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

Section 5
Self-worth and Divorce

Question 5 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples CEU Courses
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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In the last section, we discussed anger.  Four basic anger management techniques we discussed regarding the divorced or separated client were taking time out, finding harmless ways to release anger, talk your feelings out, and talking to the anger target without blaming or name calling. 

In this section, we will discuss regaining self worth.  Our case study in this section involves Renee.  Renee, age 28, was divorcing her second husband, Terrance.  Renee’s second failed marriage led her to feelings of low self esteem.  At one session, Renee stated, "I’m worthless." 

Over several sessions with Renee, I found it productive to put self worth into different perspectives using four methods.  These four methods for regaining self worth are eliminating the idea, unrestricting the idea, acknowledging personal worth, and the compassionate perspective.  As you listen to this section, consider the divorced or separated client you are treating.  Could he or she benefit from the playing of this section in an upcoming session?

Four Methods of Regaining Self Worth

♦ #1  Eliminating the Idea

The first way clients can deal with the problem of self worth is by eliminating the idea of worth.  Renee felt worthless.  I stated to Renee, "Human worth is an abstract concept that, upon examination turns out to have an extremely fragile basis in reality.  It’s just another global label.  The criteria for self worth is subjective, culturally variable, and damaging to your self esteem.  The idea of identifying a universal standard of worth is a tempting illusion, but you and everybody else are better off without it."  Think of your client.  Do you agree that true human worth is impossible to determine?

♦ #2  Unrestricting the Idea

The second way to deal with the problem of worth is to realize that worth exists, but to unrestrict the idea of worth by considering worth equally distributed and undisputable.  I explained this idea to Renee by stating, "Consider this.  Everyone at birth has one unit of human worth, absolutely equal to everyone else’s unit of worth.  No matter what happens in your life, no matter what you do or is done to you, your human worth can’t be diminished or increased.  Nobody is worth more or less than anybody else."

Renee stated, "It’s interesting that both of those options are essentially the same in function.  They both provide the opportunity to live without having to compare yourself to others and make constant value judgments about relative worth."

♦ #3  Acknowledging Personal Worth

In addition to eliminating the idea of worth and unrestricting the idea of worth, the third choice is to acknowledge personal worth. This method of regaining worth is different from the first two without negating either of them. In acknowledging personal worththe client acknowledges his or her own internal experience of human worth. I stated to Renee, "Recall a time when you felt good about yourself, when human worth seemed real and you had a good piece of it.  Recall the feeling that you were OK with all your faults and failings, in spite of others’ opinions. You may have had only a glimpse of this emotion in your life." 

Renee was able to contact her inner sense of worth by remembering a neighbor she had when she was twelve. Renee stated, "I remember Mrs. Gilmore who lived next door. She would look at my school projects and drawings when my mom and dad didn’t have the time. Mrs. Gilmore always had great enthusiasm for my work.  She would tell me how clever I was and how I would go far." Renee remembered the pride she felt, and her sense of confidence about the future. Think of your Renee.  Is it possible for your client to reach back to the memory of something to tap into early feelings of pride and competence?

♦ #4  The Compassionate Perspective

The fourth way to deal with the problem of worth is with the compassionate perspective. 

I stated to Renee, "Take a good look at yourself through the lens of compassion. Compassion exposes the essence of your humanness. In order to really understand this concept, it helps to look at what you understand about yourself. First, we all live in a world in which we must constantly struggle to meet basic needs or we will die. Almost all of your energy goes into these basic needs. You do the best you can with what you’ve got.

"But the available strategies you have for meeting your needs are limited by what you know and don’t know, your conditioning, your emotional make-up, the degree of support you receive, your health, your sensitivity to pain and pleasure, and so on. And throughout this struggle you are aware that both your intellectual and physical abilities will inevitably deteriorate and despite all your efforts you will die. Regardless you carry on.  That is the key point.  In the face of struggle you carry on.  That’s why you’re still here today.  You continue to live and feel no matter what.  If you let this awareness soak in and really feel the struggle, you may begin to get a glimmer of your real worth." 

Renee slowly began to understand.  She stated, "So the degree of success is irrelevant?  The only thing that really counts is the effort."  Think of your Renee.  Would it help your client to see that the source of his or her worth is in the effort he or she puts into life?

In this section, we discussed regaining self worth.  Our case study on this section involved Renee.  Over several sessions with Renee, I found it productive to put self worth into different perspectives using four methods.  These four methods for regaining self worth are eliminating the idea, unrestricting the idea, acknowledging personal worth, and the compassionate perspective.

In the next section, we will discuss intimate discontent.  A technique for becoming aware of intimate discontent that I implement in my practice consists of three steps.  The three steps to becoming aware of intimate discontent are experiencing feelings and defining what is wanted, and rediscovering old strategies.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Horberg, E. J., & Chen, S. (2010). Significant others and contingencies of self-worth: Activation and consequences of relationship-specific contingencies of self-worth. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(1), 77–91. 

Jamison, E. C., Bol, K. A., & Mintz, S. N. (2019). Analysis of the effects on time between divorce decree and suicide. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 40(5), 309–316.

Nash, B., & Chapman, N. A. (2019). Building a culture of caring: Lessons learned from managing professional expectations while navigating the emotional upheaval of divorce. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 29(2), 95–107.

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. 

Weiss, B., Lavner, J. A., & Miller, J. D. (2018). Self- and partner-reported psychopathic traits’ relations with couples’ communication, marital satisfaction trajectories, and divorce in a longitudinal sample. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 9(3), 239–249.

Question 5:  What are four methods for regaining self worth? To select and enter your answer, go to the Test.

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