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The DA Guide to Divorce Counseling

Divorce Counseling

Marriage can be a roller coaster ride filled with emotional ups and downs. For some couples, strain on the relationship takes its toll over time and no matter how hard they try, they feel like they can no longer remain in their marriage. Divorce is not a decision many people take lightly, and with good reason. It is often a stressful event that can deeply impact the couple involved in the decision and their family members for years.

For those facing divorce, it may seem like the process is full of drama, emotion, and never-ending conflict. For their family members, there can also be a lot of confusion and stress about the cause of the divorce and the impact on the future. Fortunately, there are resources available for those who are struggling. Divorce counseling can be an effective way to help you and your family members find a healthy way to cope with divorce.

Why Do Couples Get Divorced

Divorce is not an easy decision for any couple to come to, and there are a multitude of reasons that can contribute or lead to divorce. With a divorce rate reported as high as 40-50%, a lot of research has gone into the reasons that ultimately lead people to divorce.

Common Reasons

Divorce is not a decision many people make lightly or on a whim. It often results from years of issues within the marriage. Many studies have been done looking at the reasons people decide to get a divorce. Surveys from adults who have gone through divorce identify reasons these individuals felt their marriage failed; interestingly, there are some common themes that can be seen in their responses. These surveys also revealed that many people who get divorced feel that their partner was at fault or did not try hard enough to save the marriage.

Cheating or infidelity is a recurring reason people report for divorce. Others report they experienced emotional or physical abuse that ultimately led to them leaving their marriage. Arguing, conflict, and communication have also been reported to lead to divorce. Other reasons divorced individuals felt contributed to their divorce include problems with substance abuse, different values or goals in life, or simply falling out of love with their partner.

These survey results show that there are common reasons people feel that their marriage didn’t survive. However, it is important to remember that these reported reasons are not always the true cause of divorce. While these reasons, including infidelity, different values, and arguing, can be the “final straw” that caused a divorce, there are often longstanding issues that create stress in the marriage and weaken the relationship.

Gottman’s Theories

John Gottman has worked extensively with thousands of couples to understand marriage and divorce. Through his research, he has identified what he calls the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. Gottman defines this as the four dynamics in a marriage that can lead to its demise if not addressed and improved. The four horsemen are:

  • Criticism: Negative comments about something your partner does or the way they behave can leave them feeling attacked and insecure. This is especially true when there is a lack of uplifting comments shared with your partner.
  • Defensiveness: Feeling sorry for yourself or lashing out at your partner promotes more negative energy and communication.
  • Contempt: Acting condescending and mocking your spouse can cause you to lose your respect and admiration for them. Gottman says this is the most devastating of the four dynamics if it is not appropriately addressed.
  • Stonewalling: If one partner shuts down when dealing with conflict, it can make the other partner feel like they are not interested in working out the problem.

Gottman stresses that if these feelings are present in your marriage, that does not mean your marriage is doomed. Working with a therapist or counselor in couples or marriage counseling can help you or your spouse work through these feelings and create a stronger bond between you.

Why Get Counseling for Divorce?

Divorce is a major event in your life, and divorce counseling can help you and your family transition through the changes that come with divorce. There are different formats of therapy available to address the needs of you and your family.

Individual Counseling

Divorce creates a big disruption in your life. After years of being in a relationship or being married, it can be hard to adjust to life as a single person. Individual divorce counseling can help you identify goals for yourself post-divorce. Divorce counseling can also help individuals who are grieving their relationship. Even if you are confident that your divorce was the right choice for you, you may still feel sad about the loss of the relationship you used to have. Some people struggle with feelings of self-doubt and failure after going through a divorce. Divorce counseling can help you process your feelings related to the divorce and focus on your health and self-esteem.

Couples Counseling

Divorce is often an emotionally charged, stressful event for everyone involved. There are many decisions that need to be made when couples are going through a divorce related to finances, children, and living arrangements. Divorce counseling can help couples work through divorce in a healthier way. Therapists can identify areas of conflict in the divorce and help the couple come to terms they can both agree on. Divorce counseling can effectively reduce the negative interactions that often occur during divorce and help each partner leave the divorce with some peace.

Family Counseling

Divorce counseling is important for everyone involved in the event – including other family members. Divorce is a stressful and traumatic event, and this can be especially true for younger children. While the divorcing couple is overwhelmed with the impact to their life, it can be hard for them to recognize how the divorce is affecting their other family members. Divorce counseling for families or family therapy can help everyone process the divorce and better understand each other’s feelings.


When going through a divorce, it can be challenging for a couple to agree on how to share time with their children, divide up their possessions, and manage their assets. Mediation can help the divorcing couple make these decisions in an efficient, cost-effective manner. During mediation, the divorcing couple meets to discuss how they are going to divide their assets, determine their living situations, and share custody of any children. A neutral third party is present to help the couple come up with solutions and stay focused on the discussion at hand.

Divorce Counseling

Mediation is often preferred and sometimes required, over going through a court case. Divorce proceedings in the courtroom can be long and often do not allow for the couple to discuss their feelings in the moment a decision is being made. Mediation also requires the couple to work through some issues together, which might contribute to a healthier relationship when the divorce is finalized.

Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is available for couples who are not sure if they want to remain together. This form of counseling is used to help a couple decide whether or not they should work to repair their relationship. The intent of discernment counseling is not to help couples work through their problems. It should therefore not be used by couples who are trying to work through their problems; couples therapy is more appropriate in this setting.

Couples who start discernment counseling are given three possible outcomes from their sessions; they will either decide to postpone their decision, take 6 months to fully commit to improving their relationship, or end their relationship. Different from couples therapy, the therapist leading a discernment counseling session will spend the majority of time working with each person in the relationship individually. After hearing each person’s point-of-view, concerns, and hopes for the relationship, they will bring the couple back together to discuss what they learned.

Discernment counseling therapy is often short. Some couples are able to make a decision after just one session, while others usually reach a decision within 4-5 sessions. The goal of these sessions is to help each person in the relationship understand how they are contributing to the faults in the partnership and to help both partners identify their goals for the relationship. For a couple who is considering divorce, it can help clarify whether divorce is really what each person wants or if there is a reason to continue to try to mend the relationship.

Challenges of Divorce Counseling

Divorce counseling can be challenging for many people to participate in. One barrier to divorce counseling is a lack of understanding of the therapy. Individuals and couples going through a divorce may not recognize that divorce counseling can help them get a better understanding of their emotions related to the divorce.

Some people going through a divorce may also feel embarrassed to seek counseling from a stranger. Divorce is often a very personal event, and looking to someone you are unfamiliar with for help can be uncomfortable. However, divorce counseling is provided by trained therapists and can help you gain insight into your divorce that will ultimately help you heal and move on with your life.

Divorce counseling for couples and families can also be challenging. In order to benefit from these counseling sessions, everyone must be engaged and willing to open up about their feelings and experiences related to the divorce. For families, this can be especially hard because children may be hesitant to share their concerns with their parents, and parents may be reluctant to hear how their divorce is impacting their children. Your therapist should make you and your family members feel comfortable and safe sharing their thoughts.

Divorce Counseling vs Last Ditch Effort Marriage Counseling

Divorce counseling and marriage counseling are two very different forms of therapy. Therapists in each type of counseling work with couples to improve communication and reduce negative emotions in their interactions. The difference between them lies in their outcome.

Divorce counseling is not intended to try to fix problems with the marriage or prevent a divorce. Instead, it is available to help couples and families struggling to come to terms with all of the changes in their life that occur as a consequence of being divorced. On the other hand, marriage counseling is available to help couples who are striving to work out their differences and save their marriage before choosing to divorce.

Divorce Counseling Online

If you or someone you know is looking for divorce counseling, online therapy might be a great option. Online divorce counseling is more accessible for people across the country. It provides you with a wide variety of qualified therapists to choose from. Online therapy also allows you flexibility with your schedule and does not require you to go into a therapist’s office to receive the help you need.

Thrive Talk

ThriveTalk has a long list of qualified therapists available to help you. If your divorce has you struggling to cope, you should consider reaching out to a therapist to receive divorce counseling. Sign up today to find a therapist who can help you and your family overcome this emotionally challenging time.

Divorce is never an easy decision to come to, and it can be an even harder event to overcome. The stress of major life changes and the grief of losing an emotionally-charged relationship can leave you feeling sad and confused. If you or your family members are having a hard time comprehending a divorce, consider participating in divorce counseling. With the help of a qualified therapist, you can gain a better understanding of why the divorce happened and how you can move forward.