Divorce can cause emotional and financial distress, and a sense of extreme loss. But for individuals who have deep religious faith, divorce can have a positive and negative effect. “Research suggests that those who divorce experience increased psychological distress, such as greater depression and decreased happiness,” said Elizabeth J. Krumrei, of the Department of Psychology at Pepperdine University. “However, it is also possible for divorce to relate to beneﬁcial changes and personal growth.” There has been extensive research on how various factors, including social, economic, parental, and legal, impact the divorce outcome. But even though the majority of Americans believe in God, and many rely on their spirituality to cope with stress, there are very few studies examining how religiosity affects adjustment after divorce. Depending on how the divorce is viewed from a religious standpoint, the impact could be negative or positive. “Therefore, spirituality may offer a distinct set of resources or burdens tied to divorce adjustment,” said Krumrei.
In order to determine how people with distinct religious beliefs adjusted after divorce, Krumrei and her colleagues interviewed 89 adults ranging in age from 19 to 64, and asked them about how they used religion to cope with the aftermath of their divorce. They found that the participants who saw their divorce as a “sacred loss” were more likely to become depressed than those who used religion as a catalyst for growth. The researchers noted that although nearly every state offers divorce care for parents and children, none offer any that are geared toward the spiritual aspects of divorce.
“Insight gained from this study may help clinicians more fully explore divorcing clients’ spiritual interpretations of divorce and religious responses,” said Krumrei. “In addition, clinicians can help clients explore and access positive religious coping methods as a potential source of support (e.g., prayer or meditation seeking support from God or fellow believers).” She added, “Regardless of personal religious convictions, clinicians can respectfully work with clients’ core spiritual beliefs and practices by taking the posture of a learner rather than a teacher.”
Krumrei, E. J., Mahoney, A., & Pargament, K. I. (2011, October 17). Spiritual Stress and Coping Model of Divorce: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025879
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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