A. Purposes of Counseling

Here are some ways that counseling can benefit you and members of your family:

1. Helping you help your children through the breakup of their family How you act and what you say during the divorce affects your children. Your conduct makes a big difference in how your children feel and how they relate to you and your spouse. A mental health professional can give you guidance to help minimize the damage and speed the healing process.

2. Helping you and your spouse work together for your children’s welfare

Cooperating during the divorce can set the tone for how you and your spouse will work together in the future for your children’s welfare. Even after you are divorced, you both are still parents of your children. The children’s best interests are served if each of you is courteous to the other and maintains an active role in the lives of the children and in the decision-making that affects them. If you and your spouse are not yet able to put aside your differences and put the children first, counseling can help.

3. Helping you deal with the stress of divorce

Some people cope better with stress than others. Talking with a counselor about how to deal with stress is often helpful.

4. Helping you work with your lawyer 

Counseling may help you see emotional issues for what they are so that you can make better judgments as to legal and financial matters. Lawyers are not trained to do psychological counseling, just as mental health professionals are not trained to give legal advice.

5. Helping you to understand the marital breakup 

Counseling can help you and your spouse understand the reasons and causes of the marital breakup. You need to understand what went wrong with this marriage to help you to make a wiser decision in selecting your next spouse. Although you may think that you will never marry again, most divorced people do remarry. A better understanding of your role in the breakup of this marriage will maximize your chances of success next time.

6. Helping you rebuild your life 

If you understand and appreciate the problems of your marriage, you will be better equipped to recover from your anger and frustration, and to rebuild and get on with your life.

7. Reconciliation 

If there is a chance of saving your marriage, explore it.

B. If You Have Been To Counseling

If you have had some counseling, and you find during the process of the divorce that there are still unresolved emotional issues, don’t be reluctant to return to a counselor to deal further with those issues. Many times our problems and issues do not surface until we are in the middle of a divorce.

C. Some Questions and Answers about Counseling

1. Are my conversations with my counselor confidential? Maybe. Because of the importance of this issue and differences in rules from state to state, ask your lawyer.

2. Must I go to counseling even if I don’t want to? No, unless the court orders you to. If you and your spouse don’t agree about custody or visitation, you may be interviewed by a mental health professional who will make a recommendation about how the issue should be decided. These people are favorably impressed that a parent has had some psychotherapy or counseling.

3. Do we have to go to counseling together? It depends. If the purpose of going to a counselor is to help save your marriage or to work on problems the two of you are having, you may need to go together. However, if the purpose is to work on problems of your own, you will usually go alone.

4. Do we have to see the same counselor? If you are going for individual counseling or therapy it is usually a good idea to go to separate mental health professionals. You or your spouse might question the loyalty of someone that the other is also seeing individually, unless that person is specifically working with both of you.

5. Should I consider counseling for my children? Yes. Many children have trouble dealing with divorce. They are frightened and feel responsible. Your children may benefit from counseling or support groups.

SOURCE: American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Divorce Manual; A Client Handbook