For many people facing a potential divorce, the idea of divorce counseling sounds either very threatening or rather advantageous, depending on one’s interpretation of the word counseling.
Counseling is actually a generic term which covers a broad spectrum of modalities from psychotherapy at one end, to supportive and/or pastoral counseling in the middle, and coaching at the opposite end.
Depending on the stage of breakup, each modality can be more or less effective. For couples who are still together and struggling with marital conflict and a lot of ambivalence toward each other, therapy is probably best indicated. Usually a commitment of six months or more is needed to allow for the deeper processing that can occur. Oftentimes, each partner’s individual issues gets revealed in the tangled web of communication that leads to marital breakdown. When couples seek to repair within the marriage, psychic damage from childhood relationships, therapy can be instrumental in separating the past from the present and clarifying what role in healing each partner can or cannot play.
For couples who have already decided to split up, divorce counseling can take a different form. In my experience it is at this highly vulnerable time, that a person is most in need of support and guidance, divorce information and divorce advice, rather than undergoing a process of uncovering intrapsychic issues through therapy. Indeed, it could actually be harmful to engage in therapy at a time when a person’s energy and resources need to be focused on practical matters of survival, such as money, housing, and childcare etc. Life coaching at this time could be especially instrumental, as it is positive, practical, and paradigm shifting.
Many clergy and life educators can provide different types of divorce counseling, aimed toward either spiritual issues or the legal process. Certainly for anyone going through a divorce, being informed of external resources is as essential as being informed of one’s internal emotional stress levels.