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The Therapy Experience in the Midst of Separation/Divorce – What should therapists know?

June 22, 2017

Therapists only see clients as a result of distress, typically the outcome of challenging life events. Not uncommonly, those challenging life events may create the conditions for or may be caused by separation and divorce.

The separation/divorce may come before, during or after therapeutic work is initiated.

The therapeutic work may be individual, couple, family or child directed.

There may be any modality of therapy and for any presenting problem.

Working in the context of separation/divorce poses unique issues for the therapist to consider.  However many therapists do not know what they do not know.

Many therapists do not realize the uniqueness of separation/divorce as an intervening variable on their practice. As such they may inadvertently contribute to an escalation of issues and may then put themselves at risk of professional malpractice.

I receive calls and emails from therapists seeking support and guidance in view of a client’s separation/divorce intersecting with their provision of therapeutic service.

Often the therapist has questions about the legal implications of their work and their role within the client’s separation/divorce.

If you are a therapist who wonders about or has questions about their practice in the context of a client’s separation/divorce either at referral, during service delivery or even after termination of service, I would be interested in hearing from you.

What questions do you have?

What are you grappling with?

What are your concerns?

What information do you seek in order to feel safe in your practice?

What would help you better meet the needs of clients in this situation?

Myself along with a team of colleagues are interested in taking your questions to compose a book aimed at helping therapists better meet the needs of their clients while at the same time helping the therapist better manage practice risks.

Feel free to comment below, post a comment to my Facebook or Linked In posts or send me a direct email:

The aim is to elevate services offered to people whose lives are impacted upon by separation/divorce.

Just to add, if you are a client who is receiving or has received therapeutic services and who is or has gone through a separation/divorce, I would also appreciate hearing from you about your experience with your therapist and what you may have wished your therapist knew or could have done differently.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.





  1. Sharon Barrett permalink

    One concern is when the couple began the therapy together and then one pulls away for one reason or another. If the lone client now starts talking about their unhappiness with their spouse or leaving the relationship, you might feel guilty or fear that you might be viewed as taking sides. You my unconsciously find yourself defending the other party or be more measured in case things get ugly.

  2. Want to makes sure you are aware of the “National Divorce Decision Making” project headed up by Alan Hawkins at BYU. There are a few papers out now, and “divorce ideation” is something we are really breaking down re: research. Thank you!

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