Communications coach: a look under the hood

communications coachEveryone understands the role of an attorney in a divorce process. However, if you are just beginning to explore the collaborative divorce process, you may be wondering about the role of the communications coach. You have been communicating your entire life; why do you need a coach now?

Why do you need a communications coach?

A divorce is more than just a lengthy and expensive legal process. Strong emotions color every decision, as the spouses try to navigate a highly stressful time. The choices they make will shape the rest of their lives, so the pressure is on. Add in the past history of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, oversights and mismanaged opportunities, and you begin to understand why every meeting is fraught with tension. If there is to be any hope of creating a constructive outcome, the couple must learn new ways to communicate and work together. That is where a communications coach comes in.

Let’s define the role.

A communications coach or divorce coach is a professional who has experience in the areas of separation and divorce. His or her end goal is to help the couple move through the separation and divorce process by combining an understanding of family dynamics, communication skills, and collaborative divorce. A communications coach may be a licensed therapist, but his or her support role in a collaborative divorce is not the same as therapy (which is a big subject for another blog post).

What should you expect?

I usually begin by meeting the spouses and gathering information to understand the couple, its pain points, and past communication break-downs. This past history will help me navigate difficult conversations and keep my clients focused on finding a solution, not rehashing old offenses.

  1. I facilitate clear and effective communication between the spouses and their professional team during meetings and in written exchanges.
  2. I help clients be empowered and take control over the outcomes of the divorce.
  3. I help spouses develop co-parenting plans that create the best outcomes for their kids.

What won’t a communications coach do?

The list of things I won’t do in my role as a communications coach is straightforward. I won’t conduct therapy (that is the job for your therapist), give legal advice (best suited for your attorney), or offer financial advice (which is the domain of the neutral financial planner).

Can’t we just see how it goes, and decide on whether we need a communications coach later?

In theory, the idea of waiting to hire additional professionals seems like a great way to control the costs of the divorce. In reality, it can be a recipe for disaster. I compare it to having a toothache and waiting for a couple of month until you see a dentist. By then, you need a root canal and your dental bills are much higher than if you had gone in for a simple filling at the first twinge of discomfort.

If the communications coach steps in half way through the divorce process, he or she is likely to find the couple in a state of high stress: distraught, distrusting, and hurtful to the degree that may kill the possibility of using the collaborative process at all. When a collaborative process fails, the spouses must effectively “scrap” whatever progress may have been made, hire new attorneys, and begin the process anew. In an attempt to save a little money, the couple can spend much more on professional fees – and delay divorce resolution.

My advice is to choose the communications coach that will support you and your spouse through the divorce process from the beginning. If you are unsure where to start, reach out to our team at Brazos Valley Collaborative Divorce Alliance – we can connect you with the right professionals.


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