Guest Post: Becoming a Collaborative Divorce Coach – Gary Watson

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Editors note: This is a guest post from Gary Watson. We occasionally have other practitioners share their story of building a private practice. Gary offers a unique idea and opportunity into diversifying a practice. If you have ideas you’d like to share with our readers, click here to contact us for more information.

I’ve been exploring the possibility of becoming a Collaborative Divorce Coach or a Parenting Coordinator as a way of diversifying my services. Both of these positions require you to be a therapist or attorney, and work with family law attorneys and the courts. I was recently invited to attend a monthly meeting for a local Collaborative Divorce group to get more information about the process. To become a Collaborative Coach, there is a training you have to attend,
otherwise collaborative divorce attorneys (who have also had the training) won’t work with you.

The way it works is once you get the training, you can introduce yourself to collaborative attorneys who can make referrals to you, or get your name put on a list of Collaborative Coaches. Once they refer to you, you will be working side by side with them to help the divorcing couple reach agreements with minimal court involvement. This is not counseling or therapy because there is no client confidentiality. Everything they tell you can be shared with both attorneys.

Becoming a Collaborative Divorce Coach can be a good way to diversify your services if you have an interest in working with couples in this way, or have an interest in helping their children avoid the unpleasantness divorce can bring.

A side benefit of being involved in these collaborative groups is they tend to have regular meetings to continue their training and do business with each other. At this first meeting I attended, there were approximately 25 family law attorneys, and a handful of therapists. Meeting with them once a month or so will mean many potential referral sources who will get a chance to get to know me and make referrals for counseling. Not all of their cases are collaborative but I can safely assume they have many clients who need counseling themselves, or want counseling for their children.

Parenting Coordination is another way for therapists to provide a similar service, but their primary role is to help parents who have trouble agreeing to parenting issues such as drop-off and pick-up times, locations, etc. The Parenting Coordinator is generally a therapist or attorney who will use mediation and conflict resolution skills to help them work out these disagreements. The PC may report recommendations to attorneys or court, based on what agreements have been discussed between the two parties. The requirements for serving as a Parenting Coordinator are less strict as far as credentialing and training than the Collaborative Divorce Coach. Some groups are currently working on developing a training and credentialing program and there is currently a guideline for serving in this role which consists mostly of ethical standards. See the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts website for info on training and standards.

Since Collaborative Divorce Coaching and Parenting Coordination are not considered therapy, it is not covered by insurance; the couple pays out of pocket. Generally, the therapist can bill for services the same way an attorney does, collect a retainer and bill for both direct and indirect time on the case. Due to the fact that these are high conflict cases, the therapists I have talked to prefer not to make this a full time job, but use this to add to their services.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist based in Grand Rapids, MI.  He works with chidren, teens, and families to help them find solutions to their problems.  He also provides training to local groups who want to learn how to use Solution Focused Brief Therapy in their work with clients.  For more information, go to www.turningpointtherapy.net

image courtesy of Koeni Cabral via flickr

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