When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos released statements on Twitter late last week sharing details of their divorce settlement and expressing mutual appreciation, love and respect, and hope for their future as co-parents, many couples may have been wondering how a split could be so seemingly amicable.

While the Bezoses haven’t shared details of their divorce process — and it’s impossible to know if the public statements by two such high-profile individuals mirror what’s happening in private  there is a group of professionals who aim to make the emotionally daunting divorce process a little more bearable: divorce coaches.

Deanna Conklin-Danao, a Chicago-area clinical psychologist and a collaborative divorce coach, said a collaborative divorce coach helps couples navigate divorce in a more emotionally healthy way, especially in regards to communication.

Conklin-Danao explained that in a collaborative divorce, each person has a lawyer as well as a team that usually includes a divorce coach and sometimes a child specialist or financial expert, among others.

“The idea is that all the conversations happen with the team, and it’s a transparent process, instead of a game of telephone,” said Conklin-Danao. “A divorce coach can help the whole team see how this is playing out from a process perspective.”

For the couple, having a coach in the room during a heated discussion helps make those conversations more productive. “The coach can say, ‘Whoa, we need to take a break’ or, ‘We need to slow this down’ or, ‘What are you feeling right now?’ or anything that would help keep it focused,” said Conklin-Danao. Collaborative divorce coaches have mental health backgrounds, and many also have mediation experience.

“When you think about a divorce, most of what it is has psychological, communication and emotional components,” she said. “Then there’s this legal part. The hope is to tackle really hard subjects and then give couples the tools, so they can keep having those conversations moving forward.”

Divorce coaching can be especially helpful if one person needs more support than the other, said Conklin-Danao.

“One person is often more ready for the divorce than the other,” she said, “but everyone has to make decisions. Sometimes the person who needs to catch up might need a little extra support on the side or in the meetings to help them come to terms that this is happening.”

Pegotty Cooper, co-founder of Tampa, Florida-based CDC Certified Divorce Coach, an organization that equips and certifies people worldwide to become divorce coaches, describes the role of a divorce coach as “the person that walks down the path with the client, so that the client can discover some of their best answers that they’re seeking.”

“We’re their thinking partner,” she said. “We help them to remember the best in themselves, so they can have clarity, confidence and courage for a rocky road ahead.”

Cooper’s process looks more like one-on-one counseling, whether in person or virtually, to prepare a client to enter a litigation process. Her goal is to stop her clients from feeling alone by helping them “self-discover their own answers.”

“We help clients have their eyes wide open, so they don’t get blindsided by the many things they’ll encounter along the way,” she said. “We go through a mental rehearsal ahead of time, so they don’t get speechless when confronted with something they haven’t thought about.”

Conklin-Danao agrees that decision-making is key during this time, and offers two points to think through when deciding if a divorce coach is right for you:

Interview potential coaches. “It’s really about a fit,” she said. “You’re not going to like everything you hear during a divorce. You want someone you can imagine having hard conversations with and someone you can really work with. If kids are involved, make sure you bring in someone who has some sort of expertise there.”

Educate yourself. “People often start with ‘find a lawyer,’ but it’s good for people to be educated on all the processes on divorce, like mediation, collaborative and litigation. Pick a lawyer who specializes in the process you want. If you go to someone who does one type of law, that’s what you’re going to get. Ask yourself, ‘What kind of divorce do I want to have?’ The goal is a healthier process.”

Source: Chicago Tribune