Finding a Good Divorce Therapist for your Family

Finding a Good Divorce Therapist for your Family

A Divorce Therapist turned us away? Why? When we clearly need help!

It’s confusing and frustrating when you can see that your child needs emotional support and yet you can’t find a divorce therapist to work with you. You’re in the throws of a divorce, and life is already challenging enough, without someone turning you away. So why don’t therapists agree to see you right away, and why are they so specific in wanting to set things up in a specific way?

 1. Consent to treatment

A Marriage and Family Therapist in California cannot legally treat your child without your parental consent. When you are married, the consent of one parent works, though in my opinion no therapist should be working with a child before meeting both parents. It’s a matter of respect, and of understanding who your child is in the context of your family. When you are separating or divorcing, the matter of consent can change. Most often parents who are divorcing, will share legal custody, but not always. A therapist can’t take your word for this, but will need to see court documents to understand who has the legal right for your child to enter treatment.

2. Creating a safe and healing environment for your child, means not alienating either of the parents

Even when you have legal consent, it’s good practice for the therapist to at least try to obtain consent from both parents. If a therapist meets with your child, and your ex finds out that it was done behind their back without their permission, they will likely be upset, and will not view the therapist is trustworthy.

Consider for a moment how you would feel, if a therapist met with your child, and you not only had NO idea that this meeting was taking place, but the therapist didn’t once contact you to introduce themselves, and to invite you to be a part of the process. It’s alienating!

A therapist meeting with the child without letting both parents know, is alienating that parent. This is likely to undermine the child’s therapy in various ways. Firstly, the therapist has taken sides, and will not be considered credible if they ever go to court on your behalf. Secondly, without hearing from both parents, it’s harder for the therapist to understand the environment your child is a part of, and understanding who your child is, is a big part of therapy. Thirdly, if the parents aren’t in agreement about parenting decisions, then presumably your child is already caught in the middle, and feeling this stress.

The whole point initiating therapy is to give your child a neutral, and a safe space, where they can process their pain. 

Now imagine this child is introduced to a neutral, safe space of a comforting play therapy office and starts a relationship with a therapist, with whom they bond, and then they are pulled out of treatment or are conflicted about being there. This is likely to happen when the excluded parent gives the child negative messages about therapy. The child feels guilty about being in treatment, they know their parent doesn’t want them there, and they feel confused about trusting the therapist. Now there is nothing that the therapist can do. The therapist rushed into treating the child, without first trying to get both parents on board, and is now stuck.

 3. Ways to Move Foward

Understand that the therapist is doing what is in the child’s best interest, by trying to get the buy in from both parents. Give the therapist a little time to reach out to your ex, and to try to get their permission. If this doesn’t happen, know that in your court proceedings, you can ask the court to rule on this. In the meantime, there is nothing stopping you from seeking treatment, from getting parenting support. The therapist can work with your child indirectly, by giving you the resources to make a difference in their life. Remember that you have the stronger relationship with your child, and that you can be the one to help them with their adjustment.


It’s excruciating to need help, and to feel turned away. Try to imagine how you would feel if someone took your child to a doctor for you, and then the doctor refused to talk with you, and to let you know what was going on. How would you react in this situation? Your ex is likely to do the same, and this simply makes an already difficult situation more contentious, and the person who will feel it the most, is your child. Understand that the therapist needs to remain neutral, and to be available for your child. By setting up a structure with boundaries, might mean you have to wait a little for treatment, but it’s ultimately in the best interest of the family well-being. At the end of the day, your child needs both parents in their life (unless a parent is abusive and dangerous). If your divorce is contentious, the therapist might have a chance to bring you into a co-parenting relationship during this process of tapping into the concern and love you both feel for your child’s well-being.

Therapy for Children of Divorce and Remarriage- Part 2

Therapy for Children of Divorce and Remarriage- Part 2

What will the long-term impact of divorce be on my child?

When you are considering getting a divorce, you want to know what the impact of this decision will be on your children. As a parent, this will be one of the most challenging decisions to make. My guess is that you are existing in an unhealthy marriage, and you want out; and yet are wanting to protect your children from the negative effects of divorce. It’s a difficult decision for a parent to make, especially at time when you are in a place of pain. Here are the important things to consider as you decide what to do, about how badly your child will be impacted by your divorce.

There are researchers and authors who have presented arguments for each side: the perspective that children are damaged by divorce, and the other perspective that children are resilient and won’t have long term difficulties after divorce. Having read a lot of their work, I have come to value the words of Emery who said: Well the truth lies in the middle.


Here are three things to consider that impact how your children will adjust to your divorce:

1. Consider the beginning:

For most children, the first two years will be difficult. There is much to grieve and there are transitions to move through. Long-term, research shows that with good support, 80% of children of divorce have no bigger psychological problems than other children. You can help your children to get through this difficult initial grieving phase.

2. Risk and protective factors:

There are things you can do that will make the adjustment more stressful, and other things that will protect your child from distress. The protective factors include your child having strong relationships with others and particularly with positive adult models. Providing a stable home environment with structure is another protective factor, along with being able to give your child a realistic explanation for the reason for the divorce. You can teach your child good coping skills, but you need to be doing ok emotionally, in order to do so. The risk factors in divorce include children blaming themselves for the divorce, ongoing high-conflict between parents, and when children find themselves in the middle of fighting parents. Other risk factors include parents not being emotionally available to children, and when there is instability in the environment.

3. Resources:

Sometimes it’s hard to sift through all the information out there in a time when you are in crisis. There are so many resources available, varying from support groups for adults and children, to informational sessions hosted in the community, to books for adults, parents and kids. Visit some of these support groups, so that you can hear how other parents are coping.

Making the decision to get divorced is very difficult, but whether or not your child will be able to adjust, is not the question. We know that children are resilient with the right kind of support. So, if you are going to go ahead with this, consider getting support so that you can be a resource to your child, to help them adjust in healthy ways.

There is no easy answer, instead one can only trust that the process of grieving and of guidance seeking, will bring clarity. Consider waiting until you are sure, to share the news with your child, otherwise they will be suspended in transition alongside you, for a long time, without answers.

If you are not aware of the resources in San Diego, or feel you need extra support in making this decision, or explaining it to your children, give me a call and I’d be happy to help.

Sharing the Divorce with your Children

Sharing the Divorce with your Children

Sharing the Divorce News

Arriving at the time to share the news with your children can be an overwhelming and scary period. In the first blog post I recap the generals in thinking through elements beforehand. This post deals with the best way to share the actual news. And in the following blog post I share what to expect and how to prepare for the aftermath and moving forward. 

How to Tell your Children You Are Getting A Divorce:

Before anything- be sure you are getting a divorce before you share! Be at least one step ahead in the processing and grieving process, and to consider a plan & logistics moving forward.

*Consider what it is you want to say

  • Tell the news together, if possible
  • Consider child’s age and what they can digest
  • Tell child what is going to happen. DON’T TELL ON YOUR SPOUSE

When to Share The News of the Divorce:

*Consider when and how you are going to go about it

  • Avoid important days, such as holidays. As well as days when anybody is feeling sick
  • Do it when you have plenty of time without limitations
  • Younger children (2-3 weeks before any major structural changes)
  • Older children (1-2 months before any major structural changes)
  • Emote with the children “Everyone gets to grieve together”

Therapy for Children of Divorce and Remarriage- Part 1

Therapy for Children of Divorce and Remarriage- Part 1


I’ve decided to take a season and dedicate my next blogs to focus on divorce and changing families. There is such a need in San Diego County to support families who are changing in their structure. Over the last three years I am getting more and more calls from families in San Diego who need guidance. Most often I get the call once the divorce is in process. Parents are concerned about their children’s reactions: anger outbursts, problems at school, separation anxiety and acting out at home. When children are under stress, it shows up in their behavior, and parents get worried. Divorce brings loss and change on many levels, and it takes time for everyone in the family, to adjust to this.

I am teaching a class at UCSD in the Play Therapy Certificate Program on families who are changing due to divorce and remarriage. As I have prepared for this class, I have been reading many of the texts, books and research articles on this topic. With my experience in my own personal life, and in my professional practice, it is a privilege to help to equip parents to go through this difficult journey, being as prepared as possible. If you are professional working with children, come and take this class to get up to date on how to work with families that are impacted by divorce and by remarriage.

The image that comes to mind for me, when I think about divorce, is that of a lego construction that is being broken to the ground. There are lots of little pieces left lying on the ground. The tragedy is that the family that once was, is no more.

The opportunity, is that with time, something new will be built, and a family has lots of control over what the new construction will look like.


In today’s world, there are lots of different kinds of family structures. It’s difficult to say goodbye to what once was, but it is important to know that there will be a new reality, and that there are important building blocks that make the difference in what will be.

There are many resources available in San Diego for families adjusting to divorce. Much research has been done around the world to support parents, and so we know how to guide you through these changes. It would be ideal to equip yourself with this information before you share the news of divorce with your children, so that you know what matters in breaking the news, know how to support them, and know what factors will make a difference in their recovery.

Read my next couple blogs for some tips and facts, or come and see me so that I can guide you through this time.