How can a mental health professional help in the collaborative process?

A Collaborative Divorce Process takes place when couples have chosen to avoid divorcing in the traditional way, deciding to not involve the court. Instead, they decide to work with a team of professionals to achieve a settlement that best meets the needs of both parties and their children.

The team of professionals consists of a lawyer, a mental health professional who serves as the coach, a financial specialist and sometimes another mental health professional who is usually a child specialist. Three disciplines work together to integrate the legal, emotional, and financial aspects of divorce.

The role of the therapist/coach is remarkably beneficial. He/she help the couple define and implement a settlement that best meets the needs of their family, and teaches them how to communicate effectively, how to resolve conflicts in a respectful manner and how to successfully ‘co-parent.’

In the process, clients are not required to visit their past or childhood. The therapist/coach utilizes the Solution-Focused approach to therapy and helps the client in the following ways:

1. Prepares the clients to successfully negotiate an agreement: the client’s needs, concerns and underlying emotions are identified to help the client prioritize issues and be prepared for the meetings.

2. Establish effective communicate: the therapist/coach will learn about the clients’ blind-spots and impediments in the way they communicate and solve problems. Then he/she will coach the client how to overcome them. This contributes to the effectiveness of meetings. For example, teaching patience, assertiveness or temper control makes the meetings more effective with less confrontation.

3. Handle emotional issues that can sabotage a settlement: each party may experience certain emotions (e.g. sadness, anger, etc) that are in the way of achieving a resolution. The therapist/coach will help a client process, manage, understand and handle them in such a way that it will not interfere with achieving healthy solutions.

4. Develop effective co-parenting skills: therapists/coaches hears the feedback from the child specialist and will assist the clients to develop and implement an amicable and cooperative parenting plan.

5. Work collaboratively with: the couple, their attorneys and other involved professionals to improve communication, reduce misunderstandings and solve problems as they come up.

Overall, the therapist/coach will work closely with clients in many ways to aid handling critical issues regarding the divorce. Primarily, identifying needs and concerns, effective communication, reaching a settlement that serves both parties (e.g. that is free of ‘revenge,’ ‘anger’ or ‘negative feelings’) and implement a healthy co-parenting plan.

Dr. Ronit Lami is an internationally renowned psychologist. Her services include Consulting, Coaching, Affluenza evaluation and Expert witness. She has over 18 years of experience helping your clients through the hardships of divorce. She can be reached at (310) 626-0218, or visit her website

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