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Separation Counseling: Brief Interventions for Divorcing Couples
10 CEUs Separation Counseling: Brief Interventions for Divorcing Couples

Section 1
Life Satisfaction After Divorce

Question 1 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples CEU Courses
Introduction
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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In this section, we will discuss the timetable to recovery from divorce. There are three general stages to recovery. They are hurting in the first few months, exploring in the first year, and becoming you in the next couple of years. As you listen to this section, you might consider how your client can benefit from understanding this timetable. 

Carol, age 36, was an intelligent, well-educated personnel manager for a medium sized corporation.  Carol had been married to Richard for thirteen years and had no children. Carol had come to me for counseling to try to save her marriage. At Carol’s second session, she arrived disheveled and fragile. Her expression was dazed , her posture stooped, and her voice flat and inconsolable.

I asked Carol what had happened since our last talk. Carol stated, "Richard went to the cottage for the long weekend. By himself. Said he had to be alone. He needed ‘space.’  When he got home he said we needed to talk. He said he was very unhappy and dissatisfied with our marriage, sex life, all of it. He said he’s been waiting for it to change for a long time, for me to change. So next day he left. He told me I should call a lawyer. He even gave me the number for one."  By the time Carol stopped crying I was out of Kleenex.

♦ Technique; Making a Timetable to Recovery
One of the first things I find productive to discuss with clients who have recently become separated like Carol is the timetable to recovery.  I find that this topic helps clients look toward the future and, even if only momentarily, distract them from the initial pain of separation which can hinder other cognition.  I stated to Carol, "The first weeks immediately after separation are the worst. You feel as if you’re in a deep, black pit. This is survival time. At this stage, you have only one basic goal. That is to live your life from day to day. 

If you can simply survive from day to day, you’ve achieved success for now. The rest can wait. You are in fact playing a waiting game. You’re waiting for the acute pain of your breakup to ebb away. Gradually, your disorientation will be replaced by a growing sense of autonomy and well being rooted in the new adult self you’re creating, appropriate to the new circumstances of your life. That’s the payoff.  But for the time being, all you can do is tough it out." 

3 General Stages to Recovery

♦ Stage #1 - Hurting in the First Few Months
Following a summary of what many clients experience in the first few weeks or months of separation, I then discussed with Carol some of what to expect after that. I stated, "This first stage typically lasts about three months- less for some people, more for others. However long it lasts, just surviving from day to day must be your main concern. 

Then around three months after separation, you’ll start looking out over the edges of your dark emotional pit. You’ll start to feel a desire to know what’s out there for you. Increasingly you’ll think about rejoining the world as a full participant, instead of remaining a bystander. This is the second stage. During the next several months you’ll make your first forays into the ‘outside world.’

♦ Stage #2 - Exploring in the First Year
"In the next stage, usually twelve to twenty four months after separation, you’ll follow up those forays by becoming more seriously involved with the people and activities that interest and attract you.  The pain of your marriage breakup will begin to fade, even if it doesn’t entirely disappear. You’ll develop a clearer, sharper sense of yourself as a single person, an individual."

♦ Stage #3 - Becoming You in the Next Couple of Years
Finally, I stated to Carol, "Anywhere between two and three years after separation, your distinctive adult self will take shape.  You’ll no longer feel like the damaged half of a broken marriage. You’ll derive your unique identity from being a capable competent adult human being separate but whole."

This timetable may seem arbitrary, but it corresponds to the actual recovery experience of the great majority of my clients and many people like them.  In all probability it will become your client’s experience, too.

In this section, we discussed the timetable to recovery.  There are three general stages to recovery.  They are hurting in the first few months, exploring in the first year, and becoming you in the next couple of years. 

In the next section, we will discuss 5 Steps for Day to Day Survival.  As we discussed in this section, the client’s goal for the first few months after divorce or separation are simply getting by from day to day.  I find 5 steps which can help client’s out in doing just that.  They are see a lawyer, plan finances, let people know, make a comfortable nest, and treat yourself.

Øverup, C. S., Ciprić, A., Gad Kjeld, S., Strizzi, J. M., Sander, S., Lange, T., & Hald, G. M. (2020). Cooperation after divorce: A randomized controlled trial of an online divorce intervention on hostility. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Chen, S.-Y., Roller, K., & Kottman, T. (2021). Adlerian family play therapy: Healing the attachment trauma of divorce. International Journal of Play Therapy, 30(1), 28–39.

Clyde, T. L., Wikle, J. S., Hawkins, A. J., & James, S. L. (2020). The effects of premarital education promotion policies on U.S. divorce rates. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 26(1), 105–120.

Solomon, B. C., & Jackson, J. J. (2014). Why do personality traits predict divorce? Multiple pathways through satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(6), 978–996.

van Scheppingen, M. A., & Leopold, T. (2019). Trajectories of life satisfaction before, upon, and after divorce: Evidence from a new matching approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

Wortman, J., & Lucas, R. E. (2016). Spousal similarity in life satisfaction before and after divorce. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(4), 625–633. 

Question 1:  What are three general stages to recovery? To select and enter your answer, go to the Test.

 
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