Divorce Counseling: What To Expect And Are There Benefits?
By Ashley Brown
Updated February 11, 2020
Reviewer Cessel Boyd
People often think about going to couples counseling when they are trying to save a marriage. However, if you are making the decision to divorce or have already decided, then you may also want to visit with a couples counselor to participate in divorce counseling.
Many emotions may come up when you are going through a divorce, and you will likely need support to get through the painful process.
You may not have heard of divorce counseling. However, many divorcing couples choose to use this resource to help them transition through the divorce. It is a great tool to help people deal with a stressful and life-changing event. It is also helpful for people who have already started families and who need help figuring out how to co-parent after the divorce.
Overall, divorce counseling can help people deal with all the emotional, legal, and logistical changes associated with the process and outcomes of divorce. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect during divorce and from divorce counseling, if you seek out this helpful service.
What To Expect During The Process Of Divorce
In many ways, divorce can feel like a loss, similar to losing a loved one to death. It is the end of a relationship, and certainly, you will be moving apart from a person that probably played a big part in your life. As with other losses, people tend to move through stages of grief about the divorce. These stages tend to follow a pattern of phases, although everyone's experience may be different. The typical stages that you might experience as you go through the process of divorce include:
- Denial - At first, you may have a hard time accepting the situation. You might not accept the divorce, perhaps believing that things will be okay, and the relationship will continue.
- Pain And Uncertainty - Once the denial ends, and you start to realize the divorce is happening, you may feel more sadness and pain. You are in mourning about the end of the relationship. If the other party initiated the divorce, you might also be feeling hurt with a sense of rejection. Moreover, you may feel uncertain about your future, and even afraid or anxious.
- Anger - At some point those feelings of sadness and fear could lead to feelings of anger. You may be angry with your ex. You may also be angry with other people in your life. At this time, you might show your negative emotions, and that can hurt your other relationships and even your children. You may also feel anger from your ex and children about the situation.
- Bargaining - At some point, you'll enter a stage where you want to change the situation. You may be feeling a sense of regret at how things are. You may seek to bargain away the divorce and want to correct the situation. However, bargaining is unlikely to be successful.
- Guilt And Depression - If the bargaining is not successful, you may blame yourself more and more for the situation. You might look back on mistakes and feel bad about them. As you progress through these stages, some intense sadness or even depression can be normal. However, if it becomes excessive, it could start to impair your functioning. This can become problematic, especially if you are unable to attend to your responsibilities.
- Acceptance - Eventually you will accept the fact that your marriage is ending. You may still have some sadness, but you will start to feel better and become more ready to move forward with your life.
For some, getting through these stages can be challenging, and it can be hard to figure out exactly how you will move on with your life. In these cases, you might seek divorce counseling. Sometimes, when both parties are struggling, they will enter counseling together, and mutually work through the process.
What To Expect From Divorce Counseling
Some people may be hesitant to attend divorce counseling, for fear that the counselor may try to push them back together into a relationship. They may also think that the therapist will judge them. However, this is not the case. Divorce counselors are trained to listen without bias and be empathetic towards people in whatever situation they are in. They are also trained to help people reach the goals they want to reach. If you are seeking counseling during a divorce, they will not push you to revisit the relationship.
In fact, a divorce counselor can help guide both parties through the process of the divorce, including the logistics, decision-making, and the emotional results of the loss of the relationship. They can also help the parties develop the tools and skills needed to redefine their relationship, as well as have healthy interactions after the divorce is finalized. However, each party should also learn to lead their own successful and fulfilling life after the divorce.
Pre- and Post-Divorce Counseling
Divorce counseling is sometimes divided between pre-divorce and post-divorce counseling. Pre-divorce counseling can be used in many ways. Some couples may choose to attend it as they are finalizing their decision to divorce. The counselor can help both parties discuss, in civil terms, where they are and what they want. Pre-divorce counseling can also help couples learn how they will communicate during the process of the divorce. The goal is for both parties to be able to be civil with one another.
Pre-divorce counseling is very helpful for couples that have children. There can be a lot of concern about how the divorce will affect the family. Counselors can help divorcing couples discuss and decide when to inform the children about it and how they will explain it to them. This can help to reduce the potentially traumatic effects that divorce can sometimes have on children.
Aside from just figuring out how to inform the children, Pre-divorce counseling can also help couples figure out how they will tell family members, friends, and other interested parties. Additionally, pre-divorce counseling can help couples sort out other logistics, such as if they share a business or property. Even more, the process will help the parties discuss the feelings and emotions they may be having. It can teach each party coping skills that can be used individually, or in interactions with one another.
The other option is post-divorce counseling; however, it can be used in addition to pre-divorce counseling. Most often, people seek this out when they have been struggling with the process of divorce and desire to make the process easier. After all, the process of divorce is the end of a long-term relationship. It can be difficult for two people to redefine their relationship afterwards. There are often lots of emotions for each party to sort through.
If the two parties have been struggling and perhaps it has even affected their ability to co-parent, then post-divorce counseling can give a neutral space with a trained counselor, where the parties can talk and improve the situation. It also gives a time for the parties to discuss their feelings. This process can help the parties improve their communication, interact more civilly, and co-parent better.
It should be noted that both pre- and post- divorce counseling can be done as a pair or individually. In some cases, the two divorcing parties may need that space to discuss. Other times, one or both parties may require counseling to talk through their emotions and to figure out their identity after the divorce. This can be especially true for divorced individuals after very long-term relationships.
Signs You Need Divorce Counseling
Many people can get through a divorce on their own. This may be especially true if both partners were open and accepted the divorce and can continue communicating well. However, for some couples, the situation can become contentious, and in those cases, divorce counseling becomes helpful. If you find that you are unable to get along for the sake of co-parenting, that is another sign to seek help.
For individuals, there are other signs that you may need to pursue divorce counseling. If you are going through a divorce and you find yourself overwhelmed by sadness, it is certainly a sign to seek support through counseling. Other signs and symptoms that you may need help include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor concentration
- Disinterest in activities
- Low appetite
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- A sense of self-loathing
- Thoughts of suicide
- Isolating or withdrawing
- Feeling unworthy
- Strong or limited emotions
- Debilitating depression
- Excessive anxiety
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or your ex (or another person you care about, who happens to be going through a divorce), it is important to seek help through counseling to ease the process.
When you are ready to seek help, you owe it to yourself to see what is out there. Mediation and cooperation are parts of the process that are essential, and will also help transition your newfound roles into something everyone can live with. With the proper therapy, you can get along without having to fight in court and without upsetting you kids and yourself. When you learn how to talk to each other and process your feelings, you can co-exist peacefully and move forward.
If you need a helping hand with this, you can trust ReGain. They have licensed counselors that are ready and willing to help you. It is an online service, meaning you can talk to a counselor from your couch, workplace, or wherever you feel comfortable. There is a lot more variety and versatility present when it comes to online therapy, compared to in-person therapy. Below are some reviews of ReGain counselors, from people who sought out divorce counseling.
"Dr. Anstadt is amazing. I appreciate him always reaching out to make sure things are going smoothly in between our sessions. He follows up and genuinely cares about my situation. I would recommend Dr. Anstadt to anyone who is seeking insight on coparenting and new relationships after divorce. Thank you for everything!"
"Christina was very helpful when I told her I left my spouse. I wasn't sure what I wanted, a divorce or reconciliation. She helped me start processing where I was, to where do I see myself, to what do I want, to how do I see myself getting obtaining these goals. She did not influence any of my decisions, but guided me with thought provoking questions. Throughout our short sessions, she continued to reassure me that she or someone else, would always be there for me. Thank you Christina for your professionalism, your guidance and your compassion to help others. I look forward to continuing my therapy sessions with you, as my goals are not yet met."
Divorce counseling offers many benefits for any person or former couple going through a divorce. It can help two people work through a difficult situation, with a neutral third party guiding them through the process. It can help any individual, who may be struggling with the emotional effects of this change. Divorce counselors can help people through discussion, teaching coping skills, improving self-care, guiding in the development of a new life plan, and much more.