Divorce attorney isn’t your therapist

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In this episode Attorney Brad Tengler talks with grief coach Emily McGrath about the importance of separating the roles of a divorce attorney. Divorces are always hard, both financially and emotionally, it’s important to know a divorce attorney’s role and a therapist’s role in the process.

Male:               Law Talk does not give legal advice. It is a source of information for people suffering the effects of divorce or who have ended long term relationships. If you need legal advice, please retain an attorney in your own jurisdiction.

 

Brad:               Good evening folks, and welcome to Divorce Talk Radio, this is attorney Brad Tengler here in the studio with Emily McGrath. How are you Emily?

 

Emily:              Hi Brad, good, how are you?

 

Brad:               I am doing great. Our topic for discussion this evening is your divorce attorney is not your therapist.

 

Emily:              That’s a great topic Brad.

 

Brad:               I think it’s an important topic because obviously for many people when they’re going through divorces, it’s a very emotional time and the natural response of people when they come to their divorce attorney is to also use them as a therapist and that can be financially burdensome for them and it cannot also be productive.

 

Emily:              Absolutely. You need to, as a divorcee myself, I actually did use my thera–excuse me, my divorce attorney as my therapist not knowing it and looking back, it really did cost me a lot of money that was unnecessary.

 

Brad:               Well and I think it’s a natural response. You’re coming to a professional who is well acquainted with the ups and down of divorce and all litigation and there’s many things you want to tell them, many things you need to tell them, especially during emotional litigation because you feel as if they need to know the whole story. And a divorce attorney does often need to know the whole story.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               I tell my clients, I want to know absolutely everything. I don’t want to have any surprises. I want to know what the other side is going to say, I want to know the lies that they’re going to say.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               Because the worst thing that can happen to me in court is to be caught by surprise.

 

Emily:              Absolutely.

 

Brad:               Never want to be caught by surprise, but at the same, you know, in the same sense, divorce attorneys are not therapists and it can be counterproductive when clients use them as therapists.

 

Emily:              Absolutely. That’s so true and by using a therapist during this time can be helpful to alleviate that need to come to their divorce attorney and use that time to talk to their divorce attorney about the same things that are still going on, so they’re kind of reliving everything through you which is not helpful to try and get your litigation work done, correct?

 

Brad:               Yes, and I think the first point under this topic is, the reason we say this, that your divorce attorney is not your therapist is because divorce attorneys are not trained therapists.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               That’s not what we are trained in professionally.

 

Emily:              Absolutely.

 

Brad:               And while we might have some intuition and while we might have a lot of professional experience observing people going through these situations, in terms of providing a therapeutic environment, that’s not what we do.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               What we do, is we hear the facts, or the alleged facts in a case, we put together a litigation strategy that will help get our client what they want or minimize damage if there’s all kinds of problems with the case and then put that into effect and negotiate the courtroom and negotiate settlements in attempts to get our clients what they need, but we’re not trained to provide therapeutic advice.

 

Emily:              Right, and I think that’s a good point because coming to a therapist would help that individual move through that painful time for them and kind of get their mindset a little different than it has been in the past to not need to validate the pain that they’re going through.

 

Brad:               Right.

 

Emily:              And to really cope through that because as therapists we have tools and processes to help process through that painful time for them.

 

Brad:               Now Emily, you’re a grief coach.

 

Emily:              Correct, yes.

 

Brad:               And when clients come to you during sessions, how do you structure sessions? I think it would be helpful for the audience to hear that and I can talk about say a divorce attorney structures sessions.

 

Emily:              Oh, good idea, sure. When we first get, we, I always do our sessions over the phone because I can take clients anywhere, it doesn’t just have to be in Rockford.

 

Brad:               Right.

 

Emily:              So it can be anywhere. So once we start the call, I do a little meditation so that they can kind of clear their thoughts and come to a centered place. And then we kind of have a little dialogue to figure out what’s going on in their life since the last time that we spoke, and that will determine what process I use.

 

The one that I most like is called the Peace Method. And that works through a painful thought all the way through until they have worked through it and they feel complete. And that’s a great way to really get through that wall, that brick wall that they’re hitting, and it’s taking out one brick at a time.

 

But there’s other processes that we also use. Another good one is when we’ve kind of worked through some painful thoughts is what makes you feel important? So that really gives them idea what make them feel good about themselves and to include that into their lives. So those are a few kind of different tools that I use with my clients.

 

Brad:               Yeah, that sounds wonderful. And very, very different than what I do when I have a meeting or a session with my clients.

 

Emily:              Yes.

 

Brad:               When a client, I would say the only time that there might be some kind of, I don’t know, therapeutic benefit is the wrong word, but when I first meet a client or a potential client, I need to get the whole story.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               And I do need to know all the facts throughout the entirety of the case. If something bad happens, if something good happens, I need to know these things.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               But for a very different purpose.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               So a client comes in, they sit down, they explain to me the whole story, I do often want to know irrelevant details. By irrelevant I mean, let’s say they cheated or their ex or soon to be ex cheated. Does that affect custody? No, not in and of itself at all.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               But it provides an emotional explanation for what might be happening between the people.

 

Emily:              Sure.

 

Brad:               Why one of the parties is incredibly irrational.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               Because they’re recovering from the cheating.

 

Emily:              And that could possibly come up, correct?

 

Brad:               And that could affect litigation strategy because you’re dealing with someone on the other side who’s very angry. So it is important that I get the facts, but then I explain to the clients, we’re going to do A, we’re going to B, we’re going to do C, we’re going to do E and here are all the possible outcomes, and here is the likelihood based on my professional evaluation of these possible outcomes. So it’s very different.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               We’re not digging into someone’s psychology for the purposes of, you know healing that situation. We’re not trained to do that.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               We’re in as much as we obtain all of the facts in the situation; it’s for purposes of figuring out what needs to be done in the courtroom.

 

Emily:              Right. And later on if they’re going back and reliving everything in, almost like in a venting way to you, that’s not helpful.

 

Brad:               Later on, sometimes it’s actually counterproductive.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               Because they come in, we have a motion that needs to be drafted and filed with a very specific kind of outcome that we want. And if time is wasted, it really becomes quite expensive for them, and I guess that’s the second point of why your divorce attorney is not your therapist is the cost.

 

Emily:              Right, oh it adds up quickly.

 

Brad:               Incredibly quickly, with little or no benefit.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               Obviously, therapy is expensive as well; however, the therapist, a person is going to a therapist for a certain kind of benefit–

 

Emily:              Absolutely.

 

Brad:               Which that therapist is trained to provide or help facilitate. Whereas with, if the client approaches their divorce attorney in the same manner, they’re not going to get a benefit.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               Because what’s going to end up happening is a lot of time is going to be used up on all those feelings of anger–

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               As opposed to, we need to do A, B, and C.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               And this is how we accomplish A, B, and C in the courtroom or outside of the courtroom based on negotiation or something like that.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               And if your hourly rate is 250 an hour, all of a sudden, it’s 59 minutes later, 250 dollars and there hasn’t been a motion drafted.

 

Emily:              Right, and so that would also bring up some more anxiety for that client.

 

Brad:               Absolutely.

 

Emily:              I would imagine because you haven’t gotten where you needed to for one thing and second of all, that’s more money that maybe that client doesn’t have.

 

Brad:               And again, I’m not saying that this is something that is easy for people. I mean, it’s very, all of us, when we’re going through personal trauma want to talk about it and want comfort. It’s a very human and normal thing to do, but it’s very expensive and can be counterproductive because a divorce attorney is not the kind of professional who can provide that kind of assistance.

 

Emily:              Absolutely.

 

Brad:               I remember, I was in Michigan one time, and seeing a sign out and the person was both a therapist and an attorney.

 

Emily:              He had the best of both worlds, didn’t he?

 

Brad:               Yes they did, yes they did. So I guess in that situation then you can use your divorce attorney as a therapist.

 

Emily:              I wonder if there’s different rates.

 

Brad:               And there probably are, there probably are. But 99.99 percent of the time that situation does not exist.

 

Emily:              No, absolutely.

 

Brad:               Obviously one of the benefits of sitting down with your divorce attorney is you can come up with litigation strategy and you can put that into play by filing motions and going to court. Therapeutically sitting down, it might seem obvious to a lot of people, but what’s the goal?

 

Emily:              The goal is to really change the way that you think about yourself in your situation regarding the divorce and especially if there’s a child involved, that’s going to be a whole different scenario; so using the tools that we have really trying to help them find joy in everything because that is possible. I know it seems really hard right now, especially if you’re in the depths of divorce, but that is possible to find joy and really change how you think about everything. And so that changes how you are, how you respond to everything, and maybe the less need to really vent so to speak about your situation because then you’re changing, okay, this situation really isn’t that bad, how can I change this to make it work?

 

Brad:               I often tell people when they’re in my office and I notice that they’re very emotional, I say, go to therapy, and perhaps I should use the word coaching. You mentioned that when were off the broadcast.

 

Emily:              Right.

 

Brad:               Using the word coaching as opposed to therapy because people have sometimes a pejorative sense to the word therapy or a bad connotation to the sense of, to the word therapy, but you know, getting some kind of coaching assistance to help you through those emotional times.

 

Emily:              Absolutely.

 

Brad:               Even the most psychologically healthy people, when they’re going through stressful times, divorce, death in the family, things like that, that need professional assistance.

 

Emily:              Absolutely. And to be quite honest Brad, I still have a coach. I work with a coach because I feel that I can still learn and grow about myself no matter where I am in life. And I feel if, you know, there’s a time in my life where I think I’m done, there’s something wrong. I need to reevaluate myself because there’s always stuff going on, especially when we’re working with human beings.

 

Brad:               Right.

 

Emily:              And ex’s and there’s all the ick going on. You can always learn and grow. And I actually did that a couple weeks with myself, weeks ago, where I learned something about myself about my situation and I didn’t just stop there, I went on and I was working on myself and trying to improve and learn on that specific situation. So there’s always room to grow.

 

Brad:               Well Emily, I just want to thank you for being here today. It’s nice. We’re usually doing our separate podcasts.

 

Emily:              That’s true.

 

Brad:               But it’s nice to have you here and combining our two different areas of expertise.

 

Emily:              Yes.

 

Brad:               Where they relate.

 

Emily:              Absolutely. I’ve enjoyed being here, thank you for having me. And this is such a great topic I think that was needed to be shared because there is such a quite a difference between the two.

 

Brad:               If a person is looking for a counselor, a grief coach, what is your contact information?

 

Emily:              I have a website, and that is www.freedomfromheartache.com and I also have an email, either way is fine to get a hold of me, e.mcgrath@freedomfromheartache.com.

 

Brad:               Do you have a business phone as well that you use?

 

Emily:              I do, it’s 815-985-0873.

 

Brad:               Now you are based out of the Rockford, Illinois area, correct?

 

Emily:              Yes, I am.

 

Brad:               However, you do coaching through the telephone all the time?

 

Emily:              Absolutely, that’s how I do my sessions.

 

Brad:               So someone could be in San Diego, someone could be in New York City, and they could still use you as a grief coach?

 

Emily:              Absolutely.

 

Brad:               And when you have clients come to you for grief coaching purposes, it’s not just when they’re going through their divorce, correct?

 

Emily:              Right. Usually it’s afterwards; the individual has to feel that it’s time for them to do work. It’s not easy work, because you’re working on yourself and we’re most critical of ourselves. And giving yourself the okay and it is okay to work on myself now and I want to have that joy and that happiness. They have to make that decision for themselves. Someone else can’t make that decision for them; otherwise it’s not going to work for them. They have to be open to it.

 

Brad:               Well Emily, thanks so much for being on the show.

 

Emily:              Absolutely, thank you, it was a treat.

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