to navigate it.
– A divorce therapist will teach you to disengage emotionally. It’s common for someone going through a dissolution to get mired in resentments towards the other person, or concern over an ex’s parenting. Staying focused on your ex, however, prevents you from moving on. A good therapist will help you shift your focus from your former partner back to where it belongs – on you.
– A divorce therapist will give you communication strategies. One of the top stressors for divorced people is communication. E-mails and texts make it easy to use an ex like a punching bag. Targets of acrimonious communication may unwittingly fuel hostile contact by responding defensively, trying to prove they’re right, or retaliating in kind. Or, they may go into “flight” mode and spend hours reacting — feeling angry, scared, and queasy – without getting anything accomplished. A divorce therapist will help you learn how to decrease the time you spend corresponding with your ex (or agonizing over corresponding with your ex) and improve the effectiveness of your communication.
– A divorce therapist will help you learn to co-parent. The main obstacle to effective co-parenting is when parents try to control what goes on in the other parent’s household. Meddling happens ostensibly because one person doesn’t trust his ex to care for the children, but more likely, because he or she has control issues and hasn’t learned to let go of the reins. This kind of intrusiveness will not only damage your ability to co-parent, but it will also encourage children to pit you and your ex against each other. A divorce therapist can help you focus on what you can control – your own parenting! In extreme cases, where the conflict and meddling is so toxic that attempts to co-parent are destructive, a divorce therapist can coach you on parallel parenting, a paradigm that limits communication and interaction.
Dealing with a divorce, especially if you have children, is a bit like dealing with a chronic disease. You need to educate yourself about what to expect and come up with strategies to manage your symptoms, whether those are infrequent, mild flare-ups, or near-constant barrages. Hiring a divorce therapist is an investment in your mental health, your children’s mental health, and the quality of your life. Even a few therapy sessions can help you achieve what should be the end game of any divorce: making peace with the past and moving on to something better.
Your peace of mind matters. For legal support in your divorce, our caring and trusted Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group attorneys can help. Please contact us to schedule your initial consultation.