My Anxiety is Driving My Lawyer and Me Crazy

Divorce or splitting up a partnership is extremely stressful. In many people it raises fears that have been dormant since childhood; rejection, fear of failure, disappointing others, social ostracism. Many of us haven't dealt with these issues. We have glossed them over and hidden them in our busy lives. Then the marriage fails. You have to face the disappointments and fears head-on. Add to that the fear that financially you will not be as comfortable as you were during the marriage. It's a formula for extreme anxiety.

Most divorce lawyers I know recommend that in addition to working with their lawyer, the clients work with a therapist or a coach. The difference is that a therapist can help you explore some long held issues, work through them and plan a more constructive future. Coaches are engaging in "directed therapy." Their job is go get you through the divorce. Whichever you pick, they will help you examine your fears, understand the reasons for them and plan constructive ways to deal with them. They will also help you learn ways to cope with your spouse/partner or ex-spouse/partner in more constructive ways. They will assist you in being an effective parent during this difficult time.

Many of my clients resist the idea of working with a therapist or a coach, because they perceive themselves as strong people who do not need mental/emotion help. No denying they are strong, intelligent people who have worked through most of life's difficulties successfully. However, they have a choice. They can ask their attorney to help them through the inevitable difficulties and anxieties or they can have a mental health professional help them. It makes more sense to work with the mental health professional.

Why? There are a number of reasons.

  1. Mental health professionals are trained and certified to help people deal with fears and anxieties. Lawyers are not.
  2. Mental health professionals cost less. Generally their fees are lower than lawyers. You might also have insurance coverage for therapy. Except in fairly unusual cases, there is no insurance for lawyers. Even if there is, those lawyers are on a very tight budget from the insurance companies and are unlikely to have the time to engage in counseling.
  3. Mental health professionals are trained to look at the source of the fear and anxiety. Lawyers are not. Attorneys will miss much of what is triggering your fears.
  4. Working with mental health professionals will make you feel in control. You will make better decisions if your anxieties and fears are met.
  5. Having a mental health professional on your team will reduce your legal fees.
  6. Once you get your anxieties and fears under control, the sooner you will settle. This will lead to a better the relationship with your former spouse/partner and greater ability to work with your former spouse/partner in the future.
  7. Establishing a relationship with a mental health professional now will provide you with a resource for future help. Your relationship with your former spouse/partner will need tweaking in the future. It's helpful to have a professional who knows you and your situation to assist you in the future.

Settlement occurs when people fear that their fears and anxieties have been addressed. In very difficult cases, where one or both parties are used to being in control of their universe, they will react very strongly to the feelings of powerlessness that divorce engenders. They will have a harder time settling because of their fears of powerlessness. The "system" makes these people feel particularly powerless and uncomfortable. Their efforts to regard control often leads them to make really bad decisions or fight their attorneys. Lawyers do not make the rules, they have to help their clients navigate them. The sooner that the clients accept that their lawyers are working in their best interests, and accept that the system is different from what they have known, the sooner they will be able to resolve their case.
If your lawyer is urging you to work with a mental health professional or a coach, heed that advice. You will be glad you did.