At last I have something in common with Brad Pitt - both of us spent part of this week speaking about divorce and drinking.
Brad Pitt stunned the critics by talking openly about the impact of his drinking on his marriage to Angelina Jolie. These very public and honest words embrace in part The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous by an admission through others of the nature of his wrongs and recognition that his life had become unmanageable.
As a divorce lawyer for 30 years, I have all too often seen the impact of addiction on families and its role on the path to and through divorce. Sadly, I am able to count on more than one hand the people I have been involved with who have died through addiction in the last five years.
Divorce lawyers need to understand addiction and the co-dependency that surrounds and often is attracted to it. More importantly, divorce lawyers need to have an understanding and close contact with the industry that has grown up around the treatment of addiction.
I spent part of this week at the ICAAD (International Conference Addiction Associated Disorders) London conference, talking and listening to people in the “therapeutic industry” from around the world; a flagship event attended by the great and the good in the field.
For a period of time, divorce lawyers play a central role in the lives of the families that employ them. The advice that we give, or should give, is often life changing. So to advise a client or a family, divorce lawyers need to be versatile enough to respond to their client’s financial, emotional and health needs. A complete divorce lawyer should recognise where intervention is necessary and speak knowledgeably and openly about it; addiction is an illness that we should be able to recognise, understand and contribute towards relieving.
Brad Pitt says that he took some time to find the right therapeutic help. Dr Paul Hokemeyer, an internationally recognised expert on treating the clinical issues arise from wealth, power, celebrity and behavioural health, spoke earlier this week at ICAAD on “The challenges of celebrity culture in addiction treatment” and the impact of fame on the people who live under the weight of its force and those who seek to treat them.
When people choose a divorce lawyer, they do not seek a therapist but they are likely to need one with a strong understanding of the challenges they face and one with ties to the therapeutic community, a therapeutic alliance.