What is the Difference Between Divorce Therapists and Divorce Coaches?

When you’re going through a divorce there are many different professionals who can be helpful, however two of those that I often refer to as a divorce mediator and attorney in San Diego are divorce therapists and divorce coaches. Oftentimes I hear that people don’t always understand the difference between the two and will question why I might refer them to a divorce coach when they already have a therapist for divorce San Diego.

2 women talking What is the Difference Between Divorce Therapists and Divorce Coaches?

This article will focus on both the differences between divorce therapists and divorce coaches as well some of the benefits to having both professionals as part of your team during a divorce. In fact, we find coaching to be so important in the process that our Standard and Premium mediation packages include time with a transition coach and then our other mediation packages we often make referrals to divorce coaches who can assist them through the process.  

Role and Benefit of a Divorce Coach

When a couple decides on divorce, oftentimes there is one person in the relationship driving the divorce and one person who is having a more difficult time facing the reality of the situation and find they are overwhelmed by the process making an already slow process take even longer. In my experience as a professional family mediator and attorney I’ve found that an experienced divorce coach can be the very thing that one of the parties needs to move the process forward.  

As Certified Divorce Coach and Divorce Recovery Mentor, India Kern shares: “A divorce coach’s role is to “guide” a person from “married” to “divorced” by: 

  • Identifying roadblocks 
  • Preparing a client for the business of divorce
  • Devising a game plan
  • Reducing the emotional toll
  • Coaching for a limited time period

Taking on a stance of “from this point forward”, a divorce coach focuses on the present.” 

A divorce coach, such as India, helps clients get from where they are now to a point forward from here. In my experience I find that clients who have a divorce coach can use their time in mediation more effectively because they have someone else to focus on the emotional side and talk things through before coming into the mediation. A divorce coach isn’t someone that you’re going to work with forever, they’re just helping to guide you through the divorce and mediation to get you to the other side.  

I worked with a couple in mediation in San Diego County where the Wife was working with a Divorce Coach that I had referred her to throughout the mediation and I could tell such a difference from the first meetings we had to future meetings. The client was much better focused on what she wanted and was able to think clearly about the proposals that were being discussed without letting her soon to be ex-spouse trigger her throughout the process.

When we discussed the parenting plan, she came in prepared and knew what she wanted out of it, where she was willing to compromise and stayed calm, even when her Husband was upset and even raising his voice. I could tell that she and her divorce coach had worked through this before she came into mediation and that allowed her to feel confident in her decision making.  

Role and Benefit of Therapists for Divorce San Diego

Therapists are another important part of not only the divorce process, but in my opinion in life in general. Now full disclosures, my mom was a therapist for my entire life until she retired, my more than one of my close friends are therapists and I’ve been to therapy on and off throughout my life so I might be biased when it comes to my opinion. However, I do think that EVERYONE can benefit from a therapist at some point in their life and I think that stigma surrounding mental health and seeing a therapist needs to change. That being said, a lot of my clients have a therapist for before, during and even after the divorce.  There’s no time limit that you can see a therapist and you might find throughout your life that you return to therapy for different reason 

A therapist is there to diagnose the person, in fact if you see a therapist and want it to be billed to your insurance (which if you can find a therapist you like that’s covered by insurance it’s invaluable the amount of money you can save) the therapist must provide some sort of diagnosis for billing purposes which they will always share with you as the client. While you may be in therapy on and off throughout your life, or for some reasons on more of an ongoing basis it focuses on what your diagnoses is and how to make that better.  

Why Working Through Your Past is Critical for Successful Divorce Therapy

Therapists are going to look at your past with you to identify to the present. For example, they’ll look at your behaviors and issues that arose in your past to understand why things are the way they are now, how you’re going to work on those issues so that you can change your future behaviors.  Therapists for divorce are going to help ask you the question of why you’re getting divorced and help you work through how you can change any behaviors or thoughts about yourself or your relationships so that you don’t end up in the same place in your next relationship.

When I work with couples who are on their second, third or even fourth (yes it happens!) divorce, one of the things I find comes up most often is that they haven’t spent the time working on why their previous relationship didn’t work out. Instead, they jumped into another relationship and then marriage without trying to figure out what their role was in the breakdown of their previous marriage. All relationships require both parties putting in the work to succeed and any divorce has to do with both parties, even if you feel that it’s all your spouse’s fault that you’re getting divorced. A therapist can help dig into the why and make sure that whatever your role was that doesn’t happen again.  

The Benefits of Therapy During a Divorce Process

As Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Parisa Malekzadeh, who works with both couples before they decide to get divorced and individuals during the divorce process shares “one of the many benefits of participating in therapy during a divorce is having a neutral party who can give support and advice. A couple’s therapist can help parties identify different points of view and help them see common ground which decreases animosity and frustration. Couples or individual therapy can also be a supportive environment for people to process emotions and learn healthy communication boundaries while managing a divorce.” By working with a therapist my clients often find that they can communicate better during mediation, not get triggered by their soon to be ex-spouse and work on ways to process their emotions such that mediation can focus on what we need to focus on.  

Differences Between a Divorce Therapists and Divorce Coaches 

One misconception that clients often have is that if they have a divorce coach, they cannot also have a therapist, or visa versa. This is because as discussed above the two professionals are different, have different training and are meant to help with a different part of the process. While there are some therapists for divorce San Diego who are also divorce coaches, most are one or the other and clients who have both professionals helping them through are better equipped to move through the mediation process successfully and handle any curve balls that might get thrown their way.  

India shares, “the main difference between the two professionals is – a therapist looks at the past to diagnose the person, exploring behavioral patterns and family of origin. Their line of questioning typically focuses on the ‘why?’ – why someone does the things they do or why certain events happened in the past to understand the present. A divorce coach, on the other hand, much like a sherpa, guides a client up an intense climb (A.K.A. DIVORCE) many times, already having traversed it herself. A therapist is a diagnostician making sure the client has the stamina and strength required to make the intense ascent. By offering expert insight, both roles are beneficial in aiding people through the difficult life changes that come with divorce.” 

Prioritizing Your Well-being During Divorce

At West Coast Family Mediation Center, we think it’s so important to take care of the whole person and family during a divorce and not just deal with the legal things that have to get done so we have a great list of referrals for therapists and coaches that includes those referenced in this article as well as many other wonderful referrals. Contact us today for any referral that you might need.

by: Amanda Singer

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