Working with a Marriage and Family Therapist

The process of a divorce or separation is emotionally challenging for those going through this experience. It can leave a person feeling a great amount of disappointment and regret as they watch their relationship fall apart. Feelings of anger, sadness, and shame are all things that a person may go through during this time. Experiencing these emotions can be hard for any person to manage on their own. It can also make it difficult for a person to keep a clear mind and make rational decisions, yet this is important to do when working out the details of a divorce or separation agreement. To help move past the emotions and gain a better mindset, many people turn to marriage and family therapy. Working with a marriage and family therapist, a person can gain a new outlook on their situation as well as obtain new skills to help them better handle the emotions and situations they are presented with. While divorcing or separating parents can gain a lot out of therapy, kids can benefit greatly from it as well. If you or your family is considering therapy after a divorce or separation, here are a few things to know about how to decide when to see a therapist and how to choose the right one for you.

Deciding When to See a Therapist

For some people, the thought of attending therapy carries various stigmas with it. Feeling as though others perceive you differently than before might deter you from seeking therapy. Letting your preconceived notions get in the way of pursuing something that can help you considerably is unfair to yourself and to those to love and support you. Knowing when you should see a therapist might be very obvious for some while not so obvious for others. Even before the decision to divorce or separate has been made, seeing a marriage and family therapist can help you and your partner see your relationship in a different light and maybe help to prevent your relationship from ending. If you have already come to the decision to end your relationship, you may already know that they're ready to work with a therapist. You may recognize that it is time to seek help from a therapist if you are feeling a great amount of distress or confusion when it comes to situations both inside and outside of your relationship. A lot of decisions must be made throughout the process of ending a relationship, and trying to do so when your thoughts are anxious unclear can leave you with outcomes you may come to wish turned out differently later on. Moreover, finding that you and your ex-spouse are constantly arguing over the outcome of decisions makes it hard to actually reach one. You may also decide that it is time to seek help from a therapist when you feel as though you've exhausted your resources at hand. For instance, close friends and family members will be there to support you when you need it most, but they might not always have the right thing to say or be able to bear the weight of everything you are telling them. Even more, looking for support in the wrong places is a sign that seeing a therapist may be helpful to you. This could include relying on substances to constantly change your state of mind. 

As you are evaluating your standing and whether seeing a therapist is a good move for you, you may also be contemplating the same for your kids. Kids may not be able to recognize that they need some extra emotional support at any given time, so it is up to their parents and other trusted adults around them to look for signs. Noticing a shift in your child's behavior or personality is one particular sign that they may benefit from therapy. This may be a shift towards excessive anger, aggression, or acting out more or differently than they have before. It might also include noticing your child feeling depressed and isolating themselves from things they tend to enjoy most. Seeing a therapist could help your child get past these emotions and back to being a kid again.

Choosing the Right Therapist

A marriage and family therapist is trained to assist whole families as well as individual family members who are going through big transitions such as a divorce or separation. Choosing the right therapist to work with is important because you will be sharing a great deal of personal thoughts with them. When starting your search, you might want to talk to a close friend or a professional you're working with for a recommendation. These people will already know you fairly well and can make a recommendation based on whom they think you may work well with. If you are unable to get a recommendation, turn to the web to search for a marriage and family therapist in your area. While you should be able to find the contact information for local marriage and family therapists online, you should also be able to find some additional information online about this person such as whether they belong to a professional organization of therapists like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT).  When looking for a therapist, find one who is located in a convenient place for you to visit for your appointments. This will help make it easier for you to push yourself to get to the appointments especially if you’re feeling a bit hesitant about it at the beginning. If they are not located near you or you live in a place that is rather remote, ask whether the therapist is willing to conduct meetings over a web camera. 

When you finally talk to a therapist before your first session, ask if they can describe what their sessions are typically like. They’ll probably be willing to see your family as a whole while also taking individual appointments with each of you. For this reason, find out if your co-parent is willing to attend sessions with you, then ask the therapist how often you may need to attend sessions together. Besides asking about how sessions are structured, ask about the fees they charge. If their rates are too expensive right off the bat, ask about a sliding fee scale. They may be willing to reduce the fees somewhat. It is possible that your insurance may also be able to cover some of the fees, so ask if they can tell you anything about that as well. If you are unable to afford this therapist, be honest about that and ask if they might refer you to someone who can see you at a lower rate. You might not want to go with the cheapest option out there, but you also will not want to break the bank by overspending on therapy. This is especially important if you find yourself in divorce litigation and have to handle all the fees involved with that, but hopefully, your experience in marriage and family therapy will help you to feel more comfortable using alternatives to litigation such as mediation or collaborative divorce. All in all, the most important thing to know about your marriage and family therapist is that they make you feel comfortable when talking to them. You should be prepared to go into your sessions with an open mind and a willingness to share your feelings without feeling apprehension. Working with someone who makes you feel comfortable will make having this attitude much easier for you. If your child will be seeing the therapist, talk to them about having this attitude during sessions as well. Your child might be stubborn about attending in the beginning, but this will hopefully change once they get to know the person they are working with a little better. If you notice that your child is uncomfortable with the person they are working with, talk to the therapist about this. If things do not improve and your child doesn't seem to be changing their attitude towards their therapist after a few sessions, you may consider finding someone new for your child or the whole family to see.

Working with a marriage and family therapist can be quite beneficial to families who are going through major changes due to divorce or separation. No matter what your thoughts on therapy might be now, remember that a therapist's job is to help you work through your emotions and gain a clear perspective during the most trying of times. The OurFamilyWizard website offers resource listings for marriage and family therapists all across the United States. Click here to find a marriage and family therapist in your area.