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Can counseling help a couple as they go through a divorce?

Many people who go to couples therapy -- or any kind of therapy -- want the therapist to give them advice and answers, such as whether they should get a divorce. However, most therapists will tell you that this isn't their role.

Couples therapists often say that their job is to get people to listen to each other and to let them come to their own conclusions about whether they want to continue the marriage or call it quits -- even if asked point-blank by one or both of the spouses what they should do. As one mental health professional says, "A therapist should not encourage putting the final nail in the marital coffin. In fact, it's unethical and dangerous to push divorce if the clients' themselves haven't brought it up first."

The one exception is when a spouse has told the therapist that he or she is the victim of physical abuse by the other one. Even then, therapists have to tread lightly. One says that if he suspects abuse, he will talk with the victim alone. In those cases, he'll only suggest leaving the marriage when he's in that one-on-one setting because "the abuse can actually get worse if the abuser is aware of the idea of separation."

Unfortunately, couples often seek therapy as a last resort and only after years (an average of six) of unhappiness, anger and pain have left them unable to practice any of the communication skills a therapist can teach.

Marriage and family therapists say that on relatively rare occasions, couples who have decided to end the marriage seek counseling to do so in a manner that's "healthiest for their family." This can be particularly important if there are children involved. One therapist says, "I've had a positive outcome virtually every time a couple has come in at this stage in their relationship, and would recommend it to anyone divorcing or breaking up."

If you believe that seeing a therapist with your estranged spouse and your children (or even on your own) would help you as you move into this next phase, your Tennessee family law attorney can likely recommend one or more professionals in your area who can help you.

Source: Huffington Post, "Do Couples Therapists Ever Suggest Divorce?," Brittany Wong, April 04, 2018

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