Self Care During Divorce
by Michael Osburn, Esq.
For most people, a divorce is an extremely stressful life event. This is not surprising. Divorce can impact all aspects of one’s life: relationships with family members and friends, living arrangements, plans for retirement, and financial security to name just a few. In some cases, a person might not only experience stress during divorce, but also other powerful emotions such as guilt, anger, sadness and fear.
Your attorney can help guide you through the legal aspects of your divorce. He or she can advise you about your rights and responsibilities under the laws applicable to the division of assets and debts, child custody, child support and maintenance. Your lawyer can explain the pros and cons of the different options available to couples going through a divorce, such as going to court or negotiating a written agreement with the other spouse. However, practically speaking, there is little your attorney can do to help you cope with the stress and other emotional challenges entailed in your divorce.
Early in my legal career, I found that many divorce clients wanted to speak with me regularly about the emotional upheaval occurring in their lives. I believe this was because, as their divorce lawyer, I was familiar with their story and they trusted me. However, as much as I enjoyed helping my clients, I recognized that these types of conversations should not occur routinely and, when they do, they should be relatively brief. This is because attorneys are not trained or qualified to help clients process or cope with the emotional aspects of their divorce. Moreover, the additional expense resulting from such conversations can add up over the months it takes to resolve a divorce.
I eventually concluded that many (if not most) people going through a divorce need the support of a professional counselor. A professional counselor is licensed by the State of New York. There are a number of different professionals who can fill this role, such as a licensed master social worker (LMSW), a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or a psychologist. These professionals are specially trained to help people deal with stressful life events like divorce.
An added benefit of a client working with a counselor during his/her divorce is that the client’s health insurance will, in most cases, help pay for the expense of counseling.
If the counselor believes that the client may have a health problem, such as depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, or sleep loss, the counselor can refer the client to his/her physician for appropriate treatment.
My clients who have used a counselor during divorce have told me, almost universally, that this type of professional support was worthwhile and helpful. It allows the client to better manage and cope with the stress and other strong emotions entailed in the divorce. It provides the client with a professionally trained and objective person with whom he/she can discuss important issues, such as conflicts with the other spouse, parenting issues, and other less obvious concerns like a career change or the sale of the marital residence.
The decisions made by a person during a divorce will have a profound impact on his/her future. The quality and soundness of these decisions will likely be affected by his/her physical and mental health. A person who is depressed, anxiety ridden or sleep deprived runs the risk of being unable to focus or devote the energy and thought needed to make sound decisions. Therefore, it is important for a person going through a divorce to care for his/her emotional and physical well being. In many cases, this entails enlisting the services of a qualified and experienced counselor.