Divorce Psychotherapy: Why is divorce so difficult for me?

During separation and divorce your lawyers will give you much needed structure. Sometimes the way you feel does not fit into this structure. Emotions spill out, in meetings and on the telephone. It is hard to make decisions.

Why do I feel like this about separation and divorce?

Do you feel wronged? Or guilty? Do you worry about your children? That you may never see them again? Will you end up by yourself? Will you regret starting all this? How could this have happened to you?

Talking to your friends and family can usually be helpful, but when going through a divorce this can become a complicated process. Some of those close to you will judge you and others will surprise you by not wanting to get involved. Divorce can be seen to be ‘contagious’. Your closest friend may not want to ‘take sides’. Or maybe they will take sides. Sitting at home with a bottle of wine or a glass of scotch may appear to be the only answer.

What are the steps to moving forward?

Can you carry on by yourself? Might you decide to look for outside help?

Fear of the future and perhaps regrets of the past can be overwhelming. What things can you put into place yourself to deal with these fears and doubts? Sitting down and planning for your future, both in the short term and in trying to understand where you want to get to in the long term, can be calming and constructive.

It is important to decide how you will get through each day, day by day, during the divorce negotiations. Work keeps us busy, but the weekends can seem empty. Taking up a new sport or hobby is an obvious answer. What may be more satisfying is to focus on your long term objectives and to take small steps each day or week to make these happen.

Do not try to bite off a huge chunk of the problem. If, for example, you have children and you are worried how the divorce will affect your relationship with them, improve your living environment step by step to make it more welcoming for them. Decide that next weekend you will repaint the spare bedroom in their favourite colours. Ask them what colours they would like. See if you can take them to IKEA to pick out and buy new furnishings so that the bedroom feels like their own. If this feels like too much, opt for simplicity and arrange a trip to the zoo with them. Or to the Science Museum.

If ultimately you see yourself with another partner or you are already in a new relationship, plan bit by bit how to integrate this new relationship into your family lifestyle and the new set of dynamics. This can be a delicate and difficult process. The first step could be showing some photographs or videos of your children to your new partner. Or planning a simple, short outing such as a bike ride through the park for all of you.

Sometimes it is difficult to involve others in your plans. Even if your short and medium term planning takes place only on a piece of paper, it will give you a sense of purpose and help you keep your feet on the ground at what can be a chaotic time. If this is not helping, now may be the time to consider help.

Can I fly solo?

Chaos can bring with it anxiety, confusion and uncertainty. Friends and family can help, but separation and divorce can call up unexpected allegiances. The friend you ‘always’ talk to may not understand or may just tell you what you want to hear. Your sister may ‘side’ with your spouse. Might talking to a professional person be the answer at these times?

What is Psychotherapy?

The word can conjure up images of mental illness, failure and inability to deal with life. The tabloid media foster the popular conception of the dramatic and salacious ‘talking cure’. It can, however, be no more than chatting with a person who is not involved in your situation and will be non-judgemental.

Am I ill? Many of us turn successfully to psychotherapy when we have been thrown off course in our life. This does not mean we are mentally ill. It means that we are tackling an unprecedentedly difficult event in our life.

What will the therapist do? The therapist will not usually offer solutions to problems, but will instead help guide you through available choices and attitudes to your problem by having a series of discussions with you.

How long will it take? Psychotherapy can be short or long term. Six weekly sessions may be already quite helpful and you will decide you do not need any more. It will take you through the most difficult times and teach you self-help techniques for the future. Alternatively, you may decide to carry on for several months and integrate psychotherapy into your long term strategic planning.

How do I access psychotherapy during lockdown due to Covid-19? Online video psychotherapy is widely available. All you will need is Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp. And a quiet room.

Is online psychotherapy as good as face to face sessions? There have been several research studies that indicate that online psychotherapy is as efficacious as face to face sessions. Whilst this is a relatively new way of working with clients, it is reassuring to hear from therapists that many of their clients have made a switch from face to face sessions to online psychotherapy and are happy to continue using this format. Others, who have experienced only online sessions, find them helpful. The key to ‘good’ psychotherapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist; this can be successfully created using video communication. Online sessions may not, however, be for everyone and some clients are waiting for the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to be loosened to resume face to face sessions.

But is it going to work for me? Most therapists who work online will offer you a free or discounted ‘taster’ session where you can try out how it feels to communicate this way.

How will I know that the therapist is for me? The ‘taster’ session will tell you a lot about the therapist. He or she will answer any questions that you may have. You will have 50 minutes to see whether you feel comfortable and at ease with them. After this, there will be a ‘review’ of the work together every four weeks, when you can tell the therapist what is not working for you. You can of course end the sessions at any time and ask to be referred to someone else.

Is it confidential? Absolutely. The therapist will never indicate or say that you are coming to psychotherapy or disclose the contents of the sessions.

Why consider psychotherapy?

A key factor is that the therapist is non-judgemental. This will be reassuring and refreshing when you are in the midst of family, friends and colleagues, who all have a view about the ‘rights and wrongs’ of your divorce. This is particularly important when there are children involved.

What else can psychotherapy offer?

  • you will be able to dissect problems and follow through arguments (and proposed solutions) that are difficult to tackle on your own without a sounding board;
  • you will find it possible to express your emotions unreservedly without worrying that you will upset the listener. This will help you to find yourself in the right place emotionally to make decisions;
  • whilst people around us are often busy, the therapist will have time to listen. He or she will reserve 50 minutes exclusively for you;
  • the therapy sessions can provide an emotional refuge at times of particular stress or difficulty.

How do I move forward?

Using this kind of support will work for some of us and not for others. This will depend on your approach to it, how you use it and whether you want it to help you or not. When the therapist asks you: ‘ How would you like to use the session today?’, they mean just that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Irena Trnka De Benedictis is an Existential Psychotherapist in private practice. For further information please visit or email Irena at [email protected]


Paradigm Family Law have a team of experienced lawyers to help guide you through the process of divorce, just waiting to hear from you.

If you would like more details on this or want to discuss your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact JamesFrank or Evelyn. Paradigm Family Law offers a free initial consultation with a top rated divorce lawyer and our fixed fee solutions cover financial proceedings from start to finish. You can call us on 01904 217225 or email us to [email protected].