Do I need a therapist in my Virginia divorce?

Posted on Mar 7, 2018 by Katie Carter

On Monday, I talked about divorce coaches and how useful they can be in Virginia divorce. I talked a lot about the emotional issues that many women face during the divorce process, and how important it is to deal with those issues alongside the divorce related issues.

I get it. What you’re going through (or getting ready to go through) is scary. It’s huge. In fact, I’ve read that the experience to divorce is very similar to dealing with the death of a close friend or family member. It’s life changing. It’s expensive. It changes your personal and financial landscape. It is traumatic.

I see it every single day, and it doesn’t lessen for me the understanding of what my clients are going through – especially in cases where custody is an issue!

That being said, though, it’s not the end of the world. You are strong, and you will survive this. Not only that, I am pretty confident that, at the end of the process, you’ll come out even better, stronger, and more determined than you are today. The transformations I see, just from the time a woman comes to my office for the first time and then by the time we’re able to get a final decree of divorce entered, are really inspiring and empowering.

But it’s not easy. No growth comes easily, of course. But that’s easier said than experienced, and I think it’s important to remember that it’s up to you to take specific, targeted steps designed to help yourself navigate these new tricky waters successfully.

We like to share this analogy with our new clients. When you’re in an airplane, before take off, there’s a safety briefing. If you listen, you’ll hear the flight attendants tell you that, before you help anyone else with their oxygen masks, you should put yours on first. The reason? Because you won’t do anyone any good if you’re passed out from lack of oxygen. Take care of yourself first, and then take care of everyone else (like your children) around you.

This is such important advice for any woman facing a divorce or custody case. If you’re okay, your children will be okay, so it’s extra important that you take the time to take care of yourself.

Do I need a therapist in my Virginia divorce?

Maybe. Maybe not. Whether you choose to work with a therapist or not, it’s important to practice self care. Everyone is different, and the paths that work for them are different, too, and I wouldn’t presume to suggest that it’s a “one size fits all” kind of situation. It isn’t. That being said, though, we do seem to have a great deal of success with clients who receive therapy during their divorces.

Divorce attorneys aren’t really equipped to deal effectively with the emotional issues you face in divorce. Though we do this all the time and we probably do have very valuable insights, even on the emotional side of things, we’re probably not the best people to talk to when it comes to how to handle the experience. After all, we’re unemotional when it comes to the application of the law – and, besides that, we can’t take insurance! It can be expensive to use a divorce attorney as an emotional sounding board (though, of course, we hear it all the time, and are more than happy to help in whatever way we can).

A therapist can be really helpful. I definitely wouldn’t discount it, especially if you feel like it would be beneficial to you.

If I’m on anxiety or depression medication, will that hurt my custody case?

No! But do you know what will hurt your case? Not seeking help for an issue that you’re experiencing, especially if it makes you erratic, inappropriate, or make ill considered decisions.

These days, almost everyone is on medication for depression or anxiety. And it’s normal that a divorce would make you feel depressed or anxious. In fact, though unpleasant, it’s perfectly reasonable to be depressed or anxious. You’re going through a lot! No judge is going to say that because you have depression or anxiety that you can’t be a good mother. (How could he/she? The odds are pretty good that he/she probably has depression or anxiety, too!)

Don’t let your fear of legal repercussions keep you from taking the route best designed to keep you (and, by extension, your children) happy, healthy, and as well adjusted as possible.

Even more serious mental health conditions – like bipolar, dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, etc – are generally regarded as non issues, provided that the parent experiencing these mental health conditions is actively seeking treatment, is appropriately medicated as necessary, and the parent’s mental health condition doesn’t affect the child’s best interests.

The bottom line? If you need help, seek it. Don’t worry about the legal repercussions. Get that oxygen mask in place before you pass out.

Is there an alternative to seeing a therapist?

Of course! A divorce coach is also a great option if you want help, but you’re not entirely sold on the idea of therapy. Whether you’re not into pharmaceutical intervention (I hear ya, sister), or you just don’t see how laying on a couch talking about your feelings can cure what ails you, it’s totally fine.

That doesn’t mean you just have to deal with it. A divorce coach is different from a therapist in the sense that it’s a divorce coach’s goal to help you prepare for the rigors of your case. Getting ready to go to judicial settlement conference? Seeing your husband in court for the first time? These things can be overwhelming, and a divorce coach can help give you the tools you need to feel prepared and calm. That can translate into a much better result for you, and lower attorney’s fees, too. (Win, win!)

How can I get a better result just from being more…calm? Does that really even matter? It sounds like phony baloney to me.

It really does matter! If your emotional needs are met, you can focus on the legal issues at hand and make sound decisions. When people are emotional, it’s hard for them to focus on the terms of the settlement. They become fixated on things that are costly and irrelevant, like “having their day in court” (it’s not going to feel as good as you think, especially once you’ve paid the high legal fees associated with going to court) and “the principle” of the matter. Principles and days in court don’t pay your bills, and don’t set you up for success in the long term.

You should focus on establishing goals and priorities, and targeting your specific actions to achieving these goals. Bonus: it’ll lower your blood pressure, too.

Remember: our goal is always to get you to your happily ever after. It may not look like you envisioned it on your wedding day, but you’ve got to keep the end game in mind at all times.

…Am I crazy? I don’t want you to think I’m crazy.

You’re NOT crazy. You’re a normal person dealing with an abnormal amount of stress. What you’re feeling is perfectly normal. What’s not normal? Taking steps to deal with it. Besides, if you could make yourself feel better, wouldn’t that be worth it?

You’re definitely not crazy. But you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with our office, give us a call at 757-425-5200.