DIVORCE AND STAGE THEORY - Handbook of couples therapy

Less a theory and more a convenient description based on the usual sequence of events, stage theory categorizes common phases of divorce, employing both actual events or the psychological sequel and practical tasks to describe the process of divorce. The conceptualization of the divorce process may be simple like Sprenkle’s three stages and Glick and Patel’s four stages or more complex like Swartz and Kaslow’s seven stages . Despite the differences in the number and labeling of the stages, basically all these conceptions refer to three phases: a predivorce period ; a restructuring transition period ; and a postdivorce recovery period . Although presenting the therapist with some convenient markers in the divorce therapy process, stage theory, to this author’s mind, suffers from an oversimplification of the divorce process. Being linear and assuming predictability of process, stage theory can also be very misleading to the marital and divorce therapist who wishes to do effective therapy. To understand effective divorce therapy, one must go beyond the discrete, fairly predictable tasks and adjustments defined by the legal system and society to a consideration of the underlying psychological issues and processes. The important psychic processes in divorce are better conceptualized as developmental in nature and therefore continuous and multileveled.
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