What To Expect During Divorce Counseling And Are There Benefits?

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
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Going through a divorce can be a tumultuous, stressful time for everyone involved. Divorce counseling, which can be done in an individual, couples, or family setting, can be a useful tool to help the divorce process progress as smoothly as possible.

This article will explore what divorce counseling is, who might find it useful, what to expect during sessions, and what the research says about its effectiveness.  

Divorce can leave you feeling lost

What to expect during the divorce process

To obtain a divorce decree, you’ll need to go through the legal process of dissolving the union. This process is often complicated by things like finances, dividing assets, child or spousal support, and child custody. While the process may look different depending on your circumstances, it often includes the following steps

  • A divorce waiting period: Many states require a “waiting period” between when the couple formally or informally separates/files for divorce, and when the divorce decree is signed.
  • Stating the grounds for divorce: You can get a divorce with no-fault in all states, or with fault in some states. A no-fault divorce means there isn’t a specific justification given for divorce, and a fault divorce means there was a specified grounds for divorce (such as infidelity or domestic violence). 
  • Filing: In this step, official paperwork is filed for divorce, which includes things like the grounds for divorce, whether children are involved, and a petition for how assets, property, child custody, etc. will be divided. 
  • Serving: When you submit divorce filings, your spouse will be formally notified. 
  • After they’re served: Once your spouse has been notified (or attempted notification), they’ll have a specified amount of time to respond. If they do not respond, you can request an uncontested divorce. If they do respond, they’ll submit an answer to the divorce filing petition and agree or disagree to the terms. 
  • Temporary hearings: In some circumstances, temporary hearings are held to address immediate issues (like temporary child custody) before the official divorce proceedings have been completed. 
  • Discovery and preparation: During this period, your divorce attorney will gather any necessary documents and evidence needed. 
  • Divorce is settled or goes to trial: In many cases, divorce settlements are negotiated, allowing for the official divorce decree to be filed by the court. However, if an agreement cannot be made, the divorce will proceed to a trial, which can be very costly. 

The process of a divorce can be costly, stressful, and emotionally exhausting. Many ex-spouses find themselves grieving the loss of their marriage, fighting with their ex, dealing with the possibility of seeing their children less frequently, and exhausting financial resources. According to current research, the period immediately after divorce is strongly associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes amongst adults.

Divorce counseling can lessen divorce conflict, which can reduce the risk of negative physical and mental health effects for both the ex-spouses and their children (if they have any). 

What is divorce counseling and how can it help? 

Divorce counseling is generally a short-term type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) that’s led by a licensed therapist. Depending on your circumstances and preference, divorce counseling can often be conducted individually or as joint couple’s therapy. It may be done before divorce (pre-divorce counseling) to help spouses decide whether a divorce is the right decision and how to do so amicably, or post-divorce. 

The goal of divorce counseling is often to help you process complex, potentially painful emotions, grieve the relationship, and ideally move forward to create a healthier post-divorce relationship with your ex-spouse. 

Depending on your needs, divorce therapists will help you develop healthier communication strategies so you and your ex can negotiate things like childcare, schedules, friends, and finances without escalating to fights or conflict. 

During your first divorce counseling session, your therapist will likely begin by asking you background questions to better understand your relationship, your divorce, and the current state of your relationship with your ex. They may help you define goals that future sessions and “homework” will address. 

Signs you might need divorce counseling

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Divorce therapy can benefit a wide variety of people in a wide variety of circumstances during the difficult time. However, there are some things to look out for that can indicate counseling as a beneficial option for you. 

Here are some signs that you might benefit from divorce counseling:

  • Frequent or volatile arguments or other forms of unhealthy communication
  • Difficulty coming to an agreement about important issues, such as finances, dividing property, alimony, scheduling conflicts, or childcare
  • Financial stress
  • Mental health challenges, such as grief, depression, anxiety, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed, blindsided, or unsure how to move forward
  • Physical signs, like significant weight changes, sleep disturbances, irritability, or exhaustion
  • The relationship was abusive or otherwise toxic
  • Worries about how the divorce may affect your kids or others around you
  • You share children 
  • You want to learn how to make post-divorce communications healthier

While these can all be appropriate reasons to seek the support of a mental health professional, this is not an extensive list. In general, if you (and your ex-partner, if you’re attending joint divorce counseling) feel that you may benefit from the help of a licensed professional counselor during the difficult time of the divorce process, you should consider trying divorce counseling.

Things divorce counseling can help you address

Pre- and post-divorce counseling can be very beneficial, with some studies finding that it can helps couples determine if divorce is the right choice, decide how to divide assets, navigate the legal system, and improve post-divorce communication. Other things divorce counseling can help with include: 

  • Sharing the news with loved ones

If you’re planning to file for divorce, you might be unsure how to go about telling your children, family members, or friends about your decision. An experienced divorce therapist will have likely helped many others navigate these same concerns, and they can help you figure out what you want to share. 

If you have children and want to help them assess their own emotions related to the divorce, you might want to look for a divorce therapist who practices family therapy. They can hold group therapy sessions to help you, your children, your ex, and other family members process the divorce.  

  • Facing complex emotions

In divorce therapy, you will likely discuss some deeply negative emotions. A skilled divorce counselor can help you (and your ex-spouse if they’re present) cope with intense emotions like anger, denial, sadness, uncertainty, and confusion while reducing the likelihood that conversations erupt into arguments. 

  • Starting over after divorce

Divorce therapists can help their clients navigate being single again after marriage, dating, and if/when to introduce new partners to children. They can also help you and your children cope with other life changes that often accompany divorce, such as moving, starting new careers, and navigating child custody. 

Can you attend divorce therapy online? 

If you cannot find a divorce therapist in your area, you might wonder about trying online divorce therapy. Online divorce therapy, which is offered on platforms like Regain, can be a more cost-effective and convenient option for many people. 

Though few studies have addressed online divorce counseling, many studies have found that both individual and couples therapy can be effectively done online. For example, one study of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) found that it can effectively address challenges that are common in the pre- and post-divorce period, like chronic stress, anxiety, depression

Note that, while online divorce counseling can help in many cases, it’s generally recommended that ex-spouses experiencing “high-conflict divorcees” seek help from in-person mental health providers

Divorce can leave you feeling lost

Regain counselor reviews

“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 co-parenting 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 can offer many benefits for people going through the stages of divorce. For example, divorce therapists can help you navigate difficult conversations with children and loved ones about divorce, how to move on from the relationship, and how to establish healthier communication with your former spouse. 

If you’re interested in trying divorce counseling, you might want to investigate online divorce therapy conducted by licensed therapists. The online format can be more approachable, and it’s often more convenient than its in-person counterpart. Many people find that divorce therapy helps them build an amicable relationship with their ex, limit the degree of divorce trauma, and help them cope.

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