I am privileged to work closely with, and to accept referrals from, many skilled therapists in the Portland metro area. A frequent concern I hear from them is that the traditional litigated mode of divorce is inherently harmful to families (especially children) and inconsistent with the healing and therapeutic work that individuals and couples need at juncture of their lives. Ramping up conflict or exascerbating existing fractures is simply not what already stressed (and perhaps traumatized) family members need.
Thankfully, the legal profession is finally offering options more consistent with the more therapeutic approach that folks are being provided by our mental health colleagues. In fact, our divorce clients who are already in their own individual therapy are almost always in a better place to navigate this difficult transition better. They have a greater ability to focus on the future they want to create, rather remaining mired in the pain from their past. Even better, folks who have the benefit of past or even ongoing couples counselling are in a much better position to access their best selves and care for themselves and their children going forward.
Therapists, are the BEST possible resource to help clients engage in a healthy, rather than a destructive, divorce process. And, you can continue to play a crucial role over the whole spectrum of choices facing clients when they reach the difficult conclusion that divorce is their best option, including:
- Exploring opportunities to continue to assist clients (instead of having to passively watch as the legal process undermines your client’s progress).
- Helping integrate your therapeutic work as the family restructures itself in a peaceful divorce process.
- Ensuring that your knowledge and experience continue to be available to help clients as they move forward.
- Carefully addressing issues around physical separation.
- Managing the inevitable flow of strong emotions.
- Keeping parents focused on meeting the needs of their children optimally.
- Reinforcing the idea that how peacefully a couple divorces is perhaps the single most important factor in their future ability to co-parent effectively, while at the same time developing healthy, separate lives.