When to See a Divorce Therapist
- Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPCC
Finding a divorce completely free from stress, upheaval, and intense emotions is rare. Divorcing is a major life change. The skills couples need to navigate such a change successfully are the same as those required to successfully navigate a marriage. If the marriage is over, both partners will likely have trouble working together toward a constructive divorce. One or both partners may also need help recovering individually. Divorce therapy can help mitigate the negative effects associated with the divorce process by leveraging the expertise of a therapist.
How Does Divorce Therapy Work?
Divorce therapy can be structured in several ways. You and your partner may decide to seek marital therapy and, in the process of marital therapy, decide to transition to divorce therapy. You and your soon-to-be ex might have already decided to divorce but are choosing to use a divorce therapist to keep things amicable. You can also visit a divorce therapist individually to help unpack your marriage and navigate the divorce process's emotions.
Those who attend divorce therapy often work on these common issues, either together or individually:
- Post-marital communication
- Financial arrangements
- Division of household chores and duties
- Transitioning to new living arrangements
- Child-rearing and custody disagreements
- Intimacy problems
- Healing from a traumatic relationship
- Grief over the loss of a relationship or family role
- Planning for the future
From Marital Therapy To Divorce Therapy
Sometimes, the line between divorce and marital therapy can be blurry and indistinct. Many spouses who attend marital therapy with their partner have already considered divorce. Often, one spouse is against divorce, and one spouse is ready to commit to the decision to separate.
A skilled therapist can help the couple break down the factors driving their feelings about their marriage.
If you and your spouse have not yet committed to divorcing, or if one partner wants a divorce, but the other does not, your therapist may initiate discernment counseling. Discernment counseling is designed to help spouses considering divorce reach a point of confident clarity regarding their decision.
At the end of discernment counseling, the spouses will decide on one of three options: continue the marriage with no changes, attempt to repair the relationship through marital therapy, or dissolve the marriage, perhaps utilizing divorce therapy. For couples who decide to follow through with a divorce, reaching the decision through discernment counseling is associated with a smoother divorce process overall.
Once The Decision Is Made
Discernment counseling is not the same as divorce therapy, but it often precedes it. You and your spouse may also have initiated the divorce process without participating in marital therapy or discernment counseling. In that case, your relationship with a divorce therapist begins after the decision to end the marriage has been made. Marital therapy is not a prerequisite for divorce therapy.
Divorce therapy is designed to help smooth troubled waters between you and your partner. If you're concerned that you and your spouse are no longer cohesive enough to engage in divorce therapy, don't worry. Divorce therapists are well-prepared to handle post-marital conflict. You and your soon-to-be former spouse are likely to benefit from the process.
Attending Divorce Therapy Together
If you and your spouse decide to attend divorce therapy together, the therapist will initiate the process by establishing the goals you and your former spouse would like to achieve. Many people seek a divorce therapist for general mediation of the divorce process. In mediation, the counselor helps you resolve key issues related to property, financial support, custody, and planning for the future. The focus is on enhancing practical communication between you and your partner; the therapist helps address disagreements as they arise and keeps communication productive.
Divorce therapy can also help you and your former spouse establish ground rules and new techniques for co-parenting. Most parents love their children, regardless of their feelings about their spouse. In high-conflict divorces, co-parenting strategies may be ineffective or entirely absent. If negative interactions between you and your spouse have made communication and co-parenting difficult, divorce therapy can help improve the quality of your interactions, as well as improve parent-child relationships.
You can also go beyond co-parenting and include your children in the divorce therapy process. Family therapy following divorce is an effective way to build a new family dynamic. The therapist helps you define new roles for family members and correct developmental distortions. Children are also given an opportunity to grieve the loss of an intact family healthily.
Attending Divorce Therapy Alone
If you do not feel that you need to attend divorce therapy with your former spouse, or if they refuse to go with you, you can still participate in therapy alone. Many people attend divorce therapy solo to help them recover from the divorce or better understand their past relationship. Individual therapy can be initiated before, during, or after divorce. No matter when you seek help, the therapist will help you address your concerns and will provide coping strategies to help you manage ongoing stress.
Unlike a divorce support group, individual divorce therapy puts the focus on you and your needs. Therapy can be particularly helpful if your marriage has affected your physical or emotional health. Many people also seek therapy to prepare for their next relationship and ensure they find a partner with whom they mesh well.
Deciding To See A Divorce Therapist
Visiting a therapist at any stage of the divorce process is likely to be beneficial. Determining whether to initiate divorce therapy requires self-reflection and understanding your and your spouse's goals. Knowing where you are in the divorce process and honestly assessing your marriage is necessary to know what you desire for the future.
Stages Of Divorce
While several models have been developed to explain how spouses move through divorce, four broad stages are commonly accepted. A therapist will approach your marriage and divorce differently for each stage.
The Pre-Divorce Decision Stage. In this stage, the decision to separate has not been made by either partner. Martial dissatisfaction is high, intimacy is low, and those outside of the marriage may know that the problems are serious. There may or may not have been attempts at reconciliation.
The Decision Stage. At this point, the decision to divorce has been firmly made by one or both partners. Each spouse may experience anxiety at the prospect of separation. There may also be renewed marital intimacy for a short period. This stage ends when the decision to divorce is accepted, and conflict often renews regarding how the divorce should proceed.
The Transition Stage. This stage is characterized by emotional recovery from the marriage. Spouses often decide the terms of the divorce during this period. Anger between spouses may increase as each experiences an upswing in self-regard.
The Healing Stage. By now, most former spouses have begun re-stabilizing after the divorce. Interactions between spouses can be unpredictable; their ability to work together and plan constructively can come and go.
Alone Or Together?
The stage of your divorce and your spouse's willingness to work together cooperatively are important factors in deciding to attend divorce therapy alone or with your spouse. If your spouse is willing to attend with you and your divorce is in the first or second stage, discernment counseling will likely be helpful. Spouses in the third stage may find divorce mediation beneficial. If your spouse is willing to attend therapy with you, both you and them can avoid nasty disputes over children or assets.
Co-parenting or family therapy is often pursued in stages three and four. The decision is based on the needs of you and your former spouse. Even if the both of you are amicable and communicate well, therapy may be beneficial for addressing concerns before they arise or helping children adjust. Many people in stage four also choose to pursue individual therapy for help recovering from the marriage or divorce process.
How Can Online Therapy Help?
Marital discord and divorce can be stressful and overwhelming. Visiting a therapist online can help you reduce stress and remove barriers to accessing therapy, like traveling to an office or being restricted to nearby therapists only. Online therapists use the same evidence-based techniques as traditional therapists and can offer assistance at any stage of the divorce process. You can attend with your spouse to decide if divorce is right for you, mediate the divorce process, or help address parenting issues. You can also meet with a therapist alone for help recovering from your divorce. Online therapy has been thoroughly researched and found to be just as effective as visiting a therapist in person.
Divorce therapy is an effective way to manage several concerns that arise during the divorce process. You can see a therapist to help decide if a divorce is necessary, to receive divorce mediation, or to develop better parenting skills. You can also attend individually to manage your own growth and feelings surrounding your divorce. How you approach divorce therapy depends on the stage of your divorce, your spouse's willingness to participate, and your individual goals for the process.
FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)
Why should you see a divorce therapist, and what does a divorce therapist do?
Getting a divorce can be extremely overwhelming and bring up a lot of emotions. Therapy can help people work through severe issues. Divorce counseling can help you and your partner get through a tumultuous time. When you enter this sort of treatment, many issues may come up. If you have children, you can discuss what you will be doing regarding co-parenting in divorce therapy. It can be emotional, and you may consider doing online therapy or working with somebody in your local area, depending on how comfortable both of you are with treatment; many types of therapy work when you are going through a separation or a divorce. It depends on what your goal is. You and your partner may decide, based on that goal or goals, to seek family therapy. Divorce therapists are extremely experienced in mediating between the two partners that are separating. You may be fearful that you won't recover from your separation, but divorce recovery is possible. A marriage counselor is different from seeing a divorce therapist, in that the focus is on the separation rather than preserving your marriage. You may have already tried other things to defend your relationship, and it may ultimately come down to divorce mediation. It's okay if you need a mental health professional to mediate between you and your spouse, that's okay, divorce mediation can be a game-changer.
Do therapists recommend divorce?
When you see a couple's therapist, if you are working with somebody competent, they won't directly suggest divorce, because that is up to the couple themselves. Many issues may come up in counseling. Maybe you and your partner have issues that you tried to work out in sex therapy. Sexual compatibility can be a reason for separation. They will talk about the issues with you and your partner and recommend working with divorce therapists. You can find a therapist who understands the complicated dynamic of getting divorced by looking online or by getting a referral from your therapist. It is crucial to seek therapy when going through a separation because there are so many intense emotions coming from both sides.
What are the five stages of a divorce?
The five stages of divorce are similar to those of grieving. You may experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages can apply to divorce because when you're getting separated from somebody that you've been with for a long time, you may struggle with the very concept of getting a divorce. You may potentially move in and out of these phrases rather than being in one phase and having it be linear or sequential. It can be challenging to accept the reality of getting divorced, but it is possible.
How do I become a divorce counselor?
Like any therapist, you will pursue a degree in the field. You may look into marriage and family counseling, you might continue being a family therapist, or you might directly look into becoming a divorce counselor. People who are good mediators are excellent divorce counselors because they understand how delicate the situation is and what's at stake.
What should I do after my divorce?
After a divorce, it's essential to focus on yourself and healing. You will go through your process of getting over what you've been through in a marriage. It may include enduring abuse or domestic violence. Alternatively, you may have had an amicable separation and are just trying to get in touch with yourself. What you can do is seek out an individual therapist, whether online or in your local area. Therapy can help you get through this time. Divorce therapists, psychologists, or counselors can help individuals understand how to recover from this traumatic event because divorce can be traumatic. It is important to remember that you have a right to heal, and it takes what it's going to take!
What is pre-divorce counseling?
Pre divorce counseling can be considered couples therapy. If you are seeing a couple's therapist, they might recommend seeing another professional discuss whether you would like to separate. Pre divorce counseling can also be considered a form of marriage and family therapy. Deciding to get divorced is not a light choice, and sometimes people do not agree; there are contested and uncontested divorces. Having pre-divorce counseling can be an extremely helpful part of a couple to look into when considering separation. No matter where you are in your relationship, therapy can be a vital part of working through issues with your partner. Whether you work with an online counselor or somebody in your local area, make sure that you seek therapy if you are struggling because you are not alone.
What do divorce counselors do?
Divorce counselors help you to navigate any concerns that arise regarding the divorce process. As stated in the article above, one thing that a divorce counselor may help you with if you have kids is working through child custody issues. They will help you to communicate with one another and separate as peacefully as possible. When you get a divorce, you might have to make hard decisions such as who keeps the house, who retains certain belongings, who houses any pets, and the details of how to co-parent. If you plan to co-parent and one of you wants to move to a different location, you can also discuss that. Divorce counselors are cognizant of the mental health effects that divorce can have, so they can validate and have empathy for how people feel in counseling. A divorce counselor understands the stages of divorce and has helped a multitude of couples face matters that come up both emotionally and tangibly during the divorce process. Some people feel nervous when they first seek counseling, but it can actually take an enormous weight off of your shoulders. Seeking divorce counseling helps people work through grief, decision-making issues, to understand themselves and others, and to relieve stress or confusion affiliated with a divorce.
You might seek divorce counseling in addition to divorce mediation. Divorce counseling is not the same as divorce mediation, which is a legal service. Divorce counseling and divorce mediation are both there to help you to navigate the divorce process, however. One of the things that sets divorce counseling aside from other types of therapy, such as marriage counseling or premarital counseling, is that it's designed specifically for divorce and separation. A divorce counselor is for couples who have already made the choice to divide, as is divorce mediation. If you're looking to try to prevent divorce, you'll want to seek out couples therapy or marriage counseling instead of divorce counseling and divorce mediation services. If you're having trouble communicating with each other or feel extremely negative toward your ex or soon-to-be ex-spouse, you're likely to find professional advice via divorce mediation extremely beneficial. Divorce mediation provides you with an objective observer to help you get the work affiliated with divorce done. A mediator won't try to make you like each other; they'll simply meet you where you're at and help you get the work done.
Does therapy help after divorce?
Therapy is often not just helpful but life-changing and necessary after divorce. Divorce can come with a lot of emotions, new ways of life, and stressors, and it can have an impact on your mental health. If you already struggle with mental health concerns such as anxiety depression, bipolar disorder, or eating disorders, life transitions can throw you for a loop, including divorce. You may also see an individual counselor if you struggle with family issues, self-esteem sex, and more. An individual generally goes through a lot of personal growth during the divorce process, which is exciting long-term but can be painful at the time. Therapy can also be useful for children whose parents divorce or teens whose parents divorce. There are therapists who specialize in child or adolescent issues and are well-versed in working with these age groups, which is who you'll want to look for, for child or adolescent counseling.
There are many types of therapy to consider. Different types of therapy include group therapy, individual therapy, family counseling, couples therapy divorce counseling, and more. Some mental health providers specialize in various types of therapy or therapy modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma-informed therapy, or acceptance and commitment therapy. Different types of therapy work for different people, as do different providers, so if the first round didn't work out, don't be afraid to try therapy with a new provider or modality. When you're working to find a therapist, think about what you want. Maybe, you're looking for a counselor or your teenager, or perhaps, you're looking for someone who specializes in divorce. Knowing that will allow you to ask for or look for a specialist that's catered to your needs or the needs of a child in your care.
What should I not tell my therapist?
There's almost nothing that you shouldn't tell a therapist. Therapists have seen it all and are there to be objective to your situation, which is why divorce counseling can be so beneficial. If you find that you need mental health services for personal concerns, whether those are related to the divorce or not, you may consider individual therapy in addition to divorce counseling. An individual counselor can help you with divorce recovery and any concerns that arise during the divorce or divorce recovery process. Individual counselors generally have specialties in working with different groups, types of therapy, or conditions. If you struggle with a specific issue such as eating disorders, finding a specialist is likely your best bet. Note that seeking individual counseling doesn't mean that you can't also attend divorce counseling, support groups, family therapy, or other forms of support. You can get individual therapy divorce counseling and group counseling all at once if you want to. You will make the most progress when you're comfortable in therapy, so it's essential to find someone who understands you.
Do marriage counselors ever recommend divorce?
Marriage counselors aren't there to make your choices. Instead, they're there to support you through whatever choices you make. They won't tell a client to get a divorce, but what they will do is hold space for you if you decide to get one. You might have to deal with judgment or criticism from family or other people in your life, but you should never have to face that when you find a therapist. Therapists are there to help you communicate, learn new coping skills, and process emotions healthily. They should help you as you come to your own conclusion, not tell you what to do. When it comes to coping with divorce, you and your ex-partner want to seek divorce counseling specifically, which is a form of counseling designated for those who have already decided to get a divorce. If you’d like to see a mental health provider as a family unit, you can also go to family therapy. Divorce counseling is generally short-term, so don’t be worried about being tied to your ex for longer than you need to be. In divorce counseling, you’ll have an objective professional to help you negate conflict and other common issues people in the divorce process face so that you can have the best post-divorce outcome.
What are the signs that you should get a divorce?
Ultimately, if you want a divorce, you want a divorce. If you need to experience life on your own or don't see a future with your spouse, that's valid. Other reasons someone might decide to get a divorce include frequent cheating, substance use, resentment, neglect, or a strained relationship that doesn't seem to see improvement with marriage counseling. If you and your spouse decide to get a divorce and have concerns related to custody, communication, or something else that relates to the split, counseling for divorce can help you separate peacefully. Counselors and therapists are well-versed in working with people while they navigate life transitions, which can be highly advantageous when coping with divorce.
What are warning signs of divorce?
When we think of relationships and divorce divorce might hold negative connotations, and while it's hard to get a divorce divorce doesn't necessarily result in negative outcomes. In fact, life can get even better after a divorce. There's no need to feel guilty about divorce divorce is the best option in some cases. Here are some signs that a divorce might be in the future:
You think about divorce often
You fantasize about divorce
You don't want to spend time together
It doesn't feel like it's worth the effort to try to save the relationship
Your needs and wants vary greatly
Repeated cheating or infidelity
Marriage counseling isn't working
If you're considering a divorce, you'll likely find yourself seeking professional advice throughout the divorce process. Some professionals blog about the warning signs of divorce divorce counseling and how to improve relationships. Online professional blogs can offer professional advice when it comes to general information about divorce divorce warning signs, divorce-related mental health concerns, parenting, psychological conditions, and more, but for professional advice or assistance with your individual circumstances, it's essential to see a mental health provider of your own.
Is life better after a divorce?
Life can certainly be better after a divorce. Even if the divorce itself is stressful or if you didn't want a divorce initially, your life can improve after the fact. Ultimately, you want to be in a relationship where both of you are equally as invested. If you're struggling with the divorce process, divorce recovery, or your personal mental health, it may be helpful to find a therapist for individual therapy. When you reach out for support, you can process negative emotions in new ways that are productive and work through any roadblocks you have so that you can establish a better life post-divorce. You can find a therapist by searching for a provider online or by checking to see what your health insurance covers. When you look for a therapist online, you can search for specific terms like "therapist find divorce counseling near me" or "therapist find dialectical behavioral therapy" to find the best fit for your concerns. Often, your insurance company will tell you who they cover over their phone or through their website. Online therapy is another option to consider. Online counseling or therapy is often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling through a practice or therapy center that isn't covered by your insurance. Whether you see a therapist who works in a practice setting or look for an online therapist through a company like ReGain, counseling can assist you in the divorce process and empower you to lead a life where you prosper.
- Previous Article
- Next Article