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Problems Of Divorce: Seeking Help Is Not A Weakness

Problems Of Divorce: Seeking Help Is Not A Weakness image Problems Of Divorce: Seeking Help Is Not A Weakness image
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(Last of Two Parts) Bitterness, guilt, shaken I self-confidence and a sense of I failure. Lack of companionI s h i p and lonely n i g h t s . I Friends who drift away and I difficulties in establishing soI cial relationships. Disrupted I family relations and the burI dens of raising children alone. I Reduced financial circumI stances, perhaps making it necessary tp go to work for the first time in years or take on additional jobs. The problems confronting the increasing number of persons whose marriages are terminated in the divorce courts were discussed in the first article of this series in yesterday's News. How does one deal with such an array of problems? How does one go about restoring the balance after a divorce? Several local persons, both professionals and people who have "been through the mili," I próvided some answtfrs to I those questions. And if the anI swers should sound too simI plistic, those who offer them I are quick to stress that they I are not necessarily easy. Hugh Gaston, a professor of I counseling at Eastern MichI igan University and personal I counselor in Ann Arbor for I many years, starts with getI ting your own internal, emoI tional house in order. A brochure put out by PaI r e n t ' s Without Partners I (PWP), an educational and I social organization for single I parents, stresses the necessity I for examining one's own moI tives to see if they stem from I self-pity, jealousy, blaming or I getting even. If they do, then these feelI ings need to be worked out in I some way. "No matter how I justified you think yöu are," I says Gaston, "such feelings I are not productive and almost I always stand in the way of a I healthy adjustment." "Then I would stress that I you have to deal with tíes," Gaston says. "You have to recognize and accept the situation for what it is, regardless of whether it is difficult or distasteful. "You have to realize that you will not be able to continue on just as you were before. So you have to try and develop what it is that you reasonably want and get a sense of direction and purpose." He stresses the word "reasonably." "Part of facing reality may be accepting that the best available adjustment is not 'ideal' and that some difficulties, particularly those of a practical nature, may have to be dealt with continuously for a long time." And since many of these things are decidedly easier to say than do, Gaston says, "remember that it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help when you need it." Such help may come from friends, from groups or from professionals, depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Individual counseling for many different types of personal and family problems is available from private counselors, social service agencies, mental health agencies, doctors, lawyers and clergymen. "The thing that's been the greatest help for me," says Beth Keiler, a divorcee with two daughters and a member of PWP, "was hearing it said that 'crisis intervention' is a normal, not an abnormal, process, and coming to the conclusión that a lot of the time, how well you come out I of a crisis doesn't depend on how great a person you are, I but on what kind of help you I got. ■ I "Divorced people have a I hard job to do and a lot of I guilt to deal with. We need I each other. I never hesitate to I ask for help anymore - I whether it's from a friend, I PWP, Catholic Social Services I or the girls' teachers." Various types of groups can I also offer . both help with I ■na specific problems or general ■ moral support. Roger Mills, a teaching fellow at the University of Michigan who has been divorced for several years, had positive experiences with "nontherapy" group workshops for divorced persons while teaching at the University of California at Berkley. Mills, who has considerable experience in conducting group dynamics, transactional analysis and encounter workshops, plans to offer such a workshop for divorced persons this winter through the new Human Growth Center of the U-M's Counseling Office and Project Outreach. If there is sufficient interest outside the University community, he hopes to conduct additional workshops privately. He emphasizes that the workshops are not for "therapy." "We are dealing with basically healthy people who need to d e v e 1 o p some specific interpersonal skills. People usually can take care of themselves better than they're given credit for. This type of the group sets up j norms of supportive group i behavior and empathy so that the people can develop a comI munity in which to work out their problems." Parents Without Partners is another group which provides I group support for single perI sons with common problems. The News attended o n e I PWP discussion group, where I the leader was a young woI man whose parents were diI vorced. Fifteen people, fdur of I them men, participated. Discussion was remarkably I open and lively and frequentI ly ranged far from the anI nounced topic. Many different I degrees of adjustment to the I divorce situation were apparI ent, but all, including several I who were attending for the I first time, were able to exI press their feelings freely. When asked at the end of I the session to sum up their I feelings about the discussion I in one word, participarás ofI feredthefollowing: "interestI ing " "reassuring," ■■Hj ing" and, from one of the I men, "one-sided - slanted to I the woman's point of view." A number of persons with I whom The News spoke H m e n t e d on the noticeable I under-participation by men, I both in groups like the above I and in seeking professional I help. "It's not that men have I wer difficulties," Gaston! stresses. "They need help just I as much as women, but tney I are less likely to seek it." "Even with myself, I find it I very easy to get into a strong, I macho, on-top-of-everything I (kind of attitude, even if I'm I actually feeling very shaky I side," says Mills. He notes that though he I I prefers to have pretty close to I 1 half men and half women in I I his workshops, there are I I most always more women I I than men who want to I I pate. 9 I In addition to groups aimed I I at problem solving, there are I I groups like the Friendship ■ I Club for singles over 39, ■ I sored by the Ann Arbor ■ I creation Department, and two ■ I Singles Clubs sponsored by ■ I the YM-YWCA, whose ■ I mary purpose is to provide ■ I social outlets. (PWP also ■ I schedules many social activiE ties for adults, families and H children.) While some object to the i "lonely hearts" image of such ■ I clubs, others strongly I I gree. I "You may very well not I I want to center your whole life ■ around this sort of thing," said one male member of PWP. "But frankly, someI times it's a great relief just to f get together with people who I are all in the same boat and f who understand h o w y o u I feel." Adds Dorothy Kellems of I the Friendship Club, "We can I I provide opportunities for a lot I f of activities that you can't I I particípate in alone. I "We have to fight the image I I of a 'matrimonial club,' " H I says Mrs. Kellems. "Those H I who come to the club with I I high aspirations that it is a I I I 'matrimonial club' don't stay I I Lyery long," she says. I I ''tt'sjusvhanenáme! I Says - a friendship club. But I that's very important. The time after a divorce or death I of a spouse is quite a sad ■ time. We see a lot of people I snap out of it after they get I into the activities here, which I are quite varied." She also notes the underI representation of men. "The ■ majority are women. We wish I we could do something about I that. The men who come at I all invariably stay, but many I just don't come in the first ■ place." ■ But while almost everyone I we spoke with emphasized the I importance of seeking help f rom friends, groups ur h professionals in adjusting to I H the problems of divorce, they I ■ also offered some cautions. , H "No one group is going to ■ H suit everyone," says Gaston. I H He advises particular caution I H in getting involved with I ■ counter" types of groups that I H may be run by untrained or I B unqualified people. "You're dealing with people I ] I and with touchy emotional I I problems. I've been a firm ■ I believer in the value of this I I kind of group work for many ■ I years, but it has to be done ■ H by people who can recognize I ■ individuals whose problems I H cannot be handled in that I H ting and who are responsible I ■ enough not to admit those ■ I people into the group." ■ Mills agrees. "I screen I I pie very carefully for the I I wonkshops. If they 're not Ibasically fairly healthy, I I I recommend that they seek I I therapy. If they get into the ■ I group and then seem to be I I having trouble dealing with I I what's going on, I recommend I I that they drop out, perhaps I I refer them to a counselor or I I psychiatrist." By the same token, not I I ery professional can deal I I quately with everyone's I I lems. As one member of PWP put ■ ■ it, "Not every counselor's got ■ ■ his own head on straight." I ■ In looking for professional ■ help says Gaston, "The key ■ ■ factor is to go to somebody ■ I who has had pretty good ■ H periences in counseling and ■ I has learned from them. ■ "Don't talk to anybody until ■ I you know a little about the ■ I person you're talking to. If I you don't feel that you can ■ I tablish some rapport with that ■ person or that he can help ■ you, don't hesitate to ask him I I to refer you to someone else. ■ No reputable, ethical I sional will refuse, or be offcndcd by. suchequesrJ Théresponsibility, ■ Gastoa says, however, comes I back to the person himself. I ■ "As a counselor I can't live ■ their lives for them. I can I ly help them to live it I .;: selves. i ;-"A[jj,i?; "They have to step out, not I ._-... y,t stay at home in a shell. It I timately comes down to the I individual person and their _,- willingness to develop their I Wgm own internal resources. Il " know that sounds like .: ing, and I'm not trying to say I that it's easy. But that's the I ; way it is." __J .:.