The decision and process of divorce often engender such acute anxiety in clients that they may temporarily lose their bearings and ability to function on a daily basis. A client may voice that he feels he is going crazy. Thus, some therapists in the field have viewed divorce as primarily a crisis, that is, an event or circumstance that the person feels requires accommodations or solutions beyond his or her capacities . Certainly, events that may precipitate or accompany a divorce like the escalation of violence or alcoholism, the discovery of an affair or gross financial irresponsibility, or a child’s reactive problems may contribute to intense acute anxiety and Divorcing Couples 411 412 SPECIAL ISSUES FACED BY COUPLES disorganization. There may be an immediate need to employ crisis management techniques and an intervention plan that ensures the safety and well-being of the family members. This would involve an assessment of initial risk for suicide or homicide, problem definition, the clients’ strengths and resilience and prior coping strategies, de-escalating intense emotion, a possible referral for medication, and an action plan with the concrete steps agreed to by all parties involved. It is also important, however, for marital therapists not to mistake the acute grief, personal stress, and disorganization accompanying the decision to divorce as indicative of more serious underlying psychopathology or endogenous depression. A period of reactive depression and intense grief is normative in the divorce process, and a task of the therapist is to give repeated reassurances to clients that time to heal from losses is necessary and beneficial.
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