What is the difference between couples counseling and divorce counseling?

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What is the difference between couples counseling and divorce counseling?

Claudine Miller - HeadshotIn couples counseling, the focus is on helping create positive change in the relationship to make the relationship healthier and ideally more fulfilling for both members. Often the focus in couples counseling is on improving communication, intimacy and cooperation. Couples counseling can help build emotional, interpersonal and awareness skills that strengthen the connection between partners.

Individuals sometimes come into couples counseling to try to change their partner. For couples counseling to result in a stronger, happier relationship BOTH partners need to be willing to grow and change. Everyone changes and grows over a lifetime and that means that our relationships need to change and grow too.

In some cases, couples counseling is not started until one member of the relationship has decided to leave. That decision may be an unconscious one. All they know is that something needs to change and they have been unhappy for so long, they can’t image that the unhealthy relationship can change. In couples counseling they may see a new willingness and openness develop in the relationship. This new partnership can allow them to find a way to overcome the obstacles in their relationship, together. Or couples counseling may allow the unhappy partner to bring their desire to leave to a conscious level. At that point couples counseling becomes divorce counseling.

Divorce counseling is focused on the difficult mental, physical and financial process of uncoupling. It can be done together or alone. When there are children and/or other situations (such as a family business) that require the divorcing couple to find ways to work together, divorce counseling as a couple can be helpful. Divorce counseling with a couple emphasizes ways the divorcing couple can keep the anger, hurt, and other negative emotions from harming children or other important relationships. Regardless of how long a marriage lasts, we are the parents of our children for life. Finding healthy ways to co-parent, improving communication skills and managing negative emotions in a healthy manner are ways divorce counseling can be the key for the family to survive the trauma of divorce.

Divorce counseling often is individual counseling. Ending a marriage can be a very stressful experience. Even for the person initiating the divorce or in cases where both partners agree divorce is the best choice. Divorce is likely to bring up a range of painful and difficult emotions such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, shame, anxiety, and other intense feelings. The process of divorce can also make existing mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety or personality disorders worse. Counseling creates a supportive, non-judgmental place to examine these feelings, learn healthy coping skills, and create a more fulfilling life.

In addition, many people perceive divorce as a personal failure. Counseling can help work through those feelings, make sense of the end of one’s marriage, and obtain a new perspective. Divorce can be an opportunity to grow and become a stronger, wiser person – qualities that will serve us in the future and in our next, healthier relationship.

If you would like help in either improving your marriage or navigating your divorce, Claudine Miller, LPC (www.claudinemiller.com) and the counselors at the Chrysalis Healing Collaborative (www.chcstl.org) are happy to help. Please contact Claudine at 314-780-8328 or email the collaborative at info@chcstl.org.