Family Separation

Out beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.Rumi

Family separation brings not only major changes to everyone involved, it also brings huge emotional challenges, which many people experience as the most traumatic in their lives. Because separation and divorce is more common than not for a number of reasons, there is a prevalent attitude that life should carry on without missing a beat. First and foremost, my priority is to address the emotional realities of family separation by creating a safe place for everyone in the family to work through their emotions and identify their needs moving forward.

There is nothing like a separation to trigger strong emotions, such as anger, grief, fear, and often overwhelming vulnerability and insecurity. Unfortunately, it is under such conditions that many people seek legal advice and risk the legal process becoming the means by which they seek legal solutions to essentially emotional problems. This is not to suggest that there are not legal and financial problems to resolve. However, to do that, people need access to their problem-solving and decision-making capacities, which may be seriously compromised in the early stages of a separation. Moreover, adversarial legal process in particular tends to fuel the very emotions from which people are seeking relief, not to mention any animosity they have toward their partners.

Separation is not a legal process. It is an emotional process, with legal and financial consequences. In my experience, it is always better to begin by addressing and giving compassionate attention to emotions first. Legal information can be helpful and there can be some initial steps that can be taken to help everyone feel safe in the process from a legal point of view (for example, initial agreements about finances and care of children.) However, it takes time to adjust to a separation and the losses and changes in one’s sense of identity that it brings. It takes time to see that the family continues, but in a new form. It takes time to build a vision for the new family structure that evolves as life brings change. The place to do this emotional work is in a therapeutic setting where the intention is to seek understanding of self and other, through which solutions arise that meet the unique needs of the individuals involved.

I am fortunate to work with colleagues who also hold this approach to working with families. I have an educational certification in interdisciplinary collaborative divorce, a specific legal process which supports people in reaching agreements outside of court. I have experience working with collaborative lawyers and mediators who are focused on non-adversarial, problem-solving approaches that put children first. I can assist with referrals to legal professionals when you are ready. I also work with other therapists who understand the process of family restructuring and the importance of teamwork among professionals. For example, they may be working with parents on their co-parenting relationship and I may be working with the children, or vice versa. In this way, we are able to offer more support to families while working together on the same ultimate goal: healthy family restructuring in the best interests of children.