Perhaps you tried marriage counseling, but it did not have the intended effect. Instead of helping you to become closer to your spouse, your sessions enabled you to see more clearly why you shouldn’t remain together. Now you are determined to dissolve your marriage, and someone has suggested divorce counseling. You might wonder, “What for? It didn’t work the first time.” But wait a minute, what about that clarity? And wasn’t it helpful to be able to process your feelings? As you move forward with your divorce, you may face a range of emotions, from sorrow and recriminations to anger, confusion, and trepidation. Divorce counseling can provide a means to examine those feelings, dispel worries, and feel more confident about your future.
Why Choose Divorce Counseling?
Divorce counseling is not intended to save your marriage. It’s meant to help you cope with the process of divorce as you let go of the past and plan the next stage of your life. The process of letting go can cause emotional turmoil. Jennifer Meyer, a licensed professional counselor, explains that divorces typically progress through varies stages that include:
- Denial — Refusing to believe divorce is necessary, even as the marriage continues to be intolerable.
- Anger — Lashing out at individuals, circumstances, and inanimate objects that have little to do with your true frustrations.
- Bargaining — Mulling over half-measures that would make divorce unnecessary, not because the marriage can be fixed, but because moving forward is too painful.
- Depression — The feeling of worthlessness because your marriage has failed.
- Acceptance — Finally at peace with the inevitable, you are no longer idealizing the past, and you feel capable of taking on the challenges of the future.
- Rebuilding — A feeling of genuine excitement about your potential for creating a happy future on your terms.
The process entails a rollercoaster of emotions that threaten to derail your progress at any moment. Having a professional guide you through the various stages can provide an important level of assurance.
How to Know If You Might Need Divorce Counseling
You should certainly seek divorce counseling if your impending divorce is affecting your physical or emotional health. Here are a few signs that could indicate the need for divorce counseling:
- Disrupted sleep routine
- Lost interest in hobbies and activities
- Drop in physical energy and motivation
- Incomplete tasks starting to pile up
- Brain fog and difficulty focusing
- Changes in eating habits affecting your weight and energy level
- Feelings of self-loathing and/or thoughts of self-harm
- Mood swings
- Feelings of shame, failure, guilt and unworthiness
- Increased tension with your spouse as you seek a divorce settlement
This emotional turmoil is not only unhealthy; it can make you an unproductive or even counterproductive participant in your own divorce. That can drag out the process, prolonging whatever angst you’re experiencing.
Benefits to Be Gained from Divorce Counseling
Let’s face it: going through a divorce is a strenuous undertaking. It’s disruptive. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s expensive. Very few people can go through a divorce without the process taking an emotional toll. Under those circumstances, some form of counseling or therapy can have a wide range of benefits, such as:
- Learning to better manage the negative feelings that surface (or simmer below the surface)
- Developing conflict resolution skills necessary for co-parenting with an ex
- Taking the time to address unresolved issues from your marriage, so you can be more emotionally open when your divorce is finalized
- Gaining a better understanding of what went wrong in your marital relationship, so you can have greater success in future relationships
- Having as a sounding board someone who will give you supportive but rational feedback
- Being better able to assert yourself and articulate your goals to your attorney and in mediation or negotiations sessions
The opportunity to process your thoughts and emotions can give you peace of mind that will do wonders for your mental and physical health.
What To Do While Looking for a Divorce Counselor
If you are under enough stress from your impending divorce that you’re considering therapy, it might also be true that you have neglected necessary self-care. It’s natural during this time to focus on issues outside yourself, and if you’re a parent, you’ve probably been more focused on your children. But if that’s the case, it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself will make you better able to respond to their needs and concerns.
So, while you’re researching divorce therapists in your area, you should reflect on how your selfcare regimen is fairing. Are you:
- Getting enough exercise?
- Eating nutritious foods and avoiding junk food?
- Getting a regular eight hours of sleep nightly?
- Seeing enough of your close friends and relatives to feel their support?
- Keeping up with hobbies and activities that give you enjoyment?
Gritting your teeth is not a strategy. Now is the time to take stock of what you need to do to manage the coming weeks as gracefully as possible. That means assessing your support system and availing yourself to it.
What About Post-Divorce Counseling?
Life after divorce is a brave new world. There are enormous opportunities, as well as challenges. You want to maintain a positive mindset and a clear focus on your goals. For many recent divorcees, counseling provides much-needed assistance. Therefore, you might want to continue your sessions after your divorce is finalized. Counseling can help you adjust to issues such as co-parenting with your ex and socializing as someone newly unattached. This transitional period, though hopeful, can be disorienting. There’s much to be gained from discussing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with a trusted professional.