Do I Need Divorce Counseling?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content Warning: Please be advised that this article mentions divorce, substance use, and other potentially triggering topics. Read with discretion. 

Going through a divorce (or any kind of relationship ending) can be an emotionally complex process that many individuals and spouses struggle to navigate. If you are currently facing the possibility of a divorce or have decided it is the healthiest choice, you may be wondering how to get through the process in a constructive, healthy manner. 

Divorce therapists can provide you with the tools and support you seek to address your emotions and work with your spouse to make the separation more comfortable and amicable, building a better future for both of you. Understanding how a divorce therapist can help you may allow you to make a healthy, informed decision on your plan of care before, during, and after your divorce or separation from your former spouse.

Online Therapy Can Help You Cope With The Divorce Process

What Is Divorce Counseling?

Divorce counseling is a form of family counseling that is separate from marriage counseling or relationship counseling. It involves the support and advice of a licensed professional counselor who can address the mental and emotional well-being of individuals who are divorcing, guide them through the process, and help them interact in a healthy manner. 

Like other types of counseling, divorce counseling may help you come to terms with the changes in your life and develop coping skills.

The Benefits Of Divorce Counseling 

Seeking divorce counseling can be a brave and healthy way to allow you and your spouse to work together during your divorce. At each stage, divorce counseling can help you learn how to cope with changes and understand the circumstances of what you’re experiencing. In divorce counseling, you may experience the following benefits:  

  • Methods for safeguarding your mental health during what is often a devastating event
  • Healthy coping skills
  • Ways to live your life positively
  • Ways to prepare for an impending divorce (with pre-divorce counseling)
  • Ways to recognize and address symptoms of mental health conditions
  • Ways to cope with feelings of grief, fear, or trauma related to the end of the marriage 
  • Tools to face the emotional stages of grief
  • Tips to navigate the emotional stages of divorce 
  • Ways to accept the divorce outcome and move forward
  • Healthy ways to resolve conflicts, both with your former spouse and with other family members who may be involved
  • Healthy communication skills to use and tips on how to act respectfully to each other during the divorce proceedings
  • Healthy communication skills to use with your spouse post-divorce
  • For parents: methods for helping your children cope with divorce and ways to teach coping skills to your children

Divorce counselors can help you grow and understand yourself and your family dynamics during a time of significant change. 

Counseling For Each Stage Of Divorce

If a couple reaches the point where they believe divorce may be necessary, seeking divorce counseling may be a healthy outlet at each stage of the process.   

Pre-Divorce Counseling 

If you and your spouse have determined that divorce is the healthiest option, pre-divorce counseling could help you prepare to get divorced and proactively address challenges that can arise. A divorce counselor can help you understand what to expect and how you might feel, as well as offer research (or referral to a lawyer) related to the legal issues associated with divorce. During pre-divorce counseling, a counselor can also help you make a plan for the next steps. Additionally, both parties can learn healthy ways to communicate to decrease the chances of further emotional upset. 

Counseling During The Divorce Proceedings 

Seeking counseling as the divorce is happening can help you gain a sense of control over what might be an overwhelming life change. A divorce counselor can help you learn how to communicate with your spouse more effectively. You can also learn healthy tools to cope with stress and handle change (as a bonus, these skills will likely help you with other stressful life events you may encounter down the line, such as the death of a loved one). If you have children, divorce counseling can help you develop a plan for how you will both parent that may help you safeguard the emotional well-being of your children during this time. 

Post-Divorce Counseling 

Counseling after the divorce is finalized can help you move forward or process what occurred. In post-divorce counseling, you can discover healthy ways to live your new life and experience positive personal growth. Your therapist could offer healthy coping mechanisms or suggestions for finding peer support in your local area. You can also continue to work on healthy communication with your ex-spouse. If you have children, post-divorce counseling might be a productive way to manage co-parenting or additional challenges that divorced families often face, such as integrating a step-parent into the family.  

The Effects Of Divorce

Divorce may have several emotional impacts on either spouse that divorce therapy can assist with. 

Emotional Well-Being 

Research shows that divorce can have a significant impact on the emotional well-being of individual spouses. In a study of over 2,000 participants experiencing a divorce, researchers found that symptoms of anxiety and depression were increased, along with a higher rate of substance use disorders. Divorce counseling can help you work through difficult emotions that may accompany separating from your spouse. A counselor can give you insights into the sources of your feelings and how you can express yourself in a healthy way. For example, they might suggest journaling, which has been proven effective in reducing stress and unwanted mental health symptoms.  

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Finances  

Divorce might also affect your finances. It can be stressful to figure out how the finances are going to work if you now have to manage the bills and deal with any financial duress you experienced during the divorce. If you were previously financially supported by your spouse or supported them, you may talk to your therapist about how to move forward with your new financial plan. 

Lifestyle 

Your lifestyle may change during a divorce. The activities you used to do with your partner may not be the same activities you enjoy on your own. Being alone can feel strange or difficult after a divorce if you were in a long or emotionally close marriage. 

You may not spend much time with the same friends as before because of the circumstances of the divorce or because they were closer to your former partner, which might make you feel lonely.

Online Therapy Can Help You Cope With The Divorce Process

Emotions 

Emotions may change as you process your divorce. You may experience the stages of grief, which could include feelings of guilt, anger, or sadness. You could also experience low self-esteem. A therapist can help you address these concerns and offer you life coaching and self-care tools as you begin a new stage of your life. Divorce can be challenging, but there are ways you can have a beneficial outcome and live a joyous new life.

Challenging thoughts or cognitive distortions may occur as you and your partner choose to end your relationship. Addressing those thoughts and feelings early can be a vital step because it can set you up for success and healthy self-esteem. Although healing these feelings or thoughts might take time, therapy may offer you the tools, patience, and confidence to nurture your mental well-being.

Counseling Options 

Finding the most effective type of therapy can be difficult for some individuals. Perhaps the therapists located near you aren’t a suitable fit or already have a full schedule of clients. Time constraints can also make it challenging to pursue in-person care, as you may be busier due to your divorce. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, in-person therapy at a private practice may prove too expensive for your budget. In these cases, online divorce therapy can be an accessible option. 

Research shows that online therapy can be a helpful form of care for couples who have decided to divorce. For example, in a study of 300 couples in distress, researchers found that online therapy helped them work together more productively, improved their confidence, and decreased symptoms of individual depression and anxiety. The study also mentions that online therapy can help overcome common obstacles to mental health care, such as cost.

If you’re experiencing complex emotions related to separating from your spouse or are looking for guidance as you navigate the process of divorce, consider taking advantage of an online therapy platform like BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples. Online therapy can be a convenient option if divorce is taking up your time, as it allows you to chat with a therapist remotely through live video calls, voice calls, or in-app messaging. You can also reach out to your therapist outside of sessions. If you have a question about a topic you’ve discussed or have a comment about the divorce process that you forgot to make during therapy, you can send your therapist a message, and they’ll get back to you when they’re able.

Takeaway

Divorce can be challenging to navigate, often leading to uncomfortable emotions and tension between spouses. For couples who have decided to divorce, pursuing divorce counseling can help them move through the process productively. If you’re experiencing mental health challenges related to your marriage or a similar area of life, consider connecting with a licensed therapist. You’re not alone, and support is available.

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