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Florence Kaslow, Ph.D., Colloquium

As part of GSAPP’s colloquia series, Florence Kaslow, Ph. D., visited Rutgers on March 6, 2013 to offer an insightful examination of the divorce process and divorce intervention strategies.

Dr. Kaslow is internationally recognized as a respected teacher, family business consultant, therapist, and clinical and family psychologist. Dr. Kaslow is the president of Kaslow Associates, a coaching and consulting firm, and was president of the American Board of Family Psychology from 1996 to 2000. She has also taught in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Duke University Medical Center, and served as Div. 43 (The Society for Family Psychology) president in 1987 and was chair of the Family Psychology Specialty Council. As previous editor-in-chief of the Journal of Martial and Family Therapy, and having published over 190 articles in professional journals, Dr. Kaslow has made significant contributions to the field of martial and family therapy.           

Dr. Kaslow began the colloquium by noting that we are all raised with myths and fairytales about marriage. She suggested that we all harbor romantic dreams surrounding notions of marriage, but we are never told how to live “happily ever after.” Common reasons for divorce are often that as we enter adulthood, we are faced with a myriad of responsibilities (working, traveling, raising children), all of which take away from the marriage relationship; and, that individuals have a tendency to take their marriage relationship for granted. Dr. Kaslow then continued by clearly establishing that divorce is not a unitary process and it is not sequential; she stated that there are seven interchangeable stages of divorce and that each family experiences divorce differently. Dr. Kaslow spent a great amount of time identifying each stage, including the physical feelings and types of intervention that would be most effective for each stage. The Emotional Divorce, for example, is part of the pre-divorce process in which individuals often experience feelings of disillusionment, dissatisfaction, alienation and disbelief. Therapeutic interventions for the first stage can include marital, couples or individual therapy. Throughout the rest of the colloquium, Dr. Kaslow’s remaining objectives were for the audience to have an expanded awareness of the tasks and challenges that are likely to be faced at each stage of the divorce process; and to become more aware of the extreme pain and other emotions which are experienced as part of separation, divorce and the sequelae of the family break up/dissolution.

By the end of the colloquium, Dr. Kaslow advised future marital and family therapists to listen to their clients with enormous empathy. And, when asked what the greatest surprises have been in her line of work, she responded: “How wonderfully loving and supportive families can be, and also how terribly destructive they can be. The family is the greatest resource for healing and encouraging, [we need to] tap into its strength.”

By: Ariane Singh