Getting through a divorce often requires the support of a team of professionals, including family and estate attorneys, mediators, CPAs, and therapists, to name a few. One valuable member of that team that most people might not be aware of is a divorce coach.
Many stressful decisions need to be made when ending a marriage—some of which will impact you for the rest of your life. It can be tough to make level-headed decisions when you're overwhelmed by frustration, anger, or fear. That's where a divorce coach comes in.
Like a coach for a sports team, divorce coaches don't do the work for you. Instead, they arm you with the knowledge, skills, and strategies to help you maneuver the complex and confusing field ahead, says Karen Finn, Ph.D., a certified divorce coach and author of the e-book On the Road from Heartbreak to Happiness.
For Dr. Finn, the types of challenges people often face when going through a divorce can be spelled out in one word—SELFF.
SELFF stands for:
"Divorce coaches help you navigate everything that's changing in your world and help you move toward what you really want," says Dr. Finn.
People might assume divorce coaches are therapists. Some divorce coaches are licensed mental health professionals, but unlike therapists, they don't treat mental health conditions or provide therapy to analyze past experiences.
Instead, divorce coaches are professionals specially trained to advise individuals and couples on the important decisions to be made when contemplating divorce, going through the process, or recovering from the fallout of one.
Divorce coaches are more aligned with life coaches, who are specially trained to focus on helping clients set and achieve goals. The difference between a divorce coach and a life coach is that a life coach concentrates on improving a specific area of one's life, such as health, career, leadership, or relationships.
On the other hand, a divorce coach specializes only in helping people identify and reach goals related to their divorce. For Dr. Finn, that includes guiding clients at various stages in the divorce journey, including when they are:
There are some distinct benefits to working with a divorce coach. Here are five ways they can support you throughout the divorce process.
When you're going through a divorce, it's easy to become overwhelmed and confused. A divorce coach can help you determine next steps and guide you through the process. This guidance can greatly reduce the anxiety and stress that usually accompany such a life-changing event.
Divorce coaches can also recommend other professionals, such as therapists to help you overcome emotional roadblocks or financial planners to assist you in managing your budget.
When you're going through a divorce, you'll need to make many important decisions that can have long-lasting consequences. A divorce coach will work with you to help you decide what's best for you and your family.
For example, you might want to discuss whether you should hire an attorney, try mediation with your spouse, or opt for a do-it-yourself divorce.
Despite your best efforts, divorces can be hard on children. It's imperative that you make the experience as smooth as possible for them.
Ideally, you and your spouse will share parenting responsibilities. Co-parenting will require creating a parenting plan or agreement that works for each of you as well as your children.
Divorce coaches can also teach you co-parenting communication skills to help reduce or mitigate potential stressors.
Divorce is one of the most stressful events you can experience. When feelings are hurt, people become angry or frustrated and are less likely to compromise.
A coach with experience in high-conflict divorces can teach you coping skills and emotional regulation so that your split can stay as amicable as possible. This education also helps lessen the emotional impact your divorce has on your children
Divorce can upend the expectations you had for your life. There's no denying that your world will change. It's up to you to rebound and make the best out of your "new normal."
A divorce coach can guide you in envisioning your life post divorce by helping you set goals and encouraging personal growth.
There can be tremendous benefits to working with a divorce coach, but it's not for everyone, Dr. Finn says. "Everyone is unique, and every relationship is unique."
Divorce coaches can provide structure and help you identify first steps, assist with important decisions, help create parenting plans, improve the chances for an amicable divorce, and prepare you for post-divorce life. But their services will be useless if you aren't emotionally ready to take their advice.
"Divorce coaches help people who are willing to change and adapt," Dr. Finn says.
If that's not the case, Dr. Finn says a therapist is likely the best resource to help someone move past psychological or emotional barriers, like a victim mentality, that can limit their ability to proactively move through a difficult situation.
Essentially, anyone can call themselves a divorce coach. The practice is not yet regulated by the government so there is no standard certification or training required. As such, you'll want to do your homework before hiring a divorce coach.
For example, you can look for a life coach or therapist with special training in divorce counseling, or search specifically for a certified divorce coach (CDC). CDCs must meet minimum qualification and training requirements.
Before you hire someone, Dr. Finn recommends vetting them carefully.
"You really want to do your research," Dr. Finn recommends. "Most coaches have an introductory session and it's really worthwhile to go in with questions, like ‘What experience do you have?' ‘Were you ever divorced?' ‘Do you feel you are over your divorce?'"
The answers will help you identify a divorce coach who best suits you and your needs.