Clients often struggle with the emotional aspects of a divorce.  This is perfectly normal and affects both men and women.   Anger, guilt, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and even panic attacks can occur.  Sometimes the emotions are well-founded and manageable.  In other cases they can be exaggerated and extreme, posing a real threat to the mental health of the client.  Ruminating, catastrophizing, dwelling on the past, thinking in extremes:  if you, or someone you care about, is struggling with emotional fallout of a divorce, consider divorce cognitive behavioral therapy as a resource to improve quality of life.

What is divorce cognitive behavioral therapy?

Divorce cognitive behavioral therapy is not a term found in the dictionary.  It is not a clinical subspecialty.  It is therapy provided by someone trained in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, specifically addressing negative behaviors and thought patterns that the client experiences in response to a divorce.

Not being a licensed psychologist, my understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy is admittedly rudimentary.  This type of therapy focuses on changing behavior and patterns that cause the client emotional pain.  The client develops increased self-awareness of the thinking and actions that contribute to his negative mood, and strategies for positive change.  The good news about cognitive behavioral therapy is that it can offer substantial improvement in a short period of time.

What about the cost?

Explore the sources of divorce cognitive behavioral therapy available in your community and the out-of-pocket costs.  Insurance or employee benefits might help.  In the Atlanta divorce area, there are many qualified therapists trained in cognitive behavioral techniques.  If you think that you cannot afford cognitive behavioral therapy, remember that it is focused and specifically targets self-defeating thoughts and actions.  To the extent that you are thinking rationally and functioning better, you will save money on legal fees.  Divorce cases can cost thousands more than necessary when a party is out of control or simply cannot deal with the stress.   A client who is functioning well can partner with his divorce attorney to make smart decisions about the case.   If both spouses are functioning well, the case has good prospects for settlement without wasting attorneys fees on drama or unfounded fears.

Examples of destructive thinking during divorce

Divorce cognitive behavioral therapy can address self-destructive habits such as:

  • Ruminating -  obsessive thinking about an event, magnifying the stress, anxiety, or anger associated with the memory.  Rumination doesn’t help solve the problem but rather makes it worse.  The client gets more and more wound up and miserable.  Rumination is a habit that you can learn to identify and change.
  • Catastrophizing - focusing on the worst possible outcome, even if it is irrational.  This is easy to do in a divorce, where fears about the future can get out of control.  A few sessions of therapy can turn “I’ll never get a job”  into “I’m confident that I will get a job, but it may take some time”.  Dire predictions about the future are usually wrong and make you miserable.
  • Dwelling on the past or the future – it’s easy to look back and have regrets about the past, but you can’t change it.   Worrying about the future won’t improve it – but it may create enough anxiety that you can’t function well.  Therapy can help you live in the present, and plan for your future.
  • Thinking in extremes – black and white thinking leaves you negative and depressed.

Helpful behavioral tools or strategies might include:

  • Redirecting thoughts or self-distraction
  • Intentionally connecting with other people for support and encouragement
  • Following a more structured routine
  • Meditating
  • Setting attainable and specific goals
  • Incorporating activities into your schedule if you have withdrawn
  • Being aware of whether you are harder on yourself than you are on others

To a certain extent, most people engage in one or more of the unhealthy thinking habits.  During the stress of a divorce, mental health can deteriorate in a hurry if flawed thinking is allowed to flourish.  Divorce cognitive behavioral therapy can help.

© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC  April 25, 2013