Do You Need a Divorce Coach?

Divorce Coach

Last month we talked about how couples counseling can be useful for spouses considering divorce. But what if you have already decided to divorce, and you feel overwhelmed? Should you find an individual therapist? Or could another kind of professional be more useful? While many attorneys are good listeners, attorneys do not generally have the right kind of training to provide the emotional support that is crucial for so many people going through divorce. Your attorney’s job is to protect your legal rights. But there is another alternative to traditional therapy. Today we are going to talk about divorce coaches, what they do, and how they differ from therapists and counselors.

Managing Emotions During Divorce

If your spouse has served you with divorce papers, or if you have decided that filing for divorce is your best option, you are probably experiencing a wide range of emotions. You might feel relieved that things are finally moving toward a resolution. At the same time, you are likely to feel anxious about your future. Other common reactions include sadness, anger, and guilt. Ending a marriage often elicits intense feelings that can quickly lead to emotional fatigue, especially when there are children involved.

Successfully managing overwhelming emotions during divorce can prevent costly mistakes. Allowing feelings of guilt and regret to direct your actions might lead you to sacrifice legal rights. On the flip side, letting anger or hostility guide you could cause you to stick to unreasonable demands. If you find yourself saying things like, “You can keep the house and the retirement accounts, I just want this to be over with,” or “You are not getting the house, one penny of my retirement account, or a nickel of support,” you may need more than just legal help.

Both therapists and divorce coaches can help people manage emotions, navigate the process of divorce, and prepare for life after divorce. So then, what is the difference between them and how do you decide which one to hire?

Therapists and Mental Health Counselors

Therapists and mental health counselors go through an educational and training process to become licensed health care providers. They are able to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders. If a therapist provides you with medically necessary treatment for a diagnosed disorder, you may be able to get reimbursement for some or all of the cost through your health insurance provider.

Requirements for licensure as a therapist or counselor vary somewhat from state to state. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists all have different licensure tracks, and all provide some type of mental health service. Marital therapists in New Jersey are commonly either Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapists (LAMFT) or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). While such providers are often referred to as “marriage counselors,” a licensed professional counselor (LPC) actually goes through a different licensing process and is more likely to work with individuals than with couples. If you decide to consult with a therapist or counselor, it is important to understand both the training process they have gone through and the experience they have working with people going through divorce.

How Divorce Coaches Differ from Therapists and Counselors

Coaches do not treat mental disorders and their services are not covered by health insurance. They instead focus on helping clients build practical skills and cultivate positive emotions. This includes goal setting and making informed and rational decisions about everything from choosing a new living situation to creating a workable parenting plan. In addition to providing information, coaches often engage in exercises with their clients, such as modeling, rehearsing, and role-playing.

Working as a divorce coach does not require any specific training, but it is wise to consider hiring only a coach with a respected certification, such as the CDC certification. This will reassure you that you are choosing a professional who is equipped to provide appropriate support, guidance, and encouragement. It will also help ensure that the coach follows strict standards of ethics and confidentiality. Additional experience and training that may prove helpful depends on exactly which aspects of your divorce you need help with. Divorce coaches often branch off into coaching from other professions, including law, mental health, and financial planning.

If you are experiencing severe mental or emotional distress, such as crippling anxiety or depression, then you may be better off finding a therapist or a licensed counselor. Many therapists also practice coaching, so if you already have an individual therapist, or you plan to consult one, you can ask them if they offer coaching as well.

Using a Joint Divorce Coach

A coach usually represents only one spouse. It is possible to use a joint coach, but few divorcing spouses are comfortable with this. It is more common when spouses have agreed to participate in a collaborative divorce. In some cases, couples who have been in marriage counseling will continue to see the marriage counselor together for mutual help in transitioning to divorce. If you are happy with your current counselor, and both of you would like to continue seeing this person, ask them if they offer this type of support.

The Best Time to Meet with a Divorce Coach

While divorce coaches can offer support at any point during a divorce, you will likely get the most out of meetings early in the process. A coach can help you decide whether divorce mediation is appropriate for your situation. If you do decide to participate in mediation, a coach can be very helpful before beginning sessions, for premediation coaching, as well as between sessions, to help you debrief and refine plans.

Early sessions with a divorce coach can provide clarity regarding priorities and help you explore personalized plans that will optimize those priorities. A coach can also help you navigate the practical requirements of divorce, including collecting financial documents, communicating effectively with your spouse, and maintaining emotional resiliency throughout the process. Help with managing communications is especially valuable in a high conflict divorce.

If you need help with things beyond emotional and practical support, there are other professionals to consider. We will talk about some of these in our next post. In the meantime, if you are considering divorce mediation, contact one of our empathic and experienced divorce mediators today.