Couples and Marriage Counseling, Psychotherapy

What Is Divorce Counseling and Is It Right for You?

Whatisdivorcecounselingandisitrightforyou

Written By: Janel Wenger, AMFT

Understanding the complications and the questions of whether divorce is right for you can be overwhelming. It is important to know that there are different types of therapy available to help you in each stage of divorce. The four main types of divorce therapy: discernment counseling, marital counseling, pre-divorce therapy, and post-divorce therapy. 

Discernment Counseling 

Discernment counseling is a form of brief couples therapy for partners to discuss their ambiguities and reservations within their relationship. The goal of discernment counseling is to have the couple decide on the direction of their partnership.

The couple together decides whether they would like to stay in the current relationship or to continue towards separation and divorce. Discernment counseling is short-term and consists of a maximum of five sessions. The question that is asked of the couple is to answer whether they are willing to work towards continued partnership or divorce.

If the couple decides to move forward with a continued partnership, the therapist will often refer them to marital counseling. When the couple decides to move in the direction of divorce, the therapist will often refer them to pre-divorce counseling. 

Divorce Counseling

Marital Counseling 

In marital counseling, couples are brought together to work through their discrepancies and resolve interpersonal conflicts. Through the process of marital counseling, couples learn tools to improve communication, create realistic expectations, reduce emotional avoidance, and other various relational skills.

Pre-divorce Therapy 

When a couple has decided to get a divorce, they have begun a long and emotionally charged process. Pre-divorce therapy is utilized to help those involved balance mental, physical, and relational health. During pre-divorce therapy, the therapist guides the couple through basic communication skills and problem-solving skills to ease the process of divorce. The therapist helps assist couples in other therapeutic interventions before and at the beginning of legal proceedings. 

Post-divorce Therapy 

Life during and after divorce is a challenging transitional time for everyone involved. Long legal proceedings can hold many uncertainties of what the future holds. Post-divorce is done through the modalities of individual and family therapy. This helps those involved work through the stages of divorce.

The five stages in emotionally processing a divorce: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to remember that all individuals of the family structure go through these stages, and often at differing times.

A therapist specializing in divorce, marriage, and family therapy can offer a space for families or individuals to process these stages and create healthy coping skills. This process is not meant to be facilitated alone; creating and leaning on a support system is imperative to growth and change. Strong support systems depend on those that show consistent encouragement and accountability, such as friends, family, specialized support groups, and professional divorce therapists.

African american couple posing by a wall

The Benefits of Enlisting Therapy After a Divorce

The ending of a marriage or partnership can create emotional challenges that are hard to navigate on your own. Divorce often affects the people involved in many ways, including mental, physical, and financial. Therapy after divorce can be done in different modalities such as couple, individual, and family. Throughout the therapeutic process, individuals can learn how to understand their situation and their emotional response. 

Working with a therapist through divorce counseling can help provide a space to create goals and gain perspective on the situation. A person going through a divorce can feel a range of emotions and may feel guilt, shame, anger, sadness, and grief. It can be a struggle to separate emotional responses during the legal process of divorce.

Those who utilize therapy often make better judgments and decisions about family dynamics and financial settlements when they are clear about how they feel and what is best emotionally for those involved. A therapist can help with clarifying realistic expectations when it comes to difficult issues and transitions.

High conflict divorce can have negative impacts on children which may include any of the following: delayed adjustment, depression, anxiety, negative coping skills, attachment disorders, and oppositional defiant disorder. 

Enlisting in therapy after divorce can aid in setting and establishing communication ground rules and boundaries. Understanding and coming to terms that the couple is over, but the family structure still exists and that the parents must continue to parent the structure, is vitality important. Therapy can highlight the strengths of creating and implementing co-parenting strategies and positive communication skills between those involved.

The earlier therapy is introduced to the family structure the more likely positive communication and coping skills are implemented. However, it is never too late to begin your therapy journey, there is therapy available at different stages of divorce. 

The Role Counselors and Therapists Play in Divorce

At any time during a divorce, seeking a therapist you feel comfortable with and expressing your feelings without fear or judgment is important. Therapists act as impartial third parties and offer a space for those to understand the issues and challenges that were present in the marriage. Mental health professionals and specializing therapists also work with families to help build healthy skills that lead to functional family dynamics. This journey is not something that is done in one session but instead over an extended period. 

The mental health professional or specializing family therapist will often perform different roles during the therapeutic process. The roles often held by the therapist are boundary coach, communication mediator, behavioral educator, co-parenting skills facilitator, and emotional support. Many divorce therapists take a systemic approach to understanding the challenges the client(s) face by understanding the roles each person plays within the family structure and how they impact the dynamics of the family. 

Therapists utilize different modalities, techniques, and theories depending on the needs of the system and client(s): play therapy, CBT, Narrative, talk therapy, Adlerian, EFT (emotionally focused therapy), psychoeducation, etc. 

Finding the right therapist is important to continue with therapy whether it be individual, couples, or family therapy. Researching a divorce therapist or MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) specializing in divorce near you is the first step in your therapeutic journey.

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in psychotherapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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