World Mental Health Day 2020
As we approach World Mental Health Day 2020, FLiP Counsellor Jo Harrison offers her thoughts on supporting your mental health during divorce or separation.
Here at FLiP we are always trying to place our work in the context of the mental health of our clients. We understand that divorce can be very detrimental to mental health (as is widely known, divorce comes only after the death of one’s partner in terms of life stress (The Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory) and part of our mission at FLiP is to offer a holistic service that supports the mental health of all members of a family in the fall-out from divorce.
However, there are different, perhaps less obvious, aspects to thinking about mental health in the context of the work that we do. We might, for example, during a consultation with a client think about how their relationship has affected their mental health, or, conversely, how their mental health has affected their relationship. Psychotherapy enables us to reflect and try to understand the subtleties and nuances of how a couple have come to be in the present situation, and in doing so to give some relief from the difficulties they find themselves in. We might also in the work with a couple or individual give a space for the difficulties between two parents to be aired and processed, so as to relieve their children from the burden of these difficulties, and thus support the children’s mental health. It may be that a child presenting with a mental health problem is perhaps indicative of the difficulties between the child’s parents, and so in consultation we can often think about where the appropriate place is to seek help, whether for the child, the parents, or both.
Mental health isn’t either good or bad. It’s something subtle, that we all have, that can vary and that needs careful consideration and thinking through with experts if things don’t feel quite right. Often at FLIP it will be one of the lawyers who turn to me and say I think that it might be helpful if you come and support the emotional domain of this divorce, and think about it from the perspective of mental health – whilst the lawyers deal with the practical domain. Conversely, as a therapist I might refer to my lawyer colleagues to deal with the practical aspects of the divorce process to help a client see what belongs to the emotional side of things and what is part of a concrete external process. There is an interplay between these two sides of a divorce which is delicate, where one can affect the other.
I recently heard Laura Dockrill, author of What Have I Done, Penguin 2020, talking about her experiences of motherhood and mental health. She compared getting help with mental health (and this was in the specific context of post-natal depression) to reporting a suspicious suitcase at a train station. That it’s probably worth reporting, even if there isn’t anything serious going on. I think that can apply to what we do here at FLIP which is to say that if things don’t feel quite right, we are here to think about it with you and to think about what help might be needed, whether that is something you bring up with your solicitor or your mediator or one of the counselling team.
Meet our counselling team:
Jo Harrison has a depth and breadth of expertise in working with clients who are separating or divorcing and is sensitive to the impact of relationship breakdown and how it can affect individuals and families. As a relationship counsellor, Jo fully appreciates the emotional upheaval and difficulties of a separation and as a former family lawyer she understands the particular pressures of going through the legal process.
Ruth Smallacombe is an accrediated mediator, counsellor, practice consultant and trainer of mediators, lawyers and therapists. Ruth has a wealth of over 20 years practice in family, mental health and human relations, in both the private and public sectors.
If you would like to speak with one of our counselling team please contact Wendy Hoare of FLiP E: firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.