In law school, I wish I had taken a class in psychology that would have given me some tips on how to help my depressed clients. Instead, I learned this skill using the “trial by fire” approach. Over time, I learned that the dependant spouses without any new love prospects waiting in the wings would be the most likely to come into my office suffering from depression. There are plenty that might never have had an episode of depression before, but when faced with the traumatic event of a divorce, they could develop what is termed “situational depression.”
I am not a psychologist, and although I have read many psych books, attended numerous seminars, and worked with some of the best mental health professionals in the DC Area over the past decade, it is simply beyond my abilities to act as a therapist for my divorce clients. I can, however, recognize the symptoms of depression, and will often encourage individuals to seek the advice of a mental health professional. Before making any referrals, I do try to normalize the feelings by explaining to people that is quite common to experience some depression when they are:
1. under stress;
2. dealing with loss;
3. experiencing financial pressures;
4. feeling alone/lacking a good support group; and/or
5. unsure about the future.
Going through a divorce can throw anyone off, but especially those who have not learned good coping skills for dealing with their feelings of stress, anger or insecurity, they will need a patient and wise soul to guide them through this time of turmoil. The beauty of my job is watching this metamorphisis– I always remember the first meeting, where my clients are filled with dread and sadness; then I see them work through some of the most difficult challenges in their lives and find the courage to move ahead. Some may think my job is depressing, but I find it fills me with hope as I see people each day find the strength to confront their worst fears, and conquer them.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.