Working with a divorce coach

In our busy lives, it is all too easy to become frustrated by a client’s indecision or to lose sight of how it feels to be going through an unexpected break up after a long relationship. 

So, how does it feel?
 
People going through a divorce or separation find themselves - often unexpectedly - in the midst of emotional and often material upheaval. Clients describe feelings of utter chaos and devastation. They sit at home feeling rejected and that their life has been ripped apart at the worst possible time. The future can look very bleak and leave them not knowing how to move forward. They may have been in their relationship for a long time and their planned future has vanished. They have lost all that was familiar and to make it worse their partner has deserted them, possibly without explanation and often for another party. 
 
This toxic mix leaves people with unresolved feelings of confusion and worthlessness. They are often dealing with huge sense of misplaced guilt (especially if there are children in the marriage). They are desperate for an explanation, which they may never get. Consequently, they feel cheated of the opportunity to work out a solution and therefore suffer from an overwhelming sense of unfairness. 
However, they have to find a way of rediscovering who they are, what they want and to create a new life for themselves. All this while dealing with potentially damaging emotions, such as anger, jealousy, bitterness, thoughts of revenge, hatred, often using children against the partner.
 
At the same time, the divorce process is taking place. Clients have to respond to questions, write documents, fill forms, all of which serve as a constant reminder of their loss. Many of my clients are afraid of opening emails or texts from their former partner and even of reading their solicitor’s letters. 
 
The effects of grief and loss
 
It is the case that grief and loss have very debilitating effects: from reduced concentration, feeling of numbness and detachment, to disrupted sleep and eating patterns, weight gain or loss. Clients appear to be on a roller coaster of emotional energy. They also experience a frightening sense of loss of energy, awareness and vivacity. Many have even lost their sense of self. For example, they cannot imagine being alone, without their life partner. Life has no meaning to them anymore.
 
Clients may resort to short-term coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs, comfort eating, over- exercise, workaholism, isolation, shopping (especially on-line) and moving immediately on to another relationship. These strategies may provide some form of relief in the short term, but do not work in the long term and in fact have the effect of leaving the client feeling even more worthless. 
 
Solicitors have to deal with angry or tearful clients who can barely cope. Often, and despite their best intentions, solicitors do not feel equipped to manage those feelings, or do not have the time to do so. This is why they may call on the services of a divorce coach.
 
The role of the divorce coach
 
A divorce coach supports and assists the progress of the legal process; works through the emotional turmoil which, left unresolved, leads to long-term issues; prepares clients for mediation or the collaborative process, which means that the solicitor concentrates on legal aspect of the divorce and not on emotional support.
 
A divorce coach is trained to work with and contain emotions in order to find a way forward. In this case they will explore the problem, provide structure and containment, challenge, address negative emotions (jealousy, guilt, anger, bitterness, revenge, hatred), and finally aim to encourage the client to look forward rather than wallow in the past. 
 
It’s important to note that a divorce coach is not a counsellor. A counsellor focuses on the past, the ‘why’, whereas the coach is about finding a way forward, which makes it perfect to deal with times of personal crisis.
 
Coaches hold the belief that it is the QUALITY of the coaching relationship which determines the extent to which the client makes positive changes in his/her life and self-belief. For more information, attend my workshop: ‘Preparing your clients for the collaborative process’, which will offer thoughts about the relationship a coach or a solicitor needs to establish to facilitate a resolution and offer techniques and tips to do so.
 
Danielle Barbereau
BA, MA, MAC
Author of After the Split (available here)
M: 07860 801693
Brighter Future