7 Tips on How To Maintain Your Mental Health

You are the most important person in your life. It may sound selfish, but you need to take care of yourself first before you can take of other people. Self-care is a combination of looking after your body and looking after your mental health – the two work hand in hand. There are a number of ways to take care of your mental health to ensure that you are in a good space.


Talk about your feelings

Something as simple as talking about your feelings can benefit your mental health immensely. A lot of people don’t like talking about their feelings and so they bottle everything up and try to deal with it themselves. Doing this will make your mental health deteriorate until you get the point where you just can’t cope with your emotions.

Continue Reading No Comments

Couples: Is there any point to marriage counselling….

When your spouse says that he/she is thinking seriously about divorce?

Research into relationships, marriage and couples counselling has found that couples wait too long to come for relationship counselling – on average six years after the first major problems in the relationship start to occur.

My own experience of seeing unhappy couples in my psychology practice over twenty years has born this out. The couples I see invariably report that they their relationship has been limping along for a long time. Some couples report that they tend to have intermittent explosive rows while others report that following disagreements there might be lengthy periods – sometimes lasting as long as two weeks to a month – when there is a stony silence between the couple. It is common that one partner inevitably becomes the one to initiate a resumption of communication. Their attempts, however, are often met, initially with stonewalling. In either case, when couples become chronically unhappy and dissatisfied, intimacy is an early casualty. This is a dangerous situation, of course, as partners tend to retreat into themselves and their own thoughts. Often one or both start toying with the idea of divorce and eventually the “d” word is brought up in their conversation.

Is it too late, at this stage, for a couple to benefit from couple counselling?

I would say that the answer to this question is definitely “no, it is never too late” for a number of reasons:

First, the partner who mentions divorce is often extremely ambivalent and afraid of the consequences should divorce occur. It is important for each spouse to be able to work through their often confused feelings about their marriage and their thoughts about the future in a containing and non-judgemental context. This is especially important if there are children involved.

[I have found that ambivalent couples, when faced with the choice to continue with counselling or to go ahead with terminating the relationship, usually opt of couple counselling first – for four to six months, because they want to be sure that they are making the right decision].

Secondly – often one partner is leaning towards the divorce option whilst the other one wants to keep the marriage together. Each spouse needs to have the opportunity to explore their options and be fully heard by their partner. This is often difficult to achieve at home where emotions will tend to escalate and there are often other members of the household within earshot.

Thirdly – even if a couple decide ultimately that they opt for divorce, they then need then to initiate a conversation about “what happens next?”. It is often at this stage that discussions regarding mediation or collaborative practice options versus litigation tend to take place. A couple counselling context is a good place for this to happen as the psychotherapist or counsellor they see (especially if they are FAMAC accredited) will be able to fully explore all the possible options with them.


So to reiterate: Yes, I believe strongly that choosing to come for couple counselling when your relationship is in serious trouble is a good idea, even at the point when you may feel that you are on the brink of divorce. By doing so you may be able to save your marriage, but even if this proves not to be possible, you will nonetheless be in a much better position to find a mutually acceptable and considerate way to make decisions about the way forward.




Continue Reading No Comments

Couples and relationships: Married (but divorcing) with Children?

Resolve to protect your children’s current and future psychological well-being by opting for mediation rather than litigation!

In my practice as a psychologist and family mediator I see many couples who are either contemplation a divorce, in the throws of going through the process of getting divorced or who have gone through a separation or divorce quite some time ago and are still at loggerheads over aspects of care and contact of their children.

Divorcing couples who truly prioritize the needs of their children will make sure that they make the children’s transition from living in a nuclear family scenario to splitting their time between their parent’s new households as smooth as possible. As hard as it may be to achieve, maintaining a respectful co-parenting relationship post-divorce is, in my opinion, the best way to guarantee that your children will not be harmed long-term by this major disruption in their lives.

It becomes very difficult to maintain a constructive co-parenting relationship when the parties concerned resort to going the legal route in an attempt to resolve conflicts over maintenance and care and contact. When the parents no longer attempt to talk directly to each other but start to communicate through their lawyers, it is inevitable that the co-parenting relationship comes under serious strain with the build up of mutual animosity and mistrust, placing the children in the middle of a high conflict situation at a time when they are particularly vulnerable.

In some unhappy cases the parents remain locked in perpetual conflict for years after a divorce. This of course is extremely costly, from a fnancial but, more importantly, from a psychological point of view. No child deserves to go through this type of experience!


Therefore, I advise all parents who are contemplating divorce to seek couple counselling or mediation as a first option. In the Cape a list of accredited mediators can be found on the Family Mediators of the Cape (FAMAC) website at www.famac.co.za.



Continue Reading No Comments

Couple counselling, Mediation, Conciliation or facilitation?

Are you deadlocked with someone over an important issue?

What type of conflict negotiation strategy would suit you best?

Consider the following example:

A client, Jim,  came to see me for counselling the other day, complaining of high levels of stress. He is in a marriage with Sue, and they have three young children. He and his wife are partners in a number of businesses. He says that his wife wants to start her own business without any “interference” from him.

Jim and Sue have an extremely volatile relationship – Jim he is unsure as to whether or not he wants to remain married or get divorced.

I did a full assessment of Jim, and came to the conclusion that his relationship problems were causing the lion’s share of his stress and recommended that Sue get involved in the process.

What type of intervention do Jim and Sue need?

As Jim reports that Sue says she is open to being involved, couple counselling or mediation are possibilities (both couple counselling and mediation are not  likely to work without buy-in from both parties).

Couple counselling would be my intervention of choice if the couple wished to work on their relationship whilst mediation would be a suitable strategy if the couple wished to concentrate on trying to resolve issues concerning their businesses.  Mediation would also be indicated if the couple decided that their marriage was no longer viable and that they wished to divorce. 

In order to mediate the business-related issues successfully, Jim and Sue could consider finding a conciliator – a mediator with an in-depth knowledge of the issues and domain under discussion – in this case business practices. (My partner, Ian Gillespie, was called on at a certain point in the process, therefore, as he has extensive business experience). A conciliator thus, because he or she has extensive knowledge in a particular area, may depart from a “pure” mediation approach by also providing information and advice.

Should, for arguements sake, this couple eventually decide to divorce, a facilitation clause in their consent paper would allow for a facilitator to be appointed post-divorce. The facilitator’s role would be to look after the best interests of the children (in line with the Children’s Act). Should the parents disagree on any matter relating to the care and contact of the children, the facilitator would step in and first attempt to resolve the conflict through mediation. However, if this proves to be unsuccessful, a facilitator has the power to make a decision about an issue,  and have it enforced by means of a directive.

So whether you decide on couple counselling, mediation, conciliation or facilitation, I suggest that, for your peace of mind, that  you make sure that the practitioner(s)  you choose is/are professionally qualified and accredited with relevant professional organisations such as the Health Professions Council and the Family Mediation Association of the Cape (FAMAC). 

Continue Reading No Comments

Cape Town based divorce mediation, facilitation and parenting plans. If you are a parent who is preparing to get divorced – step carefully when compiling a Parenting Plan!



Recently I was asked to mediate by an ex-couple who had been divorced for a few months and who have a two year old child. In line with the Children’s Act, before getting divorced, with the help of a mediator they had hammered out an extremely complex parenting plan, detailing the care and contact arrangements in respect of their child. The parenting plan stipulated that the child live primarily with her mother, and that her father have a great deal of contact with his daughter, both during the week and at weekends.

At face value the parenting plan appeared excellent. However, when I had both parents in the room I realised the following:

1. The parenting plan made the child’s life incredibly hectic – she was passed backwards and forwards between the parents almost daily, I wondered how this affected her well-being?

2.  The mother felt that the child was suffering from separation anxiety when she was forced to leave the parent which whom she was currrently  happily bonding.  (This is a difficult problem to solve when children are very young, as they need to see both parents quite regularly as their memories are limited).

3. Both parents felt that they were being short-changed on the time they were permitted to spend with their child.  It was extremely difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that, as they were no longer together, this had the effect of halving the time they could each spend with their child.

4. The father admitted that he had been unhappy with the parenting plan when it had been written, even though he had agreed to it at the time. He stated that his lawyer had advised him that he would not have got such a “good deal” if he had gone to court.

5. The ex-spouses were now forced to see each other almost every day for the forseeable future, even though they now totally disliked one another. And of course, the almost daily conflict around picking up and dropping off the child was worsening their relationship by the day!

So the moral of this story is:

1. Be very careful when you work out a parenting plan – it may look good on paper but think about how it will translate in reality. Is it in the best interests of your child and is it practical in the longer term?

2. Don’t settle for a plan too quickly if in your heart of hearts you feel that it is not going to work for you or for your child. The best time to do this is during the mediation process before your divorce because you still have the power to steer the process. After the divorce, when there might be a facilitator in place, you will probably have less leverage to make changes to the parenting plan.

3. Allow yourself to grieve for the losses associated with the divorce and having to settle for less of your children’s time. If you find you cannot easily overcome feelings of bitterness, hurt and possibly depression,

it is important that you seek some help, either from a trusted friend or from a professional

Continue Reading No Comments