Couple Psychotherapy in the Transition Through Separation & Divorce
With Dr Christopher Clulow, Liz Hamlin, Dr Avi Shmueli and Kate Thompson
Recorded Saturday 24 April 2021
In contemplating divorce or ‘uncoupling’, couples are assaulted with change on multiple levels. They may face separation from their children and experience shame at their relationship’s failure. Feelings of betrayal, abandonment or relief are commonly reported but rarely equally shared between spouses.READ MORE...
Whether the separation is wanted or not, both halves of a couple are faced with an overload of uncertainty: where to live; how to live and who they are now. It is not surprising that couples need therapeutic help when confronted by dashed expectations and fear for the future, or when they blame each other and prolong conflict to avoid the pain of ending their relationship.
These talks offer an in-depth exploration of separation and divorce, and the help that can be offered by psychoanalytically informed couple psychotherapy. Our four speakers will explore different aspects of separation and divorce, illustrating their talks with clinical material and thoughts about effective therapeutic skills.
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Dr Christopher Clulow
Why breaking up is hard to do
In this presentation, Christopher will reflect on a professional lifetime’s experience of working with separating families – as a probation officer preparing reports for family courts, as a researcher exploring the scope for securing privately ordered settlements in the context of divorce proceedings, and as a therapist working with couples on the brink of separation. His focus will be on what he has learnt from these experiences. Many couples who separate will first have consulted a psychotherapist, so as a professional group we have a potentially great influence on the pre-court experience of many families. Christopher will ask, from a psychoanalytic perspective, who or what it might be that couples are trying to separate from when they find themselves unable to live together or apart, and the implication of this for clinical practice.
Interview clip with Mervyn Murch
Q&A with Dr Christopher Clulow
When divorce doesn’t mean the end of a relationship
This presentation will offer reflections on Kate’s work with divorced or separated couples who continue to be in conflict over the care of their children. This experience has been gathered after working for several years on a government funded pilot, developed in conjunction with the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, using mentalization based techniques to help ‘hard to reach’ couples begin to think about the impact of their continued battle on their children’s well-being. Themes such as couple projective processes, particularly in regard to how parents think about their children and each other, and unmourned losses preventing development and change, will be illustrated with clinical case examples.
Q&A with Kate Thompson
Dr Avi Shmueli
Notes on working with divorcing and separating couples
Divorce is a complicated experience, desired or otherwise. This paper will present what the author sees as the crucial differences in working psychotherapeutically with divorcing couples as opposed to couples who engage in therapy without being at risk of divorce. These aspects include the setting of the psychotherapy, a developmental perspective, consideration of the external, and experience of ‘psychotic’ functioning amongst others.
Q&A with Dr Avi Shmueli
Divorce in Later Life: the so-called ‘Silver Splitters’
The accepted understanding in Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is that partner choice is based not only on conscious needs and desires but is also determined by unconscious needs and phantasies. The focus of the work gives importance to internal factors and the influence of the past in the present. But not all problems have their roots in the past, nor does a relationship break down simply due to the behaviour of one partner. While early influences will affect later life events, such as children leaving home, retirement and financial circumstances, ageing may offer opportunities for increased intimacy or it may activate an increased defensiveness against attachment and commitment. If the latter, how can we understand the psychological consequences when the developmental hopes of a couple fail in later life?
Q&A with Liz Hamlin
Q&A with all speakers