I'm working on organising a self-help group for people who go through a divorce or a difficult break-up, and I'm wondering if there's a list of dos and don'ts with regards to things one should avoid saying, and things that might help people to recover faster.

The rough thing I have in mind is:

  • Everything is confidential and stays in the group
  • Listen actively and don't interrupt
  • No jugement
  • Immediately redirect severe cases to licensed professionals and social workers

But that doesn't answer the question of how one can help people to recover faster. "Everything's going to be alright" won't work, and "there-there" with a tap on the shoulder too.

Of course I'm going to contact my local therapists and ask them the same question, but you never know what's going to work out in the end. Maybe someone here has a good idea or/and can nudge me into the right direction.


2 Answers 2


Aaron Beck is an psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He is considered the founder of classical approaches to cognitive psychotherapy.

One technique that he suggests is the cognitive technique that generally consists of some steps. N.B. These steps may change depending on the problem, depending on the therapist and depending on the patient-therapist alliance.

According to Beck, negative thoughts result from two separate minds:

  • The first feels uneasy thinking to flaws of the couple, to all goals not reached, to interpersonal difficulties...

  • The second cannot ignore these thoughts, because the risk is to loose useful informations that would help to identify the issues that need to be addressed.

You should help the couple to pay attention to those negative thoughts that have to be taken into consideration, neglecting those that you do not think to be useful.

I wish to have been helpful...In conclusion, i suggest Aaron Beck "Love is never enough" (1990)


Aaron Beck L'amore non basta. Come risolvere i problemi del rapporto di coppia con la terapia cognitiva, Roma: Astrolabio, 1990

@Chris' Edit for English version of book

English version is
Beck, A. 1989. Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstandings, Resolve Conflicts, and Solve Relationship Problems Through Cognitive Therapy. New York:Harper & Row


The first thing I must say is that if you are not a psychology or psichiatry professional, you should not face such a task, because you will undoubtedly underestimate the difficulties of this task.

You ask about what to say or what not to be cir but to get to that ...

With regard to self-help groups there are many elements to take into account:

  • To begin with, your own profile or pattern of emotional coping and problem solving, as well as your metaconsciousness about related psychological processes (in yourself and in others) matters a great deal.

  • It should also have training in social psychology, particularly in cooperative negotiation, discussion groups and group dynamics, of course also be important adaptive disorder, clinical issues and problems, difficulties, obsessions, etc.

  • Self-help groups are positive under a number of particular conditions but sometimes it is difficult to decide if organizing group sessions is positive, for example, it is usually positive when the group is relatively homogeneous, but this is a difficult question (would have that asking a question only on this issue), it may not suffice that people find themselves through a divorce.

  • In groups that may be not homogeneous, it may be convenient to establish rather implicit rules and not so explicit, since it can not be guaranteed that the rules are met, it can be treated as trustworthy (on the other hand trust-based groups have difficulties in admitting new members). A group of these characteristics requires standards but a lot of flexibility.

  • In relation to the above, keep in mind that the supposed rules imposed (confidentiality) may break and you should think about how to deal with these situations, in fact you must foresee them (I would not raise confidentiality).

  • You must keep in mind the role you adopt since that is valid for certain issues but may make you non valid for opinions.

  • In many cases it will be important, not just the management of words, but the same space or physical organization of the sessions can greatly influence, for example do not bring participants together too much if they do not want to talk to each other or form subgroups or internal chats.

  • The most convenient, against the norms, can be, the agenda of the day or the subjects to be addressed, can first proceed to a presentation of official data (name, age, city of birth, profession), non personal matters but characterize.

  • Concerning couples issues, it is important to discuss in questions or therapy questions about 3 factors: factors related to one person, factors or causes related to the other person, and factors related to the partner couple, these will be the issues that require the most time.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi hexadecimal, thank you for your answer. Do you perhaps have some credible sources that can be used to read upon the topic a bit further? Here at CogSci we also encourage/expect answerers to include reference so that the claims that are made can be verified. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2017 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ In my answer I attached what I have studied first and then I have developed professionally, ok always ask for sources, keep in mind that it is complicated to provide sources for each idea that I comment on the answer but if it is of course help I will provide them but about a specific idea. Keep in mind that or I am citing sources for I am talking about research issues or I am responding in a global way to the answer. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2017 at 14:14

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