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Finding A Divorce Recovery Therapist Who Matches Your Needs

by Deirdre Hally Shaffer, MSW, LCSW

The emotional impact of divorce includes feelings of sadness, fear, anger, low self -esteem, confusion and relief. Logistical uncertainties regarding finances, residence, career, co-parenting, social changes and altered family relationships contribute significantly to psychological distress. It’s a time when many individuals consider participation in counseling as a means to clarify life goals and to find ways to cope with unpleasant feelings. Amid the myriad changes that are occurring, finding a good therapist can feel like yet another task on a to-do list that is already overwhelming. Consider the following suggestion that may make selecting a good therapist a bit easier.

Start with verification that the therapists you are considering are licensed in their state. For example, in Pennsylvania, licensed counselors include psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists and counselors. These practitioners provide interpersonal individual, couples and family counseling. This differs from psychiatrists who can prescribe antidepressant and/or antianxiety medication.

If your financial situation is difficult, seek a therapist who is paneled as a participating provider with your health insurance company. Copays for in-network clinicians will be far lower than private payments. If you do not have insurance coverage for counseling, ask your potential therapist if they will reduce their fee for uninsured clients. They often will do so.

As for areas of expertise, seek a divorce recovery therapist who has experience with life transitions, including divorce, where depression and anxiety issues as well as grief and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are typical. Get some background on potential therapists by checking their profiles on online sites such as www.psychologytoday.com or on personal practice websites. Some employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which are excellent resources for counselors who specialize in divorce recovery. Insurance companies will also have counselor profiles on specific areas of skill.

Counselors’ interpersonal styles can range from engagingly interactive to a more formal, reserved approach. Think about what approach you would match your personality. Have a few questions ready when you call, so that you can get a sense as to whether the therapist would be a good fit for you. All counselors should be respectful of your time, values, culture and individuality.

In addition to evaluating personal styles, it’s important to know what technique the therapist uses. Most will use various techniques that match the client’s needs. Some of the more common and traditional talk therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, brief solutions focused therapy, psychoanalysis, hypnotherapy, systemic or family therapy, and didactic behavioral therapy (DBT).

Very briefly, CBT and DBT look at ways that thoughts affect feelings and behavior. Hypnotherapy and DBT focus on self-soothing strategies to reduce anxiety. Psychodynamic therapy is insight-oriented and is a simpler, less lengthy alternative to psychoanalysis. Brief solutions focused therapy is goal oriented and short term.

Newer therapies include Emotional Freedom Technique (EMT), which includes a technique called “tapping,” and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Both have been shown to produce promising outcomes in the treatment of PTSD.

Although the prospect of therapy may seem overwhelming, please keep in mind that you will be the director of your counseling journey. You will set the goals and you will have control over what you wish to address. Remember that you are hiring this professional to provide services and, as the customer, you should be satisfied. The support, guidance and skill of a trained therapist can ease divorce transition. And it can create a pathway to realizing life goals that you never dreamed were possible.

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