family therapyBecause the end of a marriage often consumes a couple’s attention, it can also be an incredibly stressful time for the whole family.

Statistics show that around 40{7e66f01e68c52d858b59d425bd8f3886b02d30322136bee7d8e459b39be00af4} of the 8234 couples who got divorced in New Zealand last year had at least one child and more than 6000 children in total found themselves in a newly broken home.

And, although the process of the divorce might mean adjustments which provide a better and less combative environment for the family, it’s important to manage how the separation occurs to limit the amount of negative effects.

Although a couple’s relationship has been legally terminated, their parental responsibilities still remain however much they may have been clouded by emotional responses to a divorce. Family therapy offers an environment and a structured framework to help address these negative effects and allow for practical parenting in the post-divorce family.

  1. Addressing the causes of separation. Divorce is often the culmination of relationship crises which need to be addressed with each spouse (and, if appropriate, children) before the family members can move on to the post-divorce situation. Family therapy offers a neutral framework whereby children can learn that, although the family unit has changed, each parent’s feelings towards them has not changed.
  2. Planning the initial separation. Both parents need to create an initial short-term parenting plan which takes into consideration their post-separation relationship, co-parenting agreement and puts children’s practical and scheduling needs at the centre of the post-divorce family.
  3. Dealing with the legal process. Family therapy can allow the parents to see the legal process as a rearrangement of the family unit, rather than a process of retribution or an attempt to “win” at the other partner’s expense.
  4. Working directly with children. Children may want to “take sides” in a relationship breakup – equally the disruption can lead to further conflict with other family members. Family therapy sessions allows children to understand how to adapt their lives and gain confidence.
  5. Building a new co-parenting situation. Once couples have been urged to set aside emotional differences, they can turn to creating a healthy environment for them and their children. This can include understanding the benefits of communication, maintaining a common parenting message or, in the case of high-conflict couples, developing parallel parenting whereby they can disengage from each other but maintain contact with the children.
  6. Adapting to new family units. Often each ex-partner will set up new households which can offer new challenges both to them and any children, for example by introducing step-siblings and parents. Family therapy is able to address these challenges while maintaining a relationship with former family units.
  7. Addressing further parenting challenges. The upheaval of divorce can lead to disengagement between parents and children, discipline issues and alienation. Ongoing therapy can help parents and children address these issues in a familiar environment.


Robert Street Clinic has a number of fully trained family therapy specialists who can help couples, parents and families navigate their way through a breakup. For more information on our services, and a full list of our fully trained specialists contact us on 09 973 5950 or via email.