Role of the Collaborative Coach
Divorce is stressful, challenging even the best of coping skills. We know that divorces may include emotional, communication and parenting components in addition to legal and financial issues. The neutral collaborative coach is a mental health professional on the Collaborative Divorce team who helps to guide and support the participants through the emotional, communication and parenting challenges allowing them to attend to the legal and financial pieces more effectively.
Coaching is not therapy. The collaborative coach is a licensed mental health professional, with training in the interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice model. Collaborative coaching focuses on the here-and-now of the divorce process and the moving forward toward a new future that meets the interests and goals of the individuals. In Pittsburgh we use a one coach model in which the coach is a neutral who supports both divorcing parties and the Collaborative Divorce Process. The coach can be helpful in identifying, prioritizing and expressing concerns in a way that can be heard most effectively. The coach helps the spouses and the collaborative professionals to communicate more effectively, assisting in keeping the lines of communication open between everyone at the table. By modeling healthier ways of talking and listening to one another, the coach can prove to be vital in moving the process forward and establishing a method of communicating more effectively even after the divorce. Having a neutral coach in the room helps to ensure that the collaborative table feels like a safe place.
For those couples who have children, the coach can offer helpful information about how to support their children through the divorce process and beyond. The coach helps parents to parent cooperatively and transition into their new roles as co-parents rather than husband and wife. Couples may meet with the coach outside of the joint meetings to focus on issues specific to parenting. This individual attention outside of the joint meetings can help to make the process more timely and cost effective.
Consistent with the IACP ethical guidelines for the Collaborative Process, the coach is not permitted to offer therapy to participants in the process or their family. The coach is available, however, to make referrals for therapy for you, your spouse and your children upon request.
The collaborative coach is not acting as a therapist or diagnosing conditions, but instead uses his or her mental health training, experience and skills to help divorcing couples to move past their emotions about the ending of the marriage and focus on identifying long term needs and interests for themselves, for each other, for their children and other family members. The coach assists you to participate meaningfully in the Collaborative Divorce Process where you make decisions for yourself and your family rather than leaving decisions up to a court.