Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Therapy for Relationships, Divorce and Parenting

As a divorce mediator, I have quite a few resources available to help divorcing couples or individuals in various ways. I know great financial advisors for couples getting married or in a relationship, Certified Divorce Financial Analysts to help divorcing parties make good financial decisions in a divorce, CPAs for tax advice, appraisers for businesses and property, actuaries for pension and retirement plans, estate planning attorneys for wills, trusts and quitclaim deeds and therapists.

This last category - therapists - is so broad and so useful for couples in so many stages in the relationship continuum, that I thought I should share some of the ways couples and individuals can benefit from working with a therapist. Of course, I am not a therapist and I only give this information because I have seen and heard reports from my clients on so many of these benefits that I want to let others know what a valuable resource this might be in their lives. I also recognize the importance of both parties feeling comfortable with the therapist they are working with and I recognize that not all couples are in favor of any form of therapy. But if it has a chance of helping or saving your relationship, it just might be worth trying and finding the right therapist for your relationship.

Pre-marital: Couples can get marriage preparation counseling with a therapist. This generally includes a short-term plan of just a few sessions for the couple to gain valuable tools for healthy communication in their marriage together. I think of this as preventive counseling and it is designed for couples who might not otherwise be in counseling except for the fact that they are getting married. In other words, it's not counseling to "fix" something that is wrong; it is counseling to ensure nothing gets broken in the first place.

During the marriage/relationship- at the first sign of trouble: If a problem arises during the relationship and it doesn't get resolved and the couple is having difficulty communicating or overcoming the problem, a therapist can help get the couple back on course. I think of this as fixing a fixable problem before it becomes a much bigger problem and a threat to the relationship.

During Marriage - Beyond the First Signs: I know many couples' therapists who wish they could have started working with some couples months or even years before the couple finally ends up in their office. If the problems have become insurmountable and have affected the relationship so negatively, this presents the biggest challenge to therapists and the couple who are fighting to save their relationship when it is so far beyond the first signs of trouble.

At the End - Decisionmaking: Some couples specifically enter counseling to get help to decide whether their relationship is beyond repair or can still be saved. Therapists can help a couple work through this and make decisions that are right for each of them and for their family as a whole.

Divorcing Couples: Therapists can help couples or individuals deal with the emotional difficulties of what is sometimes called the death of a relationship. Getting help to manage this often-traumatic experience, regardless of the reasons for a divorce, can be a very important part of the healing process.

Divorced or Divorcing Parents: Some therapists specialize in working with parents who have decided to end their relationship with each other but who must continue to have a healthy relationship for the benefit of their children. As a divorce mediator, I work very closely with parents to ensure that their children's needs and interests are met and that the parents understand how important having positive relations and communication with each other is to the health of their children. Parents who continue to work on their revised relationship as parents who are not together but are both still parents are doing their children the biggest favor of all.

Not all therapists specialize in each of these areas and it's great to find one who specializes in the area that you need help with. Many therapists have their areas of expertise outlined on their websites. If not, call them to find out if they specialize in the things you would like help with. Good luck!

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