As a Family
Law attorney and mediator, I have repeatedly seen how therapy can save
client's money, reduce trauma and help avoid bad decisions in divorce.
The following are some ways that therapy can be used (and misused):
Deciding to Divorce
With the therapist's help, people may realistically see whether communication can be improved and problems brought under control. If they are not able to save the marriage, they will better understand why it ended. New communication tools will have been learned for future relationships, and the children can be kept out of the middle.
Coping with Divorce
This can be an opportunity to make personal changes, such as becoming more assertive, re-evaluating personal habits or changing how one chooses a partner
Counseling for Children
It is important for parents to understand that children
universally have two fantasies: that they were the cause of the divorce
and that they can get their parents back together. A therapist can work
with each parent and the child to bring resolution to these issues.
A Misuse of Counselors
Most child custody orders in California include "joint legal custody." This means that major parenting decisions -- such as taking a child to a therapist -- require the authorization of both parents. Many counselors have unknowingly counseled a child without the knowledge or consent of the other parent.
In some cases, a therapist has been unwittingly manipulated by one parent into writing a parenting recommendation against the other parent -- who the counselor has never met. This is considered unethical by most professionals standards. The common scenario is for one parent to present the child to a counselor who has no history with the child. The parent describes the child's "traumatized" behavior or negative contacts with the other parent. The counselor then interviews the child with the parent present, or nearby in the waiting room.
The emotional intensity and urgency the parent and/or child presents can persuade the unwitting counselor of an emergency situation. Thus a letter or declaration is written. The parent then rushes this to his or her attorney, who uses it as the basis for a change of custody or severe restriction of visitation. Yet in several of these cases, the initial allegations have turned out to be great exaggerations or simply untrue.
It is best to have both parents sign consent to counseling, or for a parent to obtain a court order for an objective and thorough evaluation.
© 2006 Bill Eddy. All rights reserved. Web design: Ray Adair