Yes, You Need a Therapist
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Most of the time, when a client comes to meet with me about custody or divorce issues, they are in the middle of a crisis. It is not a global health crisis, as presently exists, and no one is telling them “we’re all in this together.” In the big picture, it is a small-scale crisis that is sometimes invisible to the outside world, their friends and colleagues, but something that feels large scale to them. It is often a crisis that, until this point, they have suffered alone. As Tolstoy says in the first line of Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
As we are currently living the majority of our lives inside our homes, there are constant reminders of how cracks in the figurative foundation can cause great turmoil in our relationships, not just within our living space, but in other places too such as in the workplace, in casual friendships and in places of worship. It is my job as an attorney to help clients by acting as their legal counselor and advocate. As a family law practitioner, I use my litigation experience to help guide each client through negotiations, agreements or what to expect from the court system and to review the range of legal options best suited for them. I also use my knowledge and experience to think thoroughly and creatively about solutions to legal problems when considering custody or the division of an unusual asset. I often tell clients that even though they haven’t been through the legal process before, I have done so many times over and can help them get to the light at the end of the tunnel.
While lawyers can help with the physical process of divorce and custody, there is no question that the emotional part of the crisis is also valid and difficult to address. The stress of negotiation and/or litigation can impact your work performance and even your physical health. As an attorney, I am not licensed or trained to be an emotional counselor even though family law issues involve a lot of emotion. I am not licensed to and cannot provide a roadmap to mental health. I certainly cannot diagnose whether you have situational depression or guide you through the best way to address the emotions that you can – or cannot – control. Also, it is very expensive to have a conversation with me; my hourly rate is much higher than nearly every counselor and there is no “legal insurance” to cover my fees. For these reasons, many individuals facing a change in their life situation should seek out help from a properly licensed mental health professional.
Need help finding one? First, make sure the person you are seeking is qualified. Generally, you want to select someone who is a Licensed Counselor (LC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or holds a Doctorate in Psychology (Ph.D.). These individuals all hold advanced degrees and have been specially trained to provide the best mental health counseling.
Ask for recommendations. I know this is hard for many people because even asking means acknowledging that there may be, or is, a problem. If you are uncomfortable asking a friend, you might ask your primary care physician. If you do not know your primary care physician, you should find one and make an appointment for an annual physical since your physical health may be at issue in a divorce matter. If you have children, your pediatrician might also have some suggestions.
Seek out resources that are covered by insurance or low cost. Many insurance plans now cover the cost of a specific number of sessions and some providers offer a sliding scale, depending on income level. Psychology Today allows for a search by insurance type and zip code. The Open Path Psychotherapy Collective offers low fee counseling to individuals without insurance coverage and includes online meeting options.
Consider other alternatives, if needed. If securing a licensed therapist or counselor is not possible, try seeking out a group that might have mental health benefits, where you can process your emotional responses. For clients married to addicts, for example, Al-Anon Family Groups or Nar-Anon may be helpful. Many of these groups also offer online chat rooms to converse anonymously. Be sure to keep in mind though that your group does not have an obligation of maintaining confidentiality in the same manner a licensed therapist does. For this reason, I always recommend a therapist if that option is available, and caution clients to be aware that anything you share in these groups could be used against you if your case winds up in court.
If you would like a recommendation from me, I would be happy to assist with connecting you to a licensed mental health professional. You can always reach me by e-mail. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that help is available.
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