divorce therapy vs coaching

Divorce Therapy vs Coaching: How to Choose the Right Option for You

By Dr. Kristin Davin, Psy.D.

You have options. Always remember that. When you’re thinking about or working through a divorce, there are always options available to help you through challenges you’re working to overcome.

As a divorce therapist and coach, I work with clients who have a range of issues they want a little help working through, whether it’s about their finances, relationships, kids, career, friendships, or something else entirely. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and my clients usually come to me when something isn’t working. They’ll come to me because they are focused on the pain and suffering they’re feeling. But they don’t always recognize the things in their lives that are going right. They don’t see what is working, because it’s too hard to see through the pain.  

My job is to help you step back and look objectively at your situation, then help you chart and work through a course of action to help you get to where you would ideally like to be. My job is to help you see your strengths and to help you tap into those strengths to progress past the pain.

Therapist vs Coach: What’s the Difference?
A divorce therapist is a licensed, certified therapist who is certified by the state to practice therapy. For example, I’m certified in New York and New Jersey, so I can legally work with clients from either state. A therapist will help you look at the whole picture, starting by looking back at the events that led you to where you are now. If I were your therapist, we’d start with what I call a “family of origin.” I’ll ask detailed questions about your past, your childhood, your relationship with your parents, whether your parents were married or divorced, how they managed their communication and communication with you, and so forth. This helps me connect the dots and get to understand events that helped shape your perspective.

A divorce coach can work with anyone, anywhere. A coach will work with you on the present, toward a goal in the future. You likely won’t spend much (if any) time looking deeply into the past. Rather, you’ll talk about what’s not working right now, then we’ll chart a course forward together to help you be where you want to be. As a coach, my job is to help you be strategic and solution-focused. Kind of like training for a marathon – my job as your coach is to get you successfully to the finish line.

Looking for more? Download a copy of our Checklist: Questions to ask a potential divorce therapist or coach and take it to your introductory meeting with a therapist.

What does the Process Look Like?
A divorce coach will help you navigate the dissolution of your marriage and arrive at where you would like to be when the divorce process is over. But even when your divorce is legally over, a coach will continue to work with you to navigate what might be on the horizon, post-divorce. It can be a long process with many ups and downs. However, divorce is much more than just a legal process. Divorce affects people emotionally, financially, and impacts the lives of others (like your children). As your divorce coach, my job is to help you get the necessary skills and strategies to manage your divorce in positive, effective, and healthy ways. I provide guidance and support to keep your emotions in check, plan for maintaining solid financial footing, think through parenting issues and other issues that you’re likely to encounter, and arm you with plans for working through those issues.

The therapy process is always a bit more involved. Relationships can become very complicated. Individuals and couples come to therapy for all different reasons and in all different stages. I help them tease things out and figure out where they are and more importantly, where they want to be. I provide the platform to have conversations that need to take place but presently are not.

When I am providing divorce therapy support to an individual or couple, we’ll start with a detailed intake questionnaire that delves into your history and the reasons you’re seeking support. In this capacity, some people and couples are on the fence about their marriage or one person might be leaning out and the other person is leaning in. So, we’ll focus on building our relationship, then we’ll establish goals, create plans and discuss how you envision life once you’re able to overcome current obstacles. This helps people to start thinking about their life and their marriage differently. For each person, they know something has to change, and oftentimes they are not aware of what the end result will be. I help you figure out your challenges.

Then, I’ll help you identify and understand the negative cycles you tend to get stuck in, as well as help you incorporate changes that can be made to reach a positive outcome. During the final stages of therapy, you will begin to experiment with handling conflicts in your relationship without slipping into a negative pattern – and I’ll be there to support you.

Ultimately, therapy provides you with a different lens through which to view your life and that’s how change takes place.

How Do I Find the Right Person?
The biggest impact on a successful outcome for therapy or coaching is the fit between practitioner and client. As a therapist and coach, I might have all the right tools in my toolbox to help you – but if we don’t click, it’s never going to work. I strongly recommend contacting several therapists and asking for a 15 minute in-person, phone, or video meeting. You can learn a lot about a person in 15 minutes, but more than anything, you’ll be able to decide whether that therapist is a good fit for you.

To be successful with therapy or coaching, you should like your therapist. You should want to look forward to seeing and working with them. When you enjoy seeing and working with your therapist, when they push you a little in a direction that might feel new or uncomfortable, you’ll know that the push comes from good intentions, because you know your therapist wants to see you reach your goals and be a healthier, happier version of yourself.

Remember: getting to that happier, healthier version of you is worth the investment upfront in finding the right person to help you get there.

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