What is a

Therapeutic Separation

If you are wanting to save your marriage, a Therapeutic Separation may be able to help you. Time apart from your spouse can provide space for you to work on your own issues with a therapist, improve your communication with your spouse, learn to better resolve conflicts, and enable you to heal and strengthen your marriage.

Think of a Therapeutic Separation as “training for a healthy marriage”. Most of us are not ready to run a marathon. We could try. It would most likely be ugly. If you had a year to train, you could possibly finish a marathon, although not breaking any records. Therapeutic Separation is training for your marriage marathon – taking you to the finish line of a healthier and meaningful marriage.

Therapeutic Separation is a structured time, physically apart from your spouse intending to provide space for each spouse to work on individual issues with the help of a therapist, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship. During this time apart – typically 6 months – couples commit to engage in individual therapy, focusing on specific individual issues that may be hindering a healthy relationship with their spouse. Couples also need to consider their finances during separation and how those will be handled, especially if living in two different residences. If minor children are involved, there should also be a plan in place for when each parent will be spending time with their children. Other areas of focus may include new communication skills and strategies, along with conflict management work. Typically, couples who participate in a Therapeutic Separation find it helpful to write out an agreement between the two of them that outlines some of the areas discussed above. This helps create accountability while apart, and consistency in future interactions that can repair the relationship.

Commonly Asked Questions about Therapeutic Separation

Q. “Is a Therapeutic Separation the same as a Legal Separation?
A. No. A Therapeutic Separation is an agreement made by the couple that includes the parameters around the separation time (i.e. length of separation, finances during separation, parenting time with minor children, communication and/or contact rules, individual therapy goals related to marriage/reconciliation, etc.). Sometimes the couples will sign an informal agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) around their agreements during the time of separation.

A Legal Separation is a formal separation that can include a Parenting Plan (if minor children are involved), and a Settlement Agreement (how are the marital assets and debts to be divided). This type of separation is formally filed with the courts and a judgment is signed by a judge awarding each spouse their just and proper division of marital property and parenting time. The courts view this division as final, yet the couple is still “married”. There are several reasons why couples may file for legal separation.

Q. What happens when one spouse does not adhere to the Therapeutic Separation Agreement?
A. For a Therapeutic Separation to be effective, both parties must agree to participate in the process and adhere to any agreements the parties make. If you are using mediation for your Therapeutic Separation process, the mediator can help each party hold to their agreement by regular connection or check-ins. Having a neutral party serve as the “accountability” person in a Therapeutic Separation is extremely helpful. A neutral party (i.e. mediator, counselor, coach, etc.) is invaluable during the separation process to help each party remain on track and uphold their part of the agreement. Using a neutral party also alleviates the need for one spouse to hold the other spouse accountable. That can often lead to further conflicts. Either spouse can decide to exit the Therapeutic Separation process if they feel it is no longer working or moving in a positive direction towards reconciliation.

Q. How does a Therapeutic Separation affect children?
A. It is important that couples with minor children living in the home be a top priority when considering a Therapeutic Separation. When deciding on a parenting schedule during the time of separation, parents should make decisions on what is in the best interest of their children. Having children go back and forth between residences can be challenging for children, so parents should consider the least number of transitions when creating their parenting plan. Some parents decide on a “nesting” parenting plan. Nesting is a co-parenting arrangement where the children remain in the residential home and the parents alternate spending their scheduled parenting time in the residential home while the other parent finds an alternative place to stay. Parents either rent a small apartment or live with family or friends when it is not their scheduled parenting time in the marital home.

When considering “what” to tell the children about the decision to separate, it is always best to be honest when sharing information with children and keeping the discussion age-appropriate. Let the children know that you are working on making your marriage better and together you decided to take some time apart to help you both work on getting back together. Parents should reinforce to their children that this is an “adult” issue and that they (the children) are not at fault for the decision you as their parents made to separate. Children need to be reassured that their parents still love each other and love them – and this will not change even though their parents are separating for a brief time. It is also important to let the children know the planned length of the separation – again to reassure them this is not a permanent plan (i.e. divorce).

Q. Is marriage therapy a part of a Therapeutic Separation?
A. Marriage therapy is typically not a part of the initial Therapeutic Separation process, however, if both parties have individual therapists and have a marriage therapist at the time of the separation, then this can continue. The goal of the Therapeutic Separation is to allow individual work to be done in therapy which allows for more effective marriage therapy. If you are using a neutral party (i.e. mediator, coach, etc.) to help you through the separation process, then this person becomes the liaison between all parties involved (a couple’s support team) including individual therapists (one for each spouse), marriage therapist, and/or another neutral accountability party (i.e. mentor, coach, etc.). The neutral party can communicate with the support team regularly so that the work being done continues to focus on the major goals the couple has set. Having a support team all on the same page during the separation time ensures the couple has support to help reach their goal of reconciliation.

So, if you are looking for a way to heal your marriage, making it healthier than it is now, then a Therapeutic Separation may be just the option you and your spouse need. If having someone who can help you create a separation agreement, provide you with tips and strategies for better communication and conflict resolution, coordinate, and collaborate with other professionals to help you reach your goals, then a mediator may be the answer. At Genesis Divorce and Family Center, we help guide couples to find a healthy and peaceful marriage. We can help you identify your therapists and clarify your goals. We can provide assessments, along with your therapists, to set you goals for the next six months with benchmarks along the way so you can begin training for a healthy and peaceful marriage.

What is a

Therapeutic Separation

If you are wanting to save your marriage, a Therapeutic Separation may be able to help you. Time apart from your spouse can provide space for you to work on your own issues with a therapist, improve your communication with your spouse, learn to better resolve conflicts, and enable you to heal and strengthen your marriage.

Think of a Therapeutic Separation as “training for a healthy marriage”. Most of us are not ready to run a marathon. We could try. It would most likely be ugly. If you had a year to train, you could possibly finish a marathon, although not breaking any records. Therapeutic Separation is training for your marriage marathon – taking you to the finish line of a healthier and meaningful marriage.

Therapeutic Separation is a structured time, physically apart from your spouse intending to provide space for each spouse to work on individual issues with the help of a therapist, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship. During this time apart – typically 6 months – couples commit to engage in individual therapy, focusing on specific individual issues that may be hindering a healthy relationship with their spouse. Couples also need to consider their finances during separation and how those will be handled, especially if living in two different residences. If minor children are involved, there should also be a plan in place for when each parent will be spending time with their children. Other areas of focus may include new communication skills and strategies, along with conflict management work. Typically, couples who participate in a Therapeutic Separation find it helpful to write out an agreement between the two of them that outlines some of the areas discussed above. This helps create accountability while apart, and consistency in future interactions that can repair the relationship.

Commonly Asked Questions about Therapeutic Separation

Q. “Is a Therapeutic Separation the same as a Legal Separation?
A. No. A Therapeutic Separation is an agreement made by the couple that includes the parameters around the separation time (i.e. length of separation, finances during separation, parenting time with minor children, communication and/or contact rules, individual therapy goals related to marriage/reconciliation, etc.). Sometimes the couples will sign an informal agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) around their agreements during the time of separation.

A Legal Separation is a formal separation that can include a Parenting Plan (if minor children are involved), and a Settlement Agreement (how are the marital assets and debts to be divided). This type of separation is formally filed with the courts and a judgment is signed by a judge awarding each spouse their just and proper division of marital property and parenting time. The courts view this division as final, yet the couple is still “married”. There are several reasons why couples may file for legal separation.

Q. What happens when one spouse does not adhere to the Therapeutic Separation Agreement?
A. For a Therapeutic Separation to be effective, both parties must agree to participate in the process and adhere to any agreements the parties make. If you are using mediation for your Therapeutic Separation process, the mediator can help each party hold to their agreement by regular connection or check-ins. Having a neutral party serve as the “accountability” person in a Therapeutic Separation is extremely helpful. A neutral party (i.e. mediator, counselor, coach, etc.) is invaluable during the separation process to help each party remain on track and uphold their part of the agreement. Using a neutral party also alleviates the need for one spouse to hold the other spouse accountable. That can often lead to further conflicts. Either spouse can decide to exit the Therapeutic Separation process if they feel it is no longer working or moving in a positive direction towards reconciliation.

Q. How does a Therapeutic Separation affect children?
A. It is important that couples with minor children living in the home be a top priority when considering a Therapeutic Separation. When deciding on a parenting schedule during the time of separation, parents should make decisions on what is in the best interest of their children. Having children go back and forth between residences can be challenging for children, so parents should consider the least number of transitions when creating their parenting plan. Some parents decide on a “nesting” parenting plan. Nesting is a co-parenting arrangement where the children remain in the residential home and the parents alternate spending their scheduled parenting time in the residential home while the other parent finds an alternative place to stay. Parents either rent a small apartment or live with family or friends when it is not their scheduled parenting time in the marital home.

When considering “what” to tell the children about the decision to separate, it is always best to be honest when sharing information with children and keeping the discussion age-appropriate. Let the children know that you are working on making your marriage better and together you decided to take some time apart to help you both work on getting back together. Parents should reinforce to their children that this is an “adult” issue and that they (the children) are not at fault for the decision you as their parents made to separate. Children need to be reassured that their parents still love each other and love them – and this will not change even though their parents are separating for a brief time. It is also important to let the children know the planned length of the separation – again to reassure them this is not a permanent plan (i.e. divorce).

Q. Is marriage therapy a part of a Therapeutic Separation?
A. Marriage therapy is typically not a part of the initial Therapeutic Separation process, however, if both parties have individual therapists and have a marriage therapist at the time of the separation, then this can continue. The goal of the Therapeutic Separation is to allow individual work to be done in therapy which allows for more effective marriage therapy. If you are using a neutral party (i.e. mediator, coach, etc.) to help you through the separation process, then this person becomes the liaison between all parties involved (a couple’s support team) including individual therapists (one for each spouse), marriage therapist, and/or another neutral accountability party (i.e. mentor, coach, etc.). The neutral party can communicate with the support team regularly so that the work being done continues to focus on the major goals the couple has set. Having a support team all on the same page during the separation time ensures the couple has support to help reach their goal of reconciliation.

So, if you are looking for a way to heal your marriage, making it healthier than it is now, then a Therapeutic Separation may be just the option you and your spouse need. If having someone who can help you create a separation agreement, provide you with tips and strategies for better communication and conflict resolution, coordinate, and collaborate with other professionals to help you reach your goals, then a mediator may be the answer. At Genesis Divorce and Family Center, we help guide couples to find a healthy and peaceful marriage. We can help you identify your therapists and clarify your goals. We can provide assessments, along with your therapists, to set you goals for the next six months with benchmarks along the way so you can begin training for a healthy and peaceful marriage.