The word “coach” has many meanings. Collaborative Divorce Coaches differ significantly from the “certified divorce coaches” who have proliferated in the past ten years.
Collaborative Divorce Coaches work as part of a professional team in a voluntary divorce process called Collaborative Divorce, where a team of professionals helps you co-create your agreements respectfully without the involvement of a judge, and keep in mind the importance of protecting yourselves, your children, relatives, and friends from conflict.
In the collaborative divorce process, the Divorce Coaches must hold a license in a state, province, or country that requires an advanced degree in a recognized clinical mental health field, requires continuing education, and is regulated by a governing body under a code of ethics. Their license must remain in good standing with their licensing boards, and they must comply with the highest standards of their licensing boards. They may be licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional clinical counselors, or licensed psychiatrists and must have at least five years’ experience working with couples and families experiencing separation and divorce.1
Collaborative Divorce Coaches must have a background, education, and a minimum of five years’ experience post-licensure in:
- Family systems theory
- Individual and family life cycle and development.
- Assessment of individual and family strengths
- Assessment and challenges of family dynamics in separation and divorce
- Challenges in restructuring families after separation1
Collaborative Divorce Coaches must have completed the following training requirements:
- An Introductory Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice Training of two or three days (depending on local practice group requirements) that meets the requirements of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals’ (IACP’s) Minimum Standards for Introductory Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice Trainings.
- At least one thirty-hour training in client-centered, facilitative conflict resolution, of the kind typically taught in mediation training (interest-based, narrative, or transformative) mediation programs.
- An accumulation or aggregate of fifteen hours of training in any or all the following areas:
- Basic professional coach training
- Communication skills training
- Advanced mediation training
- Collaborative training beyond the minimum two- or three-days of initial collaborative training
- A minimum of three hours aimed at giving mental health professionals a basic understanding of family law in their jurisdiction1
Collaborative Divorce Coaches utilize their training and experience as mental health professionals and trained collaborative professionals to help their clients be their highest and best selves during their separation and collaborative divorce process. Your Collaborative Divorce Coach will:
- Help you understand the bigger picture of your family system or any situation where you find yourself in a problematic predicament requiring a solution.
- Assist you in identifying your goals for your Collaborative Divorce and work with you to achieve these goals.
- Help you determine your impediments to reaching the goals you have identified.
- Help you determine your strengths that will assist you in achieving your goals.
- Assist you in building on your strengths and resilience.
- Encourage you to examine your behaviors and ways of thinking that may impede you from reaching your goals or prevent the resolution of an issue.
- Assist you in learning self-management skills, including anger and stress management.
- Educate and motivate you to refocus your energy and power to achieve your goals.
- Challenge your thinking by asking thought-provoking questions such as: “Will this (behavior/thinking) help you reach your goal?” “What could you do differently that would help?” “What would you need to do differently to make that happen?”
- Assist you in shaping your behaviors to those that will help you achieve your goals.
- Continually identify small achievements and progress toward your goals.
- Help you master effective skills and behaviors necessary to reach your goals.
- Assist you in communicating more effectively on your behalf and with your spouse.
- Help you learn how to manage your emotional reactivity.
- Encourage you to “think outside of the box” and to understand others’ points of view in the situation.
- Help your spouse and the professional team members understand you, thus enabling them to work more effectively with you.
- Ensure that you are taken seriously by your spouse and the professional team members during your Collaborative Divorce.
- Assist you directing your best efforts toward keeping your Collaborative Divorce moving toward resolution.
- Provide a conflict resolution model that you and your spouse/partner can use outside the formal meetings and take into your new coparenting relationship, if you have minor or adult children.
- If you have children, assist you and your spouse/partner in co-creating your co-parenting plan for your minor and adult children.
- Assist you and your spouse/partner in creating your Statement of Highest Intentions for your Collaborative Divorce, which is your “North Star” that guides you and your professional team to keep your goals and interests in view.
In addition to using the above strategies to assist their clients, the following are some ways that Collaborative Divorce Coaches contribute to the collaborative divorce team and the collaborative divorce process:
The Collaborative Divorce Coaches:
- Assist you and professional team members in regulating emotions during meetings.
- Assist you in using effective communication and negotiation skills during meetings.
- Assist you in using effective conflict resolution skills to work through conflicts and impasses during meetings.
- Work with the entire team, which includes you, in setting up the most effective sequences for meetings.
- Maintain cohesion among you and professional team members during and outside of meetings.
You and your spouse may each have your own Collaborative Divorce Coach, who is aligned with you, or you may choose to have one divorce coach called the Neutral Family Specialist, who works with both of you. The above requirements and descriptions of the Collaborative Divorce Coach role also apply to the Neutral Family Specialist.
Divorce professionals estimate that at least 90 percent of the topics divorcing couples must discuss and agree about are emotional. So, utilizing two Collaborative Divorce Coaches or one Neutral Family Specialist will significantly benefit you and your spouse as you navigate the emotional currents in your divorce.
1 International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Minimum Standards and Ethics, 2018.