Psychological Assistance during Divorce

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The oldest institution of human society – the family is unique phenomenon. Thanks to the family of the younger generation basic knowledge, skills, skills, attitudes and traditions in this way ensured the continuity of human development of society. Family, as a social institute, not only provides stability society, but also evolves with it, adapts to the changes. In such system of intense, close interaction disputes cannot arise and crises. And it often happens that in quality resolution of a serious family conflict or crisis favors divorce.

In a situation where a divorce is not avoided, the couple’s psychology is already transferred to the individual psychology and support of each individual patient. In this situation, it is also important to understand the impact of divorce on children, as well as the problems of patient self-assessment in the role of parents.

Psychological assistance during a divorce is divided into several stages, the first and key of which is initial psychological counseling, in which the psychologist helps the patient to turn and concentrate on their internal resources.

During this time, an acute crisis passes, and the patients are prepared for the stage of psychological correction.

Modern scientific researches, analyzed below, – represent a wide scope of scientific developments and approaches to the definition of innovative methods of psychological assistance to couples (and individuals) during a divorce.

Working with Couples on Divorce

The idea of couple therapy originated in the United States in the 1950s at the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute (‘Therapy | Mental Research Institute’, 2018). Modern couples therapy is based simultaneously on the practice of psychoanalysis, systemic therapy, as well as on behavioral, client-centered and gestalt therapies.

The term ‘married therapy’ (as well as the equivalent terms ‘marriage therapy’ and ‘psychotherapy of married couples’), of course, should refer to the treatment of a husband and wife. Therefore, the term «couple psychotherapy» is sometimes used to include in this concept and similar treatment for people living together but not married.

In transition from individual therapy to couple therapy there is an important conceptual moment. It lies in the fact that the problem concerns not only one person, but affects both partners. In addition, its roots lie in the interaction of partners, and therapy is aimed at correcting this interaction. According to generally accepted ideas, a harmonious marriage implies a system of values shared by both spouses, the care of each of them about the welfare and development of the partner’s personality, tolerance for differences, and based on mutual agreement, in a certain way balanced distribution of roles in relation to domination and decision-making.

Couple therapy restores harmony in couples caught in an emotional or sexual crisis. The psychotherapist finds the sources of conflict or their consequences, determines the purpose of the changes and the step-by-step path to them. Couple therapy can be based on different psychotherapeutic approaches or combine them. Sometimes, during therapy, it turns out, that the best solution for both partners is separation (divorce), then it will pass with less hostility and greater understanding.

Model of the Breakdown of Marital Relations

Usually divorce is not a one-time event and has its own dynamic of residence. There is well-known model of the breakdown of marital relations, which include those stages:

  1. Emotional divorce is caused by the destruction of the illusions of married life, dissatisfaction, alienation of spouses, fear and despair, attempts to control a partner, disputes, the desire to avoid problems.
  2. The time of reflection and despair before a divorce is accompanied by pain, anger and fear, contradictory feelings and actions, often shock, a feeling of emptiness and chaos. Attempts are being made to return love, to get help from friends, family members.
  3. Legal divorce – the formalization of the breakup of relations takes place. This stage is associated not only with legal proceedings, but also with the participation of an increasing number of persons in family relations of partners.
  4. Relationships of divorcing spouses may include conflicts, threats or the desire to negotiate. During a divorce and a period of legal disputes, an abandoned partner may experience self-pity, helplessness, feelings of despair and anger.
  5. Economic divorce relates to termination of joint business management and division of the family budget (if it was common before).
  6. The establishment of a balance between parental responsibilities and the right to custody is associated with the negotiations of parents on the issue of further relationships with children and the distribution of areas of responsibility. The priority tasks of this stage are the creation of a new relationship between parent and child, as well as the acquisition of self-esteem and independence.
  7. Time of self-examination and return to balance after a divorce. The main problem of this period is loneliness and the presence of ambivalent feelings. These are feelings of helplessness and optimism, regret, sadness and joy, liberation and loneliness, etc. The search for new friends and spheres of activity begins, a new lifestyle is developed, responsibilities for all family members are defined.
  8. Psychological divorce. At the emotional level, it is the acceptance of the fact of the breakup of relations, the stabilization of the emotional state, the elaboration of negative feelings associated with divorce. At the intellectual level – readiness for action, self-reliance, a sense of self-worth, the emergence of a sense of independence and autonomy, the search for new objects for love and a willingness to build new relationships. The crisis nature of this event (even if the divorce is carried out with the consent of both partners) cause by the fact, that the family is an integral system and, when it ceases to exist, it is experienced by its participants as the symbolic death of relationships. Therefore, in crisis psychology, divorce is considered as one of the crisis situations of loss. Even after a long period of time after the termination of a relationship, the psychological consequences of separation can persist. Usually, divorce is not a one-time event and has its own dynamic of residence (Gawel, 1997).

American psychologist Feiberg notes, that the family breakdown is perceived personality, especially at the first moment, as proof of her inferiority that leads to a keen experience of her own failure, self-doubt, depression, self-incrimination. Formation of a new family image by child (in terms of separate residence of parents) sets the task for the child adaptation to the new rules of communication and cooperation with each of the parents. Expert says, that such a serious a consequence of divorce, as the experience of the former spouse’s feelings of personal collapse.

In most divorce cases occur at the initiative one of the parties. Rejected partner especially hard going through the decision to divorce. Initiator divorce, also experiencing a gamut of negative feelings associated with the breakdown of the family system, still retains control of the situation, while for a rejected partner characteristic experiences are feelings of powerlessness hopelessness, inferiority (Feinberg & Jones, 2018).

Experience shows that regardless of sexual affiliation and on who is the initiator breakup of family relationships, former spouses still long worried about the divorce. In most cases, a crisis condition after divorce lasts about half a year or a year. Wherein, as the researchers note, men often the crisis is observed in a year and a half. Divorce is accompanied by an experience loss of family, changes in the usual way of life, attitudes and norms associated with their social status, way of life before the divorce.

Specific Features of the Stages Experiencing a Loss upon Divorce

For experiencing losses due to divorce, separation partners have the same stages as experiences of loss due to the death of a loved one person There are special features of this process, expressed in specificity experiences, feelings and actions at each stage.

Stanton, by analogy with the stages dying highlighted by E. Kubler-Ross lists the following specific features of the stages experiencing a loss upon divorce:

  • denial, characterized by depreciation the importance of the event by the mechanism rationalization;
  • aggression directed at the former spouse partner, which is a kind of protection from the heartache resulting from what happened developments;
  • search for supporters who often try make children negotiations that are directed on the restoration of marriage relations through various manipulations: children, sex, pregnancy, sense of guilt, sense of responsibility and debt;
  • depression that occurs if previous stages did not bring the desired results to restore relationships. In this the stage is the realization of what happened and the experience different feelings and states among which may be: a feeling of emptiness of life, own inferiority and uselessness, reducing self-esteem, self-care, decline trust in people, difficulties in building new relationship;
  • adaptation to the new situation and the changed conditions of life, which presumes, for example, ability to live alone (without the support of a spouse and cope with the difficulties and problems), ability to decide independently household problems that were previously solved spouse, change of behavior in society, accepting your status; formation of new life goals, meanings, changing the usual attitudes and stereotypes (Stanton & Welsh, 2012).

Impact of Divorce on Children

It is also important to mention, that in divorce unwittingly not only spouses are involved, but also their children who are from parenting suffer the most. The situation of divorce in the family, according to American researchers, causes great harm to mental health child for whom there is not and cannot be a divorce neither with the father nor with the mother. Parents can’t become strangers to him if they themselves do not want it. Unfortunately, when deciding to divorce, parents often think about the fate of the child in the last turn.

Hoshino J. discovered an interesting fact about unawareness by many spouses of their parental position and related liability for the fate of the child. For example, the absolute most young parents are convinced that preschoolers are still too young to divorce them affected. Apparently, for this reason many divorcing spouses say nothing children about the upcoming divorce (Hoshino, 2008).

In this situation, the child must explain what is happening. It is known that some preschoolers blame divorced parents themselves. And dissuade them using logical arguments fails. Parental divorce can cause serious deformations in the child’s personality that will become apparent after years when to change something no longer possible. The psychological problems of a child who has survived a parents’ divorce are handled by individual specialists. In this case, this is an individual psychology, not a couple psychology.

Any divorce, even by mutual the consent of the spouses represents serious injury that is exacerbated by the need complete reorganization of life. Before divorce most people don’t understand, what they can really face with. From this point of view, many in a situation like this it is useful to talk with a specialist on how and what to do, make sure that constructive steps to resolve this crisis situation and that there is strength to start acting in this direction.

One of the differences in counseling is divorce from other types of psychological correction is more pronounced informing consultant position. It is also important to a psychologist talking to such a client was aware of various legal aspects divorce problems, among which especially significant issues related to children (Snyder, Balderrama-Durbin & Fissette, 2012).

Analysis of recommendations of experts and own experience in advising clients experiencing divorce, allow us to distinguish three stages psychological counseling:

  • stage of work with clients in acute crisis condition;
  • stage of psychological correction;
  • rehabilitation phase.

The stage of advising clients in acute crisis state. Divorce is by its essence of the crisis situation of loss for spouses, since it is accompanied by the loss of the former family system. As mentioned above, the divorce leads to the symbolic death of relationships, changes habitual way of life, attitudes and attitude with their social status, lifestyle before the divorce.

Family breakdown is perceived by a person especially in the first moment as evidence its inferiority that leads to acute experiencing your own inconsistency in self, depression, self-incrimination. When a divorce spouses lose not only family relationship, but also each other: husband and wife become «former». Therefore, the algorithm of steps at the stage of advising clients in acute crisis condition largely coincides with steps psychological assistance to clients who have lost close person (Marín, Christensen & Atkins, 2014).

Client’s Access to own Resources

One of the main steps in advising clients in a severe crisis state during a divorce is the formation of client’s access to their resources. For a person in crisis is characteristic so-called tunnel consciousness when he focused on negative experiences: spiritual pain, feelings of helplessness, guilt and shame, usually occurring under traumatic stress. In this state, people usually do not notice those opportunities that it has. In the literature is considered various types of personal resources. For example, external and internal resources (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer & Fang, 2012).

External resources are opportunities and values related not to the person himself, but to those, who around him and environment. First of all, it social environment – relatives, relatives, friends. The resource for the personality is its main and auxiliary activities: study, work, hobbies, etc. As experience shows, extremely resource in a crisis state become interactions with nature or such partly as pets (animal therapy), artwork interactions and other products of the culture of human society (music therapy, library therapy and etc.).

Internal resources are opportunities and the values of the person himself. This is his health, abilities, character, will, experiences, knowledge, skills and all other values possessed personality. As already noted, for a crisis states are characterized by experiencing feelings helplessness, loss of capacity. Therefore, it is important to return the personality of its internal forces. To achieve this goal, it is recommended to tactfully, gently ask a person about those sides of his personality that represent value to him. So, the person calling and analyzing their significant qualities as if regains them.

Sullivan explains, that if we talk about resources, given the temporary aspect, then in the first stage of crisis aid it is advisable to rely on the resources of this and sometimes past resources because traumatic stress seems to block the future of the individual constantly bringing her back to the memories of the past. Therefore, at the beginning of crisis counseling and crisis therapy is ineffective to handle to the resources of the future (Sullivan, 2013).

Usually, stage psychological counseling clients in acute crisis lasts for one to two months. During this time, acute crisis state passes: emotional state normalizes human condition, person gradually adapts to the crisis. Then counseling either completes or proceeds to the next stage – the stage of correction. Anyway, at the end of the work it is important to analyze all the way done by the client and write a resume.

So, it is clear, that it is very important to talk about the need for an integrative approach psychological assistance to adults and children in a situation of divorce and the use of various forms and methods of psychological counseling survivors of a crisis situation (Sbarra, 2015). The correct choice of these forms and methods in accordance with the context of the crisis situation and the state a specific client is a task to be to be completed by consulting psychologist


Psychological assistance in case of divorce, unfortunately, today is quite popular. During this difficult period the most important thing is to get professional help, because a psychologist without unnecessary emotions will help to quickly understand the situation and find a way out. Emotions often prevent people from taking a sober look at situations and drawing the right conclusions.

Moreover, until the divorce is not legally registered, it is always possible to keep the family. It’s often happens, that spouses, who are already on the verge of divorce, after consulting a psychologist, find the strength to correct, what seemed to be lost forever, to restore trust and love for each other, to remember, what once united them.

If, however, it is still impossible to restore a marriage, the help of a psychologist during a divorce will help to pass this test more easily and really start from scratch without additional burden from practically inevitable complexes and depressions. After all, it often happens that a person after a divorce cannot recover for years, again and again internally experiencing this difficult situation and not being able to independently find a way out of it.

Cite this paper

Psychological Assistance during Divorce. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/psychological-assistance-during-divorce/

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