When you get married, you never envision the possibility of divorce. So when you’re in the middle of one, you’re often unprepared for what’s to come. Most divorcees focus on legal, financial and real estate concerns throughout the dissolution, as well as ensuring the safety and security of any children. Often overlooked throughout the process, however, is the accompanying mental health impact. Divorce can be particularly upsetting, exhausting, confusing and lonely, so it’s crucial you get support.
Divorce support groups help those interested in self-improvement. Hosts and members provide guidance, empathy and assistance to those enduring a dissolution, ensuring you don’t go through this process alone. These gatherings are places to forge new friendships, share ideas and experiences, hear different perspectives, and set new goals. You’ll receive emotional support from those who understand your situation; learn how others deal with children, custody and child support; be encouraged to start new relationships; and obtain useful financial and legal advice.
So, how do you choose a support group? It’s helpful to begin by learning about the various types out there, and the many characteristics of each. Here’s a useful breakdown.
Types of Support Groups
These are run by people lacking professional expertise in psychology, therapy, or other counseling, or other specializations. They’re generally unaffiliated with religious organizations, and hosted by members of the group. They typically do not require regular attendance and are open to everyone—so meetings can grow quite large.
Sponsored by religious organizations and facilitated by a pastor, priest, or other clergy member, these operate similar to self-help groups, yet add faith-based perspectives to the divorce. They typically do not employ mental health professionals to lead meetings, but attendees do receive encouragement and insights from those sharing similar religious views.
These are hosted by mental health professionals such as psychologists, therapists, counselors, or other credentialed specialists. They usually feature a curriculum, teach skills such as coping, and run for a set period of time. Attendance is taken, meetings are structured, and commitment is necessary.
Online support groups have become increasingly popular because they provide 24/7 advice, encouragement and flexibility, enabling you to connect from anywhere, at any time. Conversational forums, message boards, and other content—sometimes from mental health professionals—are added bonuses.
Characteristics to Consider
When choosing support networks, consider the importance of facilitator credentials. If you prefer to be among others in your situation, and seek empathy and friendly support, a self-help group may be right for you. Some feature facilitators who’ve experienced their own marital dissolutions and can offer firsthand guidance. Others are led by licensed mental health specialists such as psychologists or therapists, who can provide professional assistance in coping and moving on. They may also offer specialized training and one-on-one sessions.
This can be a major factor in your decision. Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour away may determine whether you join an in-person or online group. If close, you may be able to drive a few minutes away once to four times per month, but you’ll need to coordinate childcare and ensure it’s outside of your working hours. Another meeting location aspect to consider is comfort. You’ll want to be relaxed in your surroundings, to open up to others. Some groups are held in a church or health center. However, if your schedule is so busy that you can’t drive 20 minutes away, online support groups may be the better option. You’ll be able to join the conversation from anywhere, at any time.
Your participation and level of assistance can be determined by the size of the divorce support group. If you’re more interested in observing, learning a new skill, or listening to a presentation, a larger gathering may be right for you. On the other hand, smaller groups can lead to tight friendships and greater opportunity to share your experience.
Time commitment is another critical factor to your decision. Can you spare an hour every week for the next 10 weeks? Or do you only have time once every few weeks? Certain groups allow you to drop-in when you can, while others require registration and expect you to commit to a series of sessions.
Personal Preferences & Beliefs
Because many groups are affiliated with a certain religion, conduct research to ensure personal alignment. Faith-based group sessions may feature prayers or teachings, accordingly.
Cost is the number-one factor in any decision. Research the support group prior to registration to find out whether it’s free, accepts donations, or charges per session or series of classes. Determine which best matches your budget.
DivorceForce offers a free online divorce support community here. All you have to do is register to gain access to our Insights newsletter, divorce experts, and member perks. If you’re in need of divorce professionals and expert advice, check out our DivorceForcePRO resource. You can search through financial, legal, mental health, and real estate divorce specialists all over the country.
Gregory C. Frank is the CEO and Founder of DivorceForce.