Mental Health and Divorce

Effects of divorce
Feb 24, 2020

It is not uncommon for many individuals to equate divorce to a death in the family.  A plethora of emotions are not uncommon and can range from feelings of freedom, happiness, remorse, sadness and guilt along with a dash of bitterness, resentment and frustration.  A divorce becomes exceptionally difficult when individuals are engaged in long, drawn-out court battles on key issues such as children, assets and ancillary relief.

In this article, we focus on the importance of enlisting the help of mental health professionals when you are going through a divorce.  It is a key way to help you heal and move forward in your life.  Mental health professionals can help you process the range of emotions you may experience during the divorce process and provide you with helpful tools to resolve issues you may be dealing with in this divorce journey.

In a time when mental health awareness is being highlighted in media and self-care is becoming a priority, there should be no shame in seeking help when it is needed to get you to a better place emotionally and spiritually.

  1. Types of Mental Health Professionals:  Before we dive into the benefits of enlisting the assistance of mental health professionals in divorce, let’s look at the types of mental health experts available to you in divorce. One mental health expert may be a therapist/psychologist. A therapist/psychologist can assist you in managing the stresses of divorce, including your expectations of the outcome. A therapist/psychologist can also help you develop new interpersonal skills that are valuable in creating healthier relationships whether it be with your spouse or your children during and after the divorce process. The interpersonal skills and tools you may learn through therapy is especially helpful if you have children and there is a need to co-parent with your ex-spouse.  If you do not have the means to hire a therapist/psychologist, there are many mental health services available such as St. John’s Cathedral Counselling Service or The Samaritans in Hong Kong which can provide emotional support and counseling services for those in distress free of charge.  Another mental health professional you may consider is a mediator who can assist you and your spouse negotiate a mutual agreement with respect to custody and access.   This is an ideal option if you and your spouse are on amicable terms and you both believe a compromise is feasible through open dialogue and communication.  To enlist a mediator to assist in custody and access issues is beneficial especially if you and your spouse agree that you do not wish to involve the court in resolving your custody and access issues.   Another option is a parenting coordinator, who can assist you and your spouse resolve minor issues such as holiday pickup arrangements and communication disputes.
  2. Benefits Of Hiring A Mental Health Professional In Divorce:  What are the benefits in hiring a mental health professional? Calming emotions, clarifying expectations and helping discuss difficult issues are just some of the essential benefits obtained through the assistance of a mental health professional. Before deciding on a mental health professional, do your due diligence and conduct your own research before you entrust the personal details of your life to a professional. Your solicitor can be a helpful resource in providing you with a list of reputable and highly trained experts in the very area in which you seek assistance. There are many healthcare professionals in Hong Kong who have dealt with divorcing couples and can provide you and your family with helpful tools on how to navigate these difficult waters.
  3. When Should A Mental Health Professional Be Employed In Your Divorce?  Deciding on whether to enlist the help of a mental health professional is a personal decision. Consider therapy if you believe it can offer support and assistance in your own personal growth journey. Consider therapy if you are struggling with mental illness, which may be triggered or exacerbated by the circumstances surrounding your divorce. Talk to your solicitor to determine if a mediator is needed to resolve disputed children’s issues in your divorce. Your solicitor may have insight as to whether these third-party experts will be helpful to your case. You and your spouse may even consider enlisting the help of these trained mental health professionals for your children, especially if they are struggling with the “new normal” of the family dynamics.  However, when doing so, make sure that the children are amenable to the idea as it truly is up to a child on whether he or she wants to attend therapy.  Respect your child’s privacy if he or she chooses to attend therapy to resolve issues related to the divorce and remember not to use it as a weapon against the other spouse in your divorce.
  4. Consider Other Forms Of Mental Health Support: Finally, mental health support does not need to be limited to therapy. Consider mediation, yoga or other forms of physical exercise to boost your mood, mind, confidence and self-esteem. A healthy lifestyle, hobbies, journal practice and gratitude and appreciation lists are also helpful ways to boost your mood and confidence.  Change is difficult to adapt to, but be hopeful in that change is good and there are better things ahead.

Your solicitor is available to support you through the divorce process and can provide you not only with legal assistance but emotional support as well.  Do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  There is no shame in asking for help to bring your mental state to a better place.

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