Where do therapists learn about divorce? Not in school!
As I was preparing to speak at a National Association of Social Workers California Chapter conference, it occurred to me that nowhere in my education had I ever taken -- or even seen -- a course on divorce offered.
I took classes on death and dying, bereavement, issues impacting children (one of which was divorce), marriage, and relationships, but I had never formally learned about marital dissolution from the adult's perspective.
Curious about it, I asked my class of several dozen counselors if they had ever taken or seen a class on divorce and all shook their heads no.
I went on line to research whether there might be any colleges or universities offering psychology classes on divorce. Other than some brief references to the topic, I could not find any classes devoted solely to this topic.
Given how prevalent (and often devastating) an occurrence divorce is, I am astounded that there is not more education about it offered in psychology or social work programs both undergrad and graduate.
In the three hours I had to talk about the divorce continuum (from contemplation through post-divorce issues) I felt that I barely scratched the surface. There was so much more I could have said and much more I'm sure the students wanted to know and/or discuss.
Law school students have classes specifically about Family Law (which is an entire branch of the law) and Contracts. They learn about the legal contract of marriage, about pre and post nuptial agreements, community property versus equitable distribution, fault and no-fault laws, paternity, palimony, child custody, child support, and on and on.
Financial professionals also receive a good amount of education on divorce matters given that a predictable part of their job will be to assist divorcing clients with tax issues, division of assets and debts, financial planning, and budgeting.
Therapists, on the other hand, receive relatively little schooling on divorce. As one of the NASW conference students astutely noted, "We [therapists] learn either from personal experience or we get on-the-job-training from our clients."
If you are a divorced or divorcing person who has sought therapy, ask your therapist what he or she knows about marital dissolution and where he or she learned about it*. My guess is that most will tell you one or both - their own divorce or other people's divorces. Certainly, therapists can read books about divorce but in terms of in-depth coursework, as far as I can tell, it doesn't exist.
The field of divorce support is expanding. In my eleven years of working with divorcing people, I have seen the number and variety of resources available increase. There are divorce financial specialists, paralegals and divorce coaches.
There are informational workshops and divorce support groups popping up in places. There is even more acceptance of the fact that divorce, as a social phenomenon, that is here to stay.
There are more divorce options for couples now - self-representation, mediation, collaborative and the traditional litigation.
What I believe is still lacking, however, is sufficient formal education for those of us who pick up the emotional, mental and psychological pieces for the divorcing couple, the child(ren) of divorce, or the family that has dissolved.
*I would sincerely like to hear from you with the response to the question of where, how and what did your therapist learn about divorce.
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