Divorce by nature is disruptive to the family unit. Landing the divorced family in a healthy place post-divorce is not always easy. Even the most reasonable, well-intentioned, and grounded individuals might lack the capacity or skills to navigate these waters on their own. The optimal solution is to give yourself and your children the gift of therapy. Discussed below are the top therapy options, regardless of your budget.
When divorcing we are disrupting our own lives and permanently altering the lives of our children. The divorcees lives will be full of changes and challenges when splitting from one home into two. These challenges can include re-entering the workforce, setting up a new household, parenting on your own, schedule management without a partner, learning to cook, learning to maintain household finances, and countless other challenges. In short, there is way too much going on during the initial years of a family split for the divorcees to be able to navigate all these changes without professional help.
The optimal four ingredients in the therapy cocktail include:
Gift # 1: The Children’s Therapist
Unquestionably the best gift a divorcing couple can give their children is a therapist to help them navigate through the changes in their lives. A parent is not qualified to be both the “disruptor” and the counselor of their children during these times. A top children’s therapist is completely dedicated to the needs of the children. In many cases a child will communicate vital details about their own coping to the therapist that the child does not feel comfortable telling a parent. For younger children, use of a children’s “play therapist” is a newer subset of therapists who through play can counsel younger children who are not old enough to communicate as effectively as teens.
Gift # 2: The Adult’s Therapist
Perhaps you are a grounded adult who has never felt the need for a therapist? Maybe the start of your divorce seems to be going ok, and you think you got this? Consider the feedback from one of the more insightful interviews in “Take the High Road”.
One divorcee was a thriving businessman who never had regularly seen a therapist. At the advice of a confidant, he sought out a therapist who specifically had done a lot of work with divorced men. During the interview one of his observations was something most divorcees could learn from. Countless times as events and issues arose during his divorce, he briefed his therapist and advised how he planned to react.
He was amazed at two things. First, how many times his therapist disagreed with his initial plans to deal with what happened with his ex or his children. Second, he was floored how sensible the therapists counsel seemed once it was framed and supported by an experienced professional, one who clearly had seen similar situations countless times beforehand. His conclusion was clear, his therapist was helping him make the ideal choices and decisions that benefited himself, his ex, and his children and that despite his confidence in his own decision-making, he was not able to make the optimal decisions without professional help. An insightful conclusion that all divorcees can benefit from.
Gift # 3: The Co-Parenting Counselor
A Co-Parenting Counselor is typically a family therapist who divorcing couples meet with according to an agreed schedule. A key purpose is to discuss and resolve key co-parenting needs. A skilled co-parenting counselor should be able to navigate the couple to resolutions of most disagreements. The involvement of a Co-Parenting counselor also offers invaluable peace of mind to the adult divorcees. In high-conflict divorces where basic co-parenting communication can oftentimes be painful, there is a measurable reduction in stress as each adult has the comfort of knowing that children’s co-parenting needs can be addressed in a forum that is monitored and structured to result in the necessary agreements needed to parent during the most challenging period post separation.
Gift # 4: Family Therapy
Finally, “family therapy” programs can take a variety of formats. A sample family therapy might be structured as a four-session course involving the entire family over four successive weekends. Aside from the varied aspects of these programs, a unique benefit is simply the optics of family therapy as the kids see both parents at the same place at the same time, both committed to a process to help the family cope with the divorce.
The “Therapy Cocktail” described here is certainly ideal. Time and finances may limit options for many couples. The good news is that many excellent programs and resources are offered in some cities specifically to divorcees on a limited budget. The family court system would be a good place to start as a resource. There should be a help desk that can guide you to available support services both within and outside the family court system. Another idea is to google low-cost, sliding-scale, or no-cost mental health providers in your area.
An absolute commitment to selecting a skilled children’s therapist should be paramount on parents’ minds as they move from one to two households. Therapy together with healthy home environments are arguably the two best gifts parents can give to their children after the disruption to their lives brought on by the divorce. Specific to finding a children’s therapist, the divorcing parents must recognize the immediate window available to ensure their children are processing the divorce in the healthiest manner possible. Parents are obligated to provide their children with food, shelter, and clothing. The commitment to your children’s mental health should be viewed no differently.
Bio: Andy Heller is the author of “Take the High Road, Divorce with Compassion for Yourself and Your Family”