SEPARATION AND DIVORCE
While counseling frequently helps couples to make their marriages
more satisfying, there are also times when counseling can help a couple
to see that they need time apart to better understand themselves and
their relationship, or that they need to bring their marriage to an
Sometimes people learn in the process of therapy that aspects of their relationship are making it difficult for them to understand their separate needs as individuals or to communicate about them in a constructive ways. There are some situations in which a carefully considered separation, in which goals and communication are clear, give a couple a chance to get a better perspective on their relationship.
There are also relationships in which unresolved conflicts have been left unaddressed for so long that the damage they have caused can no longer be repaired. In other cases there may be true incompatibility in some fundamental aspect of the marriage that precludes a functioning partnership. When a marriage ends after sober reflection and careful consideration of the options, important decisions need to be made that have far-ranging ramifications, both emotionally and financially, for the partners and for their children. Every member of the re-organizing family will be profoundly affected by how the separating spouses each handle the emotional journey of divorce, by the access the children will have to both of their parents in the new two-household family, and by the financial arrangement made by the adults for their own care and that of their children. This period is a very vulnerable one in the life of the family; the importance of making healthy decisions that are guided by the overall well-being of all of its members can not be overstated.
Support for the adults during the separation and divorce process can be provided in a number of ways. Separation and divorce counseling can be helpful in sorting through the many decisions that need to be made, in coping with the strong emotions elicited by a separation or by the divorce process, in learning to manage partners' emotional reactivity to one another, and in helping children with the emotional distress that accompanies parental conflict. It is possible to work together or individually towards these goals, in conjoint or individual therapy; family therapy which includes the children is also frequently of significant assistance to both the adults and the children.
At Council for Relationships, therapists who are very experienced in helping with these problems are available to work with the partners separately or together and to include the children where necessary; when children need individual therapy as well, child specialists are also available to work together with the adults' counselors as a team to ensure that all of the family members' needs are addressed in a coordinated manner.
In many cases of separation or divorce, mediation may be an option worth exploring. Mediation is a voluntary, non-adversarial settlement process in which the legal issues of separation or divorce such as custody, child support and property division are addressed directly and privately by the spouses with the help of a neutral professional who helps them to make practical, informed decisions together. People trying to keep their lives under control during the turmoil of separation or divorce can benefit from working together to coordinate important decisions which affect all family members, learning how to separate their spousal role from their parental role, and evaluating their present financial conditions in order to provide for the family's future financial needs.
With the mediator's help, temporary agreements can be reached to handle immediate concerns. Couples may then negotiate long-term agreements which, after review by attorneys, can be signed and become enforceable.
For more information about mediation, contact senior staff therapist Michele Southworth, J.D., LMFT at 610-543-1108.
Both during the separation and divorce process as well as after divorce, circumstances and parenting decisions can arise which are difficult to resolve for former partners in marriage who are still partners in parenting. When post-divorce changes in parenting arrangements or support are needed, parents welcome having a safe, impartial environment to discuss these types of issues.
In such situations, a class addressing the issues common to co-parenting after divorce can provide needed information and skill development. Co-parenting counseling can provide separated and divorced parents more in-depth assistance in this area, and can be expanded to include family therapy with the children where this is warranted. When legal issues are involved, mediation may also be of help.
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