Psychologists and counsellors are used to helping people at some of the worst times in their lives – and separation and divorce is definitely one of them.
I look to the priorities for our clients. They come to us in differing emotional states, depending on where they are in their separation decision and process. Have they just heard that their partner wants to end it? Or have they been thinking about this for years? Have they just discovered that their partner is having an affair? Or indeed have they themselves met someone else and wish to leave their spouse?
I know that if clients are parents, they are usually very upset and worried for the children. They need information and coaching about how to manage the separation decision with the other parent.
Part of collaborative work is to help people see the other’s point of view. On a practical level, before negotiations, I assist both clients to be emotionally ready to face the other, and to be clear and realistic about what they really need. I help them understand their own emotional system, to find the self-regulation required to be ready for clear communication during negotiations.
Change or loss of family or friend connections are not necessary outcomes of marital breakup. There is however, a much greater risk of this if couples ‘go to war’ with adversarial legal processes. I have been shown over and over during the many decades I have been doing this work, that staying out of court is the best way to navigate the turbulent emotional waters of separation.
For all of the benefits that the family consultant can bring to a family in separation, I co-founded MELCA with my colleagues, bringing to bear my decades of international experience as a therapist, mediator, collaborative practitioner and trainer.