Divorce lawyers and therapists working with clients facing divorce understand that they have different roles. Certainly, all good therapists know that they cannot provide legal advice about divorce and all good divorce lawyers know that they cannot offer therapy.
At the same time, when clients are facing divorce or separation, they need consistent support and counsel from both lawyers and therapists and there are many similarities in the ways that they seek help from these professionals.
The focus of this blog is to explore the similarities between the roles of lawyers and therapists and look at effective ways for each professional to help their clients during these important times.
Similar Needs from the Client
Let’s start by looking at some of the “needs” or interests that the clients may present to both the attorney and the therapist. The following is a partial list of some of the areas where a client facing divorce may seek counsel from both their attorney and their therapist:
- Clarifying what they want to achieve during the divorce process
- Identifying their concerns about the divorce
- Finding ways to articulate those goals and concerns
- Developing skills in asking for what they need
- Determining what things fall within their control or influence
- Developing the strength and support to take decisive action
- Findings ways to accept realities lie outside of their control
- Getting closure and planning the next stage of their lives
While the approach to each of these areas may differ dramatically between the two professions, it is not uncommon for the divorce lawyer and the therapist to work with the clients in addressing one or all of those concerns.
In addition, as a precursor to addressing those needs, individuals facing divorce may be asking very similar questions of their therapist, or their legal counsel, including the following:
- Should I consider divorcing my spouse?
- Should I consider separating from my spouse?
- Is it possible to manage my risks while I explore reconciliation?
- What are the steps to be taken to start a divorce or a separation?
- How will these decisions impact my children?
- Are there things I can do to minimize the adverse impact on the children?
- How can I protect myself while I make these important decisions?
While many of these questions cannot be fully answered, the support and information that the client receives may have an important impact on the client and their family for the rest of their lives. The support and advice they receive will, of course, depend on which professional is providing the counsel. For the therapist, providing counsel and support for the client, may depend, in part, on the legal realities that the client is facing. The attorney, on the other hand, can guide the client on the legal options, but may not understand some of the interpersonal issues well enough to counsel the client effectively. Some portion of these questions can best be answered by legal counsel while other elements of these important decisions are best handled by the client’s therapist. Consequently, the client may benefit from some level of communication between the attorney and the therapist may aid the client in finding a truly holistic solution that addresses their important interests.
However, before getting into some of these specifics, we will, In the next segment, address some of the important differences in the roles of the divorce attorney and the therapist.