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Separation & Divorce 2018-03-05T21:34:10-07:00

Separation & Divorce – Edmonton Family Therapy

Separation is when a couple decides to live apart from each other because their relationship has broken down. “Divorce” is when a court officially ends the marriage.[1] When a couple decides to separate or divorce, they will need to make important decisions such as where to live, how to manage finances, and how to co-parent their children.[2]

  • In 2005, the divorce rate for Canada was 22% (71,269 divorce cases) while for Alberta it was 25% (8,075 divorce cases).
  • In 2008, the average duration of marriage for people who finalized their divorce was 13.7 years.
  • The average age of divorce for women was 44.8 years and for men, it was 48.4 years.
  • Forty-two percent of marriages had lasted between 10 to 24 years and 16.4% of marriages lasted for 25 years or more.
  • In 2005, the following were reasons for marital breakdown:
    • Separation for at least one year (93.6%)
    • Adultery (3.7%)
    • Physical cruelty (1.2%)
    • Mental cruelty (1.6%)
  • Divorce cases are 35% of all active family law cases, in Canada.
  • In 2010, 33% of divorce cases are resolved in the court within 1 year, 23% of divorce cases last between 1-2 years in the court system and 26% of divorce cases in court last for more than 4 years.
  • Over half of the divorced Canadians stated that they did not intend to remarry. Overall, men were more likely to remarry as compared to women.
  • In Canada, common-law union are becoming increasingly popular and are replacing marriage among Canadians of all ages.
  • One in five of Canadians who remarried had left their second spouse within an average of 7.6 years.
  • Aggressiveness and difficulty in social relationships
  • Behavioural problems such as substance use and crime
  • Academic problems (low grades, decreased interest in school, distraction in school)
  • Difficulties adjusting or learning to live in a new family structure where one parent is away most of the time
  • Nightmares or bad dreams
  • Wetting the bed when the child has been toilet trained
  • Drowning yourself in your work and you lose contact with your children
  • Feeling depressed and tired, so you sleep in and missing 2 hours of work
  • Using substances to feel better and to sleep at night
  • Yelling at your dog when he chews on your shoes
  • Feeling overwhelmed by having to cook, clean, and take care of the children and the household, all at once
  • Not feeling up to doing anything by the time Friday comes
  • Confusion
  • Resentment
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • “It is my fault that my parents got divorced.” I don’t even want to be here anymore.”
  • “I do not understand why my parents are not in love anymore. Does that mean they don’t love me either?”
  • “I hate it when my parents talk badly about one another in front of me.”
  • “I wish my parents didn’t use me to relay messages to each other.”
  • It’s really hard living in two different homes.”
  • “I wish my parents would get back together.”
  • “Did I make the right decision in getting a divorce?”
  • “How am I going to take care of my children, all by myself?”
  • “What am I going to do financially?”
  • “How could she do this to me?.”
  • “Who will ever want to date me now that I’m in my 40s and with 3 children? I don’t even know how to date. I’ve been out of the game for so long.”
  • “How will the children and ex-partner react to my new partner?”
Individuals may experience the following physical symptoms after a divorce or separation:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Risk for high blood pressure
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk for lung cancer due to smoking
  • Weight gain
  • Increased risk of coronary heart disease
Divorce and separation threaten the physical, emotional, and financial safety of a family. The stress created by this threat impacts the amygdala. The amygdala is an area in the brain that is responsible for the recognition and reaction to real or perceived threats and stress. This continues until the stressor or threat is gone.[16], [17]

Life stress also impacts the ventral striatum, a subcortical structure in the brain that supports motivation and responsiveness to rewarding situation and situations that foster learning. Stress lowers the activity in the ventral striatum, which reduces the person’s engagement with rewarding and engaging situations and events, reduces the person’s motivation, and increases the person’s negative mood.[18]

  • Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT): Research shows that EFFT that focus on the parent-child relationship are effective in preventing and reducing marijuana use among adolescents.[19] Children who have difficulty coping with parental divorce and separation can benefit from this kind of therapy, especially those who are at risk for drug use because of this issue.[20] EFFT is also effective in facilitating change in the family by addressing attachment and developmental issues and changing key interactions between family members.[20]
  • Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT): Research shows that EFCT is an effective treatment for relationship distress among couples. This type of therapy is based on the assumption that an insecure attachment bond is the cause of relationship distress and related conflict. The aim is to help partners develop ways to meet each other’s attachment needs.[22]Research also shows that there is an increase in relationship satisfaction and a decrease in relationship specific attachment anxiety over the course of the therapy and across follow-up sessions, which shows that EFCT is effective in helping couples create lasting relationship satisfaction and attachment change.[23]
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR): If the divorce has significantly and negatively changed how a person thinks about him or herself, other people, or the world, it can be a traumatizing experience. In that situation, EMDR therapy can be effective. Research shows that EMDR is able to significantly reduce symptoms of trauma, depression, anxiety, and distress.[24]

Divorce and Separation can be painful for everyone who is involved. Here are important reminders to help both parents and children cope with this situation:

  • Children’s needs need to come first. Ensure that the needs of the child/children are met by experimenting with the new family structure and function and identify what works.
  • Children love and need both parents. It is important for the child/children that both parents are present at the important events in the child’s life.
  • Adults need peer support. Isolation mixed with stress can feel unbearable, so ensure you have adult time by connecting with your relatives, friends, and/or join a hobby/social group.
  • Ask for help. Divorce & Separation is a huge transition that comes along with many changes in multiple areas of life. Focus on what has stayed constant so you can feel in control.

With Divorce & Separation comes the stress of getting over a broken relationship, adjusting to a new life without the other partner and having to raise children alone. A drastic change like this not only affects the individuals but the rest of the family as well. For both the individuals getting divorced or separated and their children, this could affect their sense of identity, belonging, and self-confidence. Here at Hopewell Psychological, therapies are tailored to your needs and can help individuals affected by the issues that come with a divorce or a separation.

*Psychologists are covered under Insurance Companies in Canada. You will need to check with your insurance company about the specific details regarding your coverage.


[1] Department of Justice. “About Divorce and Separation.” Government of Canada. 2015. Web. May 2017.

[2] Department of Justice. “Divorce and Separation.” Government of Canada. 2016. Web. May 2017.

[3] Milan, Anne. “Marital Status: Overview, 2011.” Statistics Canada. 2015. Web. June 2017.

[4] Kelly, M. B. “Divorce cases in civil court, 2010/2011.” Statistics Canada. 2012. Web. September 2017.

[5] Beaupre, P. “I do…Take two? Changes in intentions to remarry among divorced Canadians during the past 20 years.” Statistics Canada. 2008. Web. September 2017.

[6] Milan, A. “One hundred years of families.” Canadian Social Trends 56 (Spring 2000): 2 to 12; Statistics Canada. 2003. “Update on families.” Canadian Social Trends 69 (2000): 11-13.

[7] Clark, W., & Crompton, S. “Till death do us part? The risk of first and second marriage dissolution.” Statistics Canada. 2008. Web. September 2017.

[8] Viry, G. “Co-parenting and children’s adjustment to Divorce: The role of geographical distance from fathers.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 55.7 (2014): 503-526. DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2014.950900.

[9] Bastaits, Kim, Ponnet, Koen, and Mortelmans, Dimitri. “Do Divorced Fathers Matter? The impact of parenting styles of divorced fathers on the well-being of the child.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 55.5 (2014): 363-390. DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2014.920682.

[10] Guinart, Maria, and Grau, MaDolores. “Qualitative Analysis of the Short-Term and Long-Term Impact of Family Breakdown on Children: Case Study.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 55.5 (2014): 408-422. DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2014.920687.

[11] Amato, P. R. “The Consequences of Divorce for Adults and Children: An update.” Institut drustvenih znanosti Ivo Pilar. 23. (2014): Br. 1, str. 5-24. DOI: 10.5559/di.23.1.01

[12] Sumner, Christa Cooper. “Adult Children of Divorce: Awareness and Intervention.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 54.4 (2013): 271-281. DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2013.780461.

[13] Sbarra, D. A., Emery, R. E., Beam, C. R., & Ocker, B.L. “Marital Dissolution and Major Depression in Midlife.” Clinical Psychological Science. 2. 3 (2013): 249-257. DOI: 10.1177/2167702613498727

[14] Sbarra, D.A., Hasselmo, K., & Bourassa, K.J. “Divorce and Health.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 24.2 (2015): 109-113. DOI: 10.1177/0963721414559125.

[15] Thuen, Frode, Breivik, Kyrre, Wold, Bente, and Ulveseter, Grethe. “Growing up with one or both parents: The effects on physical health and health-related behavior through adolescence and into early adulthood.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 56.6 (2015): 451-474. DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2015.1058659

[16] Gerritsen, L., Kalpouzos, G., Westman, E., Simmons, A., Wahlund, L.O., Backman, L., Fratiglioni, & Wang, H.X. “The influence of negative life events on hippocampal and amygdala volumes in old age: A life-course perspective.” Psychological Medicine. 45. 6 (2015): 1219-1228. DOI: 10.1017/S0033291714002293

[17] McEwen, B. S., Nasca, C., & Gray, J. D. “Stress effects on neuronal structure: Hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex.” Neuropsychopharmacology. 41. 1 (2016): 3-23. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.171

[18] Hanson, Jamie L., Albert, Dustin, Iselin, Anne-Marie R., Carre, Justin M., Dodge, Kenneth A., and Hariri, Ahmad R. “Cumulative stress in childhood is associated with blunted reward-related brain activity in adulthood.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 11.3 (2016): 405-412. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsv124.

[19] Vermeulen-Smit, E., Vendurmen, J. E. E., and Engels, R. C. M. E. “The effectiveness of family interventions in preventing adolescent illicit drug use: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review 18.3 (2015): 218-239. DOI: 10.1007/s10567-015-0185-7.

[20] Hirschfeld, M. R. & Wittenborn, A. K. “Emotionally Focused Family therapy and Play therapy for young children whose parents are divorced.” Journal of Divorce & Remarriage. 57. 2 (2016): 133-150. DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2015.1127878.

[21] Stavrianopoulos, K., Faller, G., & Furrow, J. L. “Emotionally Focused Family Therapy: Facilitating Change Within a Family System.” Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy. 13 (2014): 25-43. DOI: 10.1080/15332691.2014.865976.

[22] Carr, A. “The Evidence Base for Couple Therapy, Family Therapy, and Systemic Interventions for adult-focused problems.” Journal of Family Therapy 36.2 (2014): 158-194. DOI: 10.1111/1467-6427.12033.

[23] Wiebe, S. A., Johnson, S. M., Lafontaine, M.F., Moser, M.B., Dalgleish, T.L., & Tasca, G.A. “Two-year follow-up outcomes in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: An investigation of relationship satisfaction and attachment trajectories.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 43. 2 (2016): 227-244. DOI: 10.1111/jmft.12206.

[24] Chen, Y.R., Hung, K.W., Tsai, J.C., Chu, H., Chung, M.H., Chen, S.R., Liao, Y.M., Ou, K.L., Chang, Y.C., & Chou, K.R. “Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for patients with Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” PLoS ONE. 9. 8 (2014): E103676. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0103676

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