Working With Issues in Divorce
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
Divorce is stressful for partners, children, and other family members, causing problematic thoughts and behaviors. High levels of conflict often occur, usually surrounding difficulties in establishing the structure crucial in post-divorce life, such as the custody of children, how much time children spend in each parent's household, and other coparenting factors.
For this reason, it is not uncommon for one or both partners to come into therapy seeking help. Dr. Jay Lebow's approach requires first generating a comprehensive picture of what is occurring in the entire family — including those not in the room — and only then developing a plan for helping each family member. The central therapeutic task is to help clients best use available resources to ameliorate the difficulties they are experiencing.
In Working With Issues in Divorce, Dr. Lebow demonstrates this pragmatic, integrative system for working with families struggling through divorce.
Dr. Jay Lebow's approach is grounded in the traditions of integrative therapy and systems theory.
From the integrative tradition it draws on the notion of understanding and working with clients on multiple levels (e.g. behavioral, cognitive, emotion-focused, psychodynamic, systemic), building common factors that help clients engage in the change process, and arriving at a way of working with a particular family which has the best possible fit with a particular family.
From systems theory, it draws from the notion of viewing and working with these families in the context of their involvement with multiple systems (e.g. the dissolving marital dyad; the evolving nuclear family, family-of-origin and friend networks, and the legal system.) and envisioning successful transition to a new family structure as a core task (and challenge) in these families.
This approach centers on how to conduct a parsimonious integrative therapy that mitigates the difficulties in these families.
The first phase of treatment centers on alliance formation, initial assessment, creating a therapeutic contract, and goal setting. Therapy is structured to establish as good as possible a working alliance with each family member.
Assessment focuses on identifying the various issues and problems that have bearing for the difficulties in the family and the stage of change of each person in the family in relation to these issues. Assessment segues to collaborative goal setting targeted to the problems to be addressed in the treatment. Aspects of the therapeutic contract are elaborated and set out more explicitly than in many other therapies, given the legal interface that often presents in these cases.
A therapeutic plan is developed for each case based on the goals for that case and the strengths and problems in the family. This includes the use of various therapy session formats (individual, parent-child, parent-parent, family) that are most likely to be acceptable and helpful in a particular case.
Therapy ideally ends when the family stabilizes, but termination also frequently occurs due to extra-therapeutic factors, necessitating an approach that anticipates such possible endings.
Dr. Jay Lebow is a clinical professor of psychology and a senior therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University.
He is editor in chief of the journal Family Process. He is author or editor of 9 books including the recent Couple and Family Therapy, Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy and Handbook of Family Therapy.
He has engaged in clinical practice, supervision, and research on couple and family therapy for more than 30 years.
He served as president of the Society of Couple and Family Psychology and has received the Society's Family Psychologist of the Year award as well as the American Family Therapy Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Greenberg, L.R. & Lebow, J. L. (2016). Putting it all together: Effective intervention planning for children and families. In L. Drozd & M. Saini, Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the family Court (2nd edition). New York: Oxford Press.
- Lebow, J. L. & Newcomb-Rekart, K. (2007) Integrative family therapy for high conflict divorce with disputes over child custody and visitation, Family Process, 46, 79–92.
- Lebow, J. L. (2003) Integrative Family Therapy for Disputes Involving Child Custody and Visitation, Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 181–192.
- Lebow, J. L. (2005) Family therapy in high conflict divorce. In Lebow, J (ed.) Handbook of Clinical Family Therapy. John Wiley & Sons.
- Lebow, J. L. (2015) Separation and divorce issues in couple therapy. In A.S. Gurman, J. L. Lebow, & D.K. Snyder (eds.) Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy (5th ed.) New York: Guilford.
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