What Is Divorce Counseling?
There are almost as many kinds of divorce counseling and divorce therapy as there are people who can help us through the exhausting, overwhelming journey of separation and divorce. That is especially true for divorce in the middle of our life, when things are more complicated and there are lots of moving parts to consider.
Here are a few of the types of counselors, therapists and mentors I used from when I found out about the affair until we signed the final divorce papers and even after that. Some of these counselors provided long-term help, and others were for specific divorce counseling questions I had.
- Couples counseling to see if the marriage could be saved
- Spiritual counseling from a person in my spiritual family
- Physical counseling from my physician about my overall physical health and things to be aware of during divorce
- Personal training at the gym
- Informal advice from teachers/counselors at our youngest child’s school
- Emotional counseling
- Legal counseling
- Financial counseling plus a meeting with a local bank
- Counseling from our realtor about selling and buying houses or renting apartments
- Life coaching to help me clarify “What do I do now?”
- Career Counseling for my small business
Some of these divorce helps were free. Others were services I paid for. They all provided divorce therapy techniques and tips to help me move forward. Some women’s centers and spiritual communities have free services and resources. A church close to me has job search groups. Places like the YMCA have resources as well. Explore your area.
In my opinion, there are two types of pre-divorce couple’s counseling:
- Counseling with the hope of reconciliation and rebuilding the marriage.
- Counseling to help couples navigate the divorce more easily
Whether these two types of counseling will help may depend on how the divorce came about.
My then-husband and I went to a counselor when I discovered the office affair. Since we had been down the infidelity road before, I thought that we could work through this and strengthen our marriage … again. (The relationship that finally caused our divorce was after we had been married 30 years and continued for three years and then after we divorced, too.)
During the weekly sessions with a psychologist, my spouse was not honest about his relationship with the woman in his office. It was not just a friendship. It was a full-blown, sexual, emotional, sort of spiritual affair that had taken over both of their lives.
My ex didn’t tell me that, of course. I discovered that heart-breaking, gut-wrenching reality on my own. The counselor eventually told him he would have to find his own therapist. I continued with that therapist and she offered amazing guidance during those awful early days of the whole mess.
While we were still trying to repair our marriage (I thought), we also had a counselor who was individually seeing me, my husband, the girlfriend and also advising the professional group about how to avoid a lawsuit. He also met once with all of our children and my husband and me. That didn’t go particularly well. I decided he had too many irons in the fire.
Divorce Counseling For Couples
In some situations, couples will go to divorce counseling together to make the divorce easier and keep it from getting vicious or drawn out.
For me, I definitely did not want to go to counseling to figure out how to make going our separate ways easier. I didn’t want to hear any tips that would make ripping our family apart more palatable. I didn’t want to know how we could make things easier for our kids to adjust to his new love!
Maybe some people are more open-minded than I am, but it was hard for me to be reasonable with someone who had never once told me he wasn’t happy and refused to end an affair that destroyed a beautiful, good family for some extra excitement on the side or something. And by the way, I’m the one who bought the book 101 Nights of Great Sex and tried to keep our sex life exciting! (But I digress!)
I’m sure my ex-husband would have been his very charming and reasonable self, and then the counselor would have thought about me…“hmmm…she seems a little over the edge!” At the time, I was over the edge! I had invested 33 years of love, time, energy and care into him and our family, and he threw it all away! Okay. I guess we can all see that couples divorce counseling wouldn’t have worked for me.
Counseling For Individuals
Individual counseling throughout the divorce process can be both calming and empowering. Having a person who does not tell us to “just move on,” is comforting, too. Counselors let us talk about the situation when most of our friends and family get tired of listening. That in itself is such a relief. (Our MDRcommunity provides that, too.) Mental health professionals are trained to help us think about and resolve issues that are hard to resolve in our during-divorce-hyper-emotional state.
Post Divorce Counseling (Divorce Therapy)
Post Divorce Counseling is more commonly called divorce therapy, and ex-spouses usually find their own separate post divorce counseling or therapy groups. What I have noticed in our Midlife Divorce Recovery work is that women are more likely to seek out in-person divorce support groups (like our 10-Week RADiCAL Divorce Recovery Group) than men are.
Divorce Therapy Groups
Since loneliness was almost always in the top three most difficult parts of divorce recovery, divorce support groups can be very helpful. Women talk. Women find solutions by talking. Women are more likely to share our innermost feelings in a group than men are. Men are hurting just as badly as women if they are the ones who have been left, but most men seem to be more willing to talk with an individual than bare their souls in front of a group of people.
Weekly in-person Divorce Therapy or Divorce Support groups can be very helpful. Men seem to be more hesitant to admit they need help and so less likely to go to these groups. They sometimes go to groups with both genders to meet someone new. Below is a video conversation I had with a pastor who explains the difference between how men and women address divorce support groups.
The head of the counseling ministry at a huge church in the midwest stated that the best recovery results usually happen when people get individual counseling and then also become part of some kind of gender-specific divorce support group. They have stopped providing mixed classes because class-members were getting into relationships before they were ready.
Counseling & Therapy Techniques
Divorce counseling and therapy techniques vary depending on each specific counselor. Often counselors talk about the grief process of divorce and the specific steps to address that.
Often therapists help us get to the bottom of our flawed thinking or our less-than-perfect primary family situation in hopes of helping us deal with our divorce. All of these can be productive.
Although I am not a professional therapist, for about 15 years we have developed resources to help women grieve, heal and rebuild after divorce. Our MasterPlan program provides concrete, practical tools and resources to help you answer this important question every day: “What can I do today to get closer to the life I deserve?” We help guide you to answer that question.
Therapists often recommend our MDRcommunity, which is part of the MasterPlan. The Community is a private, protected online community where you have to be a member, but no one even knows your real name and no one has any contact information. You can feel free to express what you need to without anyone knowing who you are. Part of your own healing is sharing your wisdom and encouragement with the other women in the MDRcommunity, too.
Our MasterPlan program provides you with a whole year of divorce recovery tips, tools, strategies and encouragement. Each of our 12 areas of divorce recovery include an interview with a professional in that particular area of recovery:
- Get started: Grieving and deciding to get better
- Survive: Mastering the Survival Six – the building blocks of recovery
- Get Strong: Physically, Emotionally, Mentally, Socially & Spiritually
- Conquer the Chaos: Taking control of your life
- Get Financially Fit: It’s more than money
- Teach Your Children: The powerful life lessons of recovery
- Inspire Your Family & Friends: Creating your legacy
- Face Reality: Being authentic – a new empowerment
- Choose to Change: Your future is your choice
- Set New Goals: What do you want and how can you get it?
- Embrace Transformation: A life beyond your wildest dreams!
- Shining Your Light: Sharing your unique gifts with the world
We also provide you with a special 6-part program called Parenting Through Divorce: Interviews with 30-something children of divorce about what they needed during their parents’ divorce.
With our MasterPlan, you receive a monthly RADiCALbuzz online newsletter, my Radical Recovery book and our monthly PowerPages to help you work through the divorce recovery journey.