Depression: When to Get Help

Feeling sad is a normal and healthy response to many different situations in life. For example it would be well within the range of normal to feel sad in response to the death of a friend or family member, the end of a romantic relationship, an unexpected move, a difficult career transition, etc. Many people struggle with how to know when sadness may actually be depression, or when sadness has turned into depression over time. Depression is conceptualized as a more chronic and pervasive state of sadness. Major Depressive Disorder is the current DSM diagnosis for clinical depression. Review the following signs to determine whether it might be time to seek professional help for your depression:

  • You feel sad almost all of the time: In addition, your sadness does not seem to be in response to a recent event (like the recent death of a family member or friend). Or the event occurred long enough ago that the intensity of your emotions may no longer seem to fit the situation today. For instance if your father died a year ago, of course you will still be sad. However, if you feel just as sad and upset as you did when it first happened, this could be a sign of depression.
  • You are no longer interested in activities you once enjoyed: You find you do not have the motivation or desire to participate in social events, hobbies, sports, your relationship or even your job. You may also notice a loss of sexual desire too.
  • You do not see a future: You feel hopeless about the future or may even have difficulty imagining a future for yourself. You may even feel suicidal. If you do feel suicidal you should seek help immediately by calling 911 or going to your nearest emergency room for an evaluation.
  • You feel exhausted: Depression does take a physical toll on the body. Feeling fatigued and tired is common. Depression can also disrupt your sleep patterns. You may find yourself sleeping too much or too little, or have trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • You feel anxious: Depression and anxiety often present together and may feed off of each other. Pay attention to symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, irritability, nausea, feeling on edge, sweating, shaking, etc.
  • You are noticing changes in your appetite: Some people with depression will each more, while others eat less. This may also cause significant weight gain or weight loss.
  • You hurt (physically): People with clinical depression often report muscle aches and other chronic body pains.
  • Your emotions feel out of control: Some people with depression may feel “flat” meaning they do not feel much of anything at all. Others express their emotions more outwardly and may have outbursts of anger or crying. Despite their very different presentations, both could be signs of depression.

If you recognize some of these signs of depression, consulting with a therapist or counselor would be an appropriate next step. There are many treatments for depression including lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.

Medical Problems & Anxiety

At some point in life, most individuals will face a personal medical crisis or must live with a chronic illness. A common concern I see in my practice is an increase in anxiety after a medical event or diagnosis of a chronic illness. Here are a few things to know about medical problems and anxiety:

  • Anxiety about medical concerns is common: Anxiety around health issues is very common. It is normal to feel worried and concerned about your health if you have a medical issue. And while it is normal to have anxiety about your health when faced with true medical problems, it is important that you are able to manage and reduce this anxiety. If your anxiety becomes out of control, this can make your medical problems worse.
  • Monitoring symptoms may increase anxiety: Once someone knows they have a medical issue, they may begin to monitor their physical symptoms more. And while it may be important to monitor symptoms for some medical conditions (like diabetes or asthma for instance), the heightened attention to physical symptoms may increase your anxiety. You may feel like you are always waiting for something bad to happen or that you always have to be on guard to take action if something does happen.
  • Experiencing a physical symptom may trigger anxiety: You may be having a physical symptom related to your medical condition, or you may be having an anxiety symptom. Physical symptoms of anxiety include a racing heart, dizziness, nausea, chest pain, shaking, feeling overheated, sweating, tingling in your arms or legs, an upset stomach, headaches, shortness of breathe, etc. The symptoms of anxiety may be very similar to symptoms of your medical condition or problem. Not knowing if a symptom is anxiety or your medical issue may cause you to feel more anxious. More anxiety means an increase in these symptoms. This pattern can set off a vicious cycle where the physical symptoms of your condition the physical symptoms of your anxiety magnify each other.
  • Anxiety can impact your health: If you’re already dealing with a difficult medical problem or issue, you need to reduce your anxiety as much as possible. Long-term anxiety and stress can have a negative impact on your overall health, including weakening your immune system.

If you are experiencing difficulty managing your anxiety around your medical issues, it may be helpful to seek out counseling. Through therapy you will learn more effective techniques for managing your anxiety and dealing with the psychological aspects of your medical condition.

When Sex is a PTSD Trigger

A “trigger” is an experience that causes a strong physiological and/or emotional reaction because it reminds the person experiencing reaction about a traumatic event. Sexual assault, rape and even some medical trauma may cause sex to become a trigger. In addition many different types of trauma could impact the way a person experiences their body and sex. If you have experienced difficulty with sex since a traumatic event, consider the following suggestions.

  • Consider other life factors: There many be other reasons you may not want to engage in sex with your partner unrelated to the trauma. Make sure to evaluate whether you have always been bothered by or haven’t enjoyed certain sexual activities. Relationship distress and other life stressors such as an illness, death of a parent or friend, a career change, or a move, can impact sexual desire. Make sure you are not attributing all of your sexual symptoms to the trauma when there could be other factors that are influencing your experience of sex.
  • Examine your surroundings: Certain aspects of your environment may be also causing you to feel triggered, or are magnifying the experience of feeling triggered. Everything from the furniture arrangement, time of day, temperature, lighting, etc. could be triggering. Change the setting in order to reduce feeling triggered. Make changes that make create a sense of safety and do not remind you of the trauma.
  • Determine what activities are triggering: Is everything sexual trigger or only certain activities? Is every touch triggering, or only certain types of touch? Do you feel triggered as soon as your partner initiates sex or is it only once a particular sexual act is initiated? If you can figure out what specifically is causing you to feel triggered, you can identify which sexual activities may need to be temporarily on hold while you heal from the trauma. You can also give your partner feedback about what specifically is triggering so they know how to not trigger you.
  • Go with pleasure: Equally as import as identifying your triggers is identifying what activities you still enjoy and find pleasurable. Find something, even if small (like holding hands, or cuddling with clothes on) that feels safe and enjoyable to do with your partner. Engage in these activities when you desire.
  • Make sure you feel in control: Many trauma survivors must feel in control in order to feel safe enough to engage in sex. You may need to change the way you and your partner initiate, the types of activities you engage in during sex, the type of touch, etc. in order to feel safe and in control. Tell your partner the importance of feeling safe and in control and how they can help you to feel this way.
  • Learn your early red flags of dissociation: You should never engage in sex during dissociating. However, once you’re dissociating it may be hard if not impossible to make decisions about sex. In addition, you could be reenacting your trauma by having sex while dissociating. Therefore, you need to learn what the early signs of dissociation are for you. Early signs could be feeling “spaced out,” feeling dizzy, feeling numb, being unsure of where you are, nausea, sweating, shaking, etc. Learn your particular signs so that you can prevent yourself from engaging in sex when triggered or dissociated.
  • Use grounding techniques: “Grounding techniques” help to manage anxiety and trauma like reactions. In addition, make sure your partner knows what these grounding techniques are so that they can prompt you if your anxiety escalates quickly. Grounding techniques can include affirming statements like “I am safe and I am with my partner,” or “I can stop at any point if I feel overwhelmed.” Another technique would be to tune into all five senses and start describing what you are experiencing (i.e. “I am feeling my partner’s back,” “I smell the flowers on the bedside table”). Focusing on the five senses may help you to stay in the moment and prevent dissociation. You can also use diaphragmic breathing and other mindfulness skills to stay in the present.

Healing from a trauma is a long-term process. It is normal to find that you and your partner may need help managing trauma symptoms that are impacting your sex life. Consider seeking counseling for yourself and/or your partner if the trauma symptoms seem overwhelming and you do not feel as though you are healing from the trauma.

Postpartum PTSD

Many clinicians and doctors may confuse the symptoms of Postpartum PTSD with Postpartum Depression. While there may be some overlap in symptoms such as having difficulty bonding with the baby, feeling sad or having a low mood, loosing interest in activities once enjoyed, difficulty sleeping, and withdrawing socially, the importance between these two disorders is significant. In addition, the course of treatment between Postpartum Depression versus Postpartum PTSD is different, and therefore obtaining a correct diagnosis is crucial. If you or your partner had a traumatic birth experience, review the following symptoms to determine if you or your partner may have Postpartum PTSD.

1. You or your partner experienced a traumatic birth in which you believed yourself, your partner or baby experienced actual or was at threat of serious injury or death.

  • The traumatic experience may have happened during the pregnancy, during the birth experience or shortly after the birth.
  • Events that could cause this include having to undergo an emergency C-section, having your baby be whisked away right after delivery due to medical complications, being coerced into unwanted medical interventions such as cutting of the perineum, experiencing a hemorrhage, developing an infection, etc.

2. You or your partner re-experiences the trauma.

  • This may look like a full-blown flashback, intrusive memories of the event, or having nightmares about the event.
  • People, places or things that remind you or your partner of the event may trigger some of these reactions (even the baby may cause you or your partner to feel triggered).
  • The triggers may cause emotional and/or physical reactions.

3. You or your partner avoid people, places or things that represent or remind you or your partner of the trauma.

  • Again, this could look like avoiding people, places or things…but could also be the avoidance of emotions associated with the trauma.
  • Because the avoidance of emotions may be apart of PTSD symptoms, you or your partner may vacillate between feeling flat or numb to feeling irritable or emotionally out of control.
  • Your baby may remind you of the trauma…many mothers experience difficulty bonding because of this and experience a lot of guilt over feeling this way—it is important to know that this is part of PTSD and not because you or your partner is a “bad mother.”

4. You or your partner are experiencing negative changes in your thoughts and mood.

  • This may include negative beliefs about oneself, others and the world.
  • You or your partner may also experience difficulties with your memory related to the trauma.
  • Blame of yourself and others in regards to their role in the trauma may be exaggerated.
  • You or your partner may seem stuck in emotions related to the trauma (fear, horror, anxiety, shame, sadness).
  • You or your partner may feel detached from others and may not want to spend time with others.
  • You or your partner may no longer be interested in activities you once enjoyed prior to the trauma.

5. You or your partner are experiencing an increase in “arousal” symptoms.

  • Arousal in this context means feeling on edge or hypervigilant.
  • It can also include having difficulty falling asleep, having difficulty concentrating and experiencing an exaggerated startle response.
  • Irritability can also be included in this group of symptoms.

If you or your partner are experiencing these symptoms as a result of a traumatic childbirth experience it is important to get appropriate and effective treatment.

10 Signs Your Loved One May Be Struggling with Opiate Addiction

Opiate addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and estimated 2.1 million people in the United States are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin. For more information please visit:

Increasingly I have seen clients who have either a romantic partner or a family member who is suffering from opioid abuse. Review the following red flags to determine if someone in your life may be struggling with opioid abuse:

  1. They use old painkiller prescriptions: You may find your loved one using old or expired painkillers from past surgeries or injuries. When you ask about their use, they may become defensive or secretive. They may accuse you of being unsupportive of their illness or pain condition.
  2. You find (or suspect they are hiding) pills: You may find pills that are clearly being hidden. Others just suspect their partner is hiding pills due to the other behavioral signs.
  3. They experience paranoia: You may notice your loved one becoming increasing paranoid about yours or others behavior. Sometimes the paranoia may be subtle. For instance one client reported his wife believing her family was excluding her from events and talking about her. Other times the paranoia may be more obvious. For example another client’s partner believed someone had left him a “bomb” in a shoebox which had clearly been left by neighborhood kids playing a harmless prank.
  4. Changes in sleep patterns: Usually the opiate addict is oversleeping or not getting enough sleep. You may find that your loved one is sleeping more, or falls asleep at inopportune times (at the dinner table, watching TV or even in the middle of a conversation). The term used for this is “nodding off.” If your loved one is withdrawing they may need very little sleep or experience insomnia.
  5. Irritability: You may notice your loved one becoming increasingly more irritable and short of patience.
  6. They experience flu-like symptoms: When will notice flu-like symptoms when your loved one is experiencing withdraw. They may complain of, or you may notice he/she experiencing nausea, headaches, sweating, joint pain, etc.
  7. Low or no sexual desire: Opiates can change hormone levels that influence sexual desire. When using it may be near impossible for the male addict to get or maintain an erection, and for the female addict to experience physical changes associated with arousal.
  8. Changes in lifestyle: Your loved one may stop engaging in activities they once enjoyed such as exercising or spending time with family or friends.
  9. Money or property is missing: You may notice valuables start to disappear. Another sign may be unexplained cash withdraws from bank accounts or large charges on credit cards.
  10. Appearance changes: Your loved one may start caring less about their appearance, looking disheveled or unclean at times. He/she may neglect basic self-care and grooming.

Opiate addiction is extremely powerful and difficult to overcome. While you cannot force your loved one into treatment or sober living, you can seek support for yourself. Counseling can be beneficial for you to set healthy boundaries with your loved one, help you cope with your own emotional reactions regarding the abuse, decrease any enabling or codependent behavior you may be engaging in, and finally to make more difficult decisions about the relationship if your loved one won’t get help (separation, divorce, a period of no contact, etc.).

Women & Infertility

A woman is considered to be infertile if she has not become pregnant after one year of actively trying to become pregnant. Infertility is thought to affect 10% of all women in the United States ( Infertility can be caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids. Certain STDs can also impact a woman’s ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. Scar tissue from previous surgeries or ectopic pregnancies can also cause infertility in women. Aging also impacts a woman’s ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term. After age 30, a woman’s ability to get to pregnant becomes more difficult each year. In addition stress, not being within a healthy weight range, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse and an unhealthy diet can contribute to infertility.

If you have been having sex regularly without birth control and have not become pregnant after one year, you should consult with your OBGYN. The doctor will want to know if you have been ovulating regularly. To do this you can either keep track of your daily morning body temperature, tracking how your cervical mucus appears or using ovulation test kits. Your doctor may order blood tests to detect ovulation or an ultrasound. Depending on the results of these tests your doctor may order a hysterosalpingography, which is an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes. This x-ray can detect some types of scaring or other obstructions that could be causing infertility. Sometimes a laparoscopic surgery is needed to get a better look at what could be causing infertility.

The cause of your infertility will guide the treatment. Some women can successfully become pregnant, and carry to term with the use of hormone drugs. Another option to treat infertility is artificial insemination or assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in vitro fertilization. Some women have had success getting pregnant despite their infertility with the use of alternative medicine. Some women use alternative medicine in conjuncture with western medicine. Alternative medicine options include acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, massage, Reiki or homeopathy.

Some women find counseling to be helpful when struggling with infertility. Counseling can be used to:

  • Cope with the stress of infertility and the related treatments
  • Address any emotional barriers that could be contributing to infertility
  • Explore the various fertility treatments and the impacts they may have on you and your partner
  • Identify ways to increase social and emotional supports
  • Help you and your partner decide what is best for your relationship given the specific options presented to you by your treating physician
  • Help couples improve their sexual connection after the stress of infertility treatments

What is “Gaslighting”?

“Gaslighting” is a type of emotional abuse. The term comes from the play (1938) and then later the movie Gaslight (1944) in which a husband slowly begins to convince his wife and others that she is crazy. Gaslighting happens slowly over time leaving the victim feeling confused, anxious, depressed and often isolated. Listed below are 7 red flags that may indicate that you are being gaslighted by your partner:

  1. They lie. Blatantly, and a lot: Gaslighters will lie even when they know that you know they are lying. That is part of their game. They will insist that they are right, leaving you feeling confused and doubting your ability to discern truth from fiction.
  2. They dismiss your concerns: Gaslighters will dismiss any concerns you may present to them. They will often insist that you are “too dramatic” or “crazy.” You will be left feeling invalidated and as if you are not allowed to have any needs in the relationship.
  3. They use children or pets as a pawn to gain control: Gaslighters will often use your children or pets as a way to manipulate you, especially if they know how important the role of parenting (or pet parenting) is to you. They may threaten to take the children or pets away from you, often citing a list of flaws they perceive you have as justification. This leaves you feeling terrified, but also guessing your self-worth.
  4. They tell others you are “crazy:” Gaslighters will attempt to turn those close to you against you, often telling them you are crazy. Sometimes this will be done without your knowledge and you may simply notice neighbors, friends or family members distancing themselves from you. Other times Gaslighters will make false police reports or file legal documents with the court system in an attempt to have you charged with a crime you did not commit based on fabrications. Remember, anyone can file anything with the courts or police. Legally the police and court system must accept the reports or documents. Even if the charges and claims are dismissed against you, the Gaslighter will still use these documents against you. Even if the charges are dismissed, they will then use these documents to share with others and attempt to convince them that you are crazy, and that they are the victim.
  5. They put their baggage on you: They will accuse you of behaviors that they are actually engaging in, “You’re abusive!” “You’re controlling!” “You’re a toxic person!” This puts you on the defensive and distracts you from being able to see the gaslighter’s behavior. The Gaslighter is essentially projecting their issues on to you.
  6. You find yourself looking back: You will find yourself unhappy in the relationship but may be confused as to why (your needs will be dismissed, you are being told you are crazy). You soon begin to look back into your past, including at past relationships and realize you were happier and more confident. Pay attention to evidence from the past that you are not the person the gaslighter is accusing you of being!
  7. You cannot do anything right: No matter what you do, you find it is not good enough for the Gaslighter. Even if you adjust to the Gaslighters requests and expectations you will find yourself falling short. Occasionally the Gaslighter will throw in a compliment or praise simply to keep you confused.

Remember, anyone is susceptible to gaslighting. Gaslighters are master manipulators and abuse their victims slowly over time. If you find yourself experiencing some of these red flags, it may be helpful to go to counseling to determine what you would like to do next.

How Your Family Impacts The Way You Fight With Your Partner

Fighting is normal and healthy in any relationship—and in fact it can help long-term relationships strengthen. However, there is a different between healthy and unhealthy fighting. And sometimes the way we communicated and fought with our families of origin can contribute to our fighting styles. Family of origin can be defined as the immediate family or others who lived in the household and had a significant influence on your life. The following steps will help you identify the influence of your family of origin on the way you fight with your partner.

Step 1:  Identify Your Family of Origin

Family of origin can mean not only who your immediate family is/was, but can also include extended relatives who lived with you or had significant influence on your life.  Foster parents or anyone else that provided significant care for you can also be considered part of your family of origin. List their names and relationships to you.         

Step 2:  Explore How Conflict Was Dealt With in Your Family of Origin

Take at least an hour for yourself to answer the questions below. It is okay to take a break and come back to the questions if you feel stuck. Sometimes there may be gaps or questions that are difficult to answer. If you feel comfortable you may ask a sibling, parent or other family member these questions to get another perspective or to help you fill in these gaps. 

1. What did a “fight” or “conflict” mean in your family

2. How did each family member contribute to or engage in the conflict?

3. Sometimes family members cope by withdrawing…Who in your family disengaged in the conflict? And what did this look like?

4. How did you cope with conflicts or fights in your family?

5. What was each family members role in conflict in your family (including yourself)?  Who was the peacemaker?  Scapegoat?  Provoker? Etc.

6. What emotions or feelings were not okay to express during a conflict?  In general?  Who determined this and how?

7. Were there certain emotions or feelings that were used frequently during conflict?  How were they used and who used them?

Step 3:  Examine How You Handle Conflict in Your Relationship

Give yourself about an hour to complete these questions. To answer these questions think of a recent fight with your partner—especially one that was difficult to resolve. 

1. When your partner and you argue, what is typically your role?

2. During a conflict with your partner, what emotions feel safe to express? Which emotions do you find yourself struggling to express?

3. Think about the times when fights seem to escalate. What specific behaviors contribute to this escalation?

4. Consider times during a conflict with your partner when you feel very triggered, or bothered by their actions. Why are these actions triggering for you? How do you then respond to these triggers?

5. How do you cope with, or soothe yourself during a conflict with your partner? 

Step 4:  Check for Parallels

Again you should allow yourself an hour to complete the following questions. Review your answers to the previous sections before you answer the questions below. Again if you feel overwhelmed or stuck it is okay to take a break from the questions and return to them later.

1. Consider your role in conflict when with your family and when with your partner.  What are the similarities?  The differences?  Why might these similarities and differences exist? How might your past be influencing your expectations today?

2. Think about how the role you play in conflict with your partner benefits you, and then hurts you.  How do the costs and benefits compare to those from the role with your family?

3. Look at which emotions were difficult to express during a conflict in your family and with your partner.  What are the similarities and the differences and why might these exist?

4. In what ways is your coping or self-soothing when you argue with your partner similar to the ways you coped and self-soothed when in conflict with your family?  What are the differences?

5. When are you most likely to make yourself vulnerable? What happens when you do let your guard down?

5. Revisit the times when fights seem to escalate with your partner and when you feel very triggered by your partner.  Who in your family of origin perhaps acted the same towards you during a conflict? 

Remember…Once you understand your behavior it can often be easier to change this behavior. Keep in mind that this work can be challenging so you may need to pace yourself and explore slowly.

Do You Have Social Anxiety?

Many people experience anxiety or feel uncomfortable in certain social situations. This nervousness and worry may be normal and appropriate given the situation. For instance most people, even those without social anxiety, may feel nervous meeting their girlfriend/boyfriend’s family for the first time. It would also be normal to feel anxious at a professional event where you have to give a toast or presentation. Another example of very normal social anxiety would be feeling uncomfortable interacting with difficult relatives at a family event. However if you notice that you feel uncomfortable and anxious in almost all social situations you may have social anxiety. Review the symptom checklist below to determine the impact of your social anxiety:

1. In social situations I believe others are judging me or testing me.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

2. I avoid social situations because I am fearful I will become too anxious.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

3. Just anticipating a social interaction can make me experience some of the following physical reactions: vomiting, headache, sweating, heart palpitations, feeling flushed, panic attacks, hyperventilating, shaking, dizziness, nausea, blushing, tightness in chest, voice changes, diarrhea.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

4. During a social interaction I experience some of the following physical reactions: vomiting, headache, sweating, heart palpitations, feeling flushed, panic attacks, hyperventilating, dizziness, nausea, blushing, tightness in chest, voice changes, diarrhea.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

5. I find myself spending an excessive amount of time worrying about a social interaction even before it takes place.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

6. My thoughts about a social interaction feel beyond my control or obsessive.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

7. I think that people I interact with know how nervous and embarrassed I feel.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

8. I believe I will make a fool of myself in front of others.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

9. I believe that compared to other people, my fear of social interactions seems excessive.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

10. In a social situation I purposefully try to make myself invisible to avoid embarrassment and anxiety.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

11. Friends and family members have told me that my fear of social interactions seems excessive.

All of the time Very often Sometimes Rarely Never

12. I use drugs and alcohol to make social interactions easier.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

13. I feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained from my anxiety about interacting with others or avoiding others.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

14. My fear and anxiety about social situations prevents me from engaging in hobbies or activities I enjoy doing.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

15. My fear and anxiety about social situations leads to problems with romantic partners, friends or family.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

16. My fear and anxiety about social situations impacts my professional performance.

All of the time | Very often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

Review and tally your answers by category (All of the time, Very often, Sometimes, Rarely, or Never). This checklist is not a diagnostic tool but can help gauge the impact of your social anxiety. If you answered “All of the time” or “Very often” to more than half of the questions you may have social anxiety. However, the best way to determine if you have social anxiety is to consult with a mental health professional. Regardless of the outcome of this checklist, if you believe your social anxiety is causing problems in your life, it may be worth seeking professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR Therapy are both very effective methods for treating social anxiety.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Make Divorce Healthier Symposium and was able to meet likeminded therapists, lawyers, financial advisors and divorce coaches who all share the vision of making divorce healthier. When seeing couples or individuals who are going through the divorce process, I encourage them to seek mediation when possible. Here are a few ways mediating your divorce can be beneficial:

  • Mediation will save you money: Sadly, the divorce process is very broken. Remember, the longer your divorce drags on, the more money your lawyer will make. The money you and your spouse each spend on your respective lawyers is money wasted. The money lost hurts not only each of your futures, but also your children’s futures. However, with mediation you and your spouse will hire one lawyer to work collaboratively with you. This reduces the cost of divorce significantly.
  • Mediation is quicker: Because of the naturally collaborative process, mediation compared to traditional divorce is usually faster. Unlike traditional divorce, you do not have to wait for each of your lawyers to find time to communicate with each other, or wait for court dates that could be months away. This also reduces the anxiety and frustration experienced in the traditional divorce process.
  • Mediation is empowering: Both you and your spouse will have more control over the process during mediation. Compared to traditional divorce that often leaves each partner feeling powerless and confused, mediation can be an empowering experience. You and your spouse will get to determine the terms and conditions that work for your specific situation.
  • Mediation will protect your privacy: With a traditional divorce you will have to discuss private family matters (including finances, details about your children) in front of the court. Many people don’t realize they will have to discuss these personal details in front of court employees, officers and other families and lawyers also there for their court date. Mediation ensures privacy, as it can be done in your lawyer’s office.
  • Mediation may be better for your children: Not only will you save money that can go towards caring for your children or investing in their future, but mediation allows you and your spouse to model a cooperative and respectful ending to a relationship. Traditional divorce also usually forces children to undergo testing or evaluations by other professionals when parents cannot agree to a custody arrangement. This can be extremely stressful for children. However with mediation, these evaluations can be avoided. With mediation, you and your spouse can create a custody arrangement that works best for your family—instead of an arrangement mandated by a judge.
  • Mediation is a way to end your marriage with mutual respect and dignity: Remember, at one point you loved your spouse and willingly agreed to legally commit yourself to this person for life. Unlike traditional divorce, which often turns into a “pissing contest” and can get nasty very fast, mediation is a process that can honor the love you each had for each other (and maybe still have). In addition, if you have children, you will need to continue to have a cooperative and civil relationship with your spouse. Mediation is a process that will facilitate spouses being able to co-parent successfully.

If your spouse will not agree to mediation, suggest meeting with a counselor for a few sessions to at least discuss the pros and cons of mediation versus traditional divorce. Make sure you seek out a professional who understands the differences between mediation and traditional divorce. Unfortunately, you cannot force your spouse to mediate. Spouses who are angry, abusive, have narcissistic rage or those who simply want a fight, will likely not agree to mediation. If you find yourself in this situation, seek experienced legal counsel and counseling to help you through the divorce process.