The Collaborative Divorce coach is a mental health professional with many years of experience in his or her discipline as well as in child development, working with families going through separation and divorce, and mediation. While a very few couples opt not to use coaches (for example very low conflict couples who don’t share children and have been together only a short time) and some use one neutral coach, most divorcing couples in the DC Metropolitan area who choose Collaborative Divorce decide that they will be best served by having two coaches- one for each spouse. Below is a brief description of the role of the Collaborative Coach:
- Empathy and containment for pain and loss — You need to tell your story and to have it acknowledged, validated, and taken in. Until you feel fundamentally understood, you will not be able to move forward in the process.
- Normalization of your emotional experience — Everyone going through a divorce feels overwhelmed by feelings. Some feel ashamed by their own reactions and behaviors. As mental health professionals who have worked with many divorcing people, we are able to speak to the normalcy of feeling abnormal during this period of crisis and still help you to bring your best self to the Collaborative table.
- Understanding what went wrong — We work towards helping you to recognize and acknowledge your own contribution to the difficulties you face so that you will be able use the Collaborative process as an opportunity for growth and the development of new modes of relating beyond the divorce. Also, the success of the Collaborative venture itself hinges on you and your spouses’ recognition of each others’ humanity.
- We can help you to identify “hot spots,” areas of particular psychological vulnerability that may cause you to become emotionally flooded and may impede progress. We can help you to strategize ways of managing strong feelings (both in yourself and in your partner) when they arise.
- We can teach you effective, non-attacking, non-defensive modes of communication.
- We can help you to identify priorities and particular areas of concern. What is most important to you? What are your greatest fears?
For the Team
- We can help attorneys to understand your emotional “hot spots,” fears, and concerns.
- We can help attorneys to understand when marital dynamics are re-played in the collaborative process in such a way that they create impasse or cause stalling or positional behavior in the process.
- When we are included in meetings with attorneys we can make real time interventions to identify unconscious or un-named psychological blocks to the process.
- Our ability to closely track process (both on and below the surface of the dialogue) allows us to facilitate focused and efficient pacing of meetings.
For the Parenting Plan
- We can work with you independently from the entire team, thus saving time and money
- We offer extensive expertise in child development and the psychological aspects of divorce on family members
- Our experience in developing parenting plans allows us to facilitate option development, anticipate potential difficulties associated with various options, help you to imagine both the near and far futures, and manage intense emotions so that you can remain able to think creatively in considering new and evolving options
- Our therapeutic backgrounds allow us to help you grapple with the challenges presented when you and your spouse are at different levels of acceptance of/feeling about the divorce, and gives us the necessary tools to help yours craft a “shared narrative” about your divorce for your children (as well as for extended family and friends)