Mental health professionals, providing therapy and counselling services, are an important resource for families going through the difficult transition associated with separation and divorce.
For therapists, working with the children or one of the parents, this can be a challenging situation. When there is active litigation with respect to the parenting arrangement, perhaps a bilateral parenting assessment has been done, is in process, or is pending, perhaps there has been restraining orders or peace bonds, all these things can make a therapist want to refer the clients to someone else!
Having a co-parenting coordinator in place can make the therapist's job a whole lot easier. Hot spot issues will be dealt with by the co-parenting coordinator and that creates space for the therapist's work. For example, if someone is angry and depressed because their time with the children is being chronically interfered with, there's little a therapist can do if the problem persists. Or, if someone is exhausted and unable to cope because they are having to do everything and the other parent is not helping at all with the children, again, the therapist's ability to help is compromised.
The therapist doesn't have to worry about what litigation is going on, or the risk of being called into court, because they can trust that the co-parenting coordinator is taking care of that, and that the co-parenting coordinator is intimately familiar with both the therapeutic work that they are doing, and the legal dimension that the lawyers are taking care of.
The co-parenting coordinator is also a resource to the therapist as a unique window into the family system. This is particular true for therapists that are working with one of the parents. Getting some objective, professional information to blend with what the client is saying in session can be extremely useful, and it can prevent a therapist from inadvertently contributing to the problem by relying too heavily on the information that their client is providing.
Note that while the co-parenting coordination process is not confidential, there will be no intrusion into the confidentiality of therapy. In other words, communication flow will generally not be balanced. There will be more communication of information, insights and perspectives from the co-parenting coordinator than from the therapist. The therapist will only communicate what would be helpful to the therapeutic process, for example suggesting that certain things be addressed in the co-parenting coordination process, or suggesting changes in how the co-parenting coordination process is conducted because of their client's needs.
What can you do as a therapist?
First of all, continue to do the good work that you are doing, and secondly, you can encourage families to use co-parenting coordination.
You know that when the day-to-day issues for families are not addressed, they accumulate and lead to an escalation in the conflict, which results in a deleterious impact on the children. You also know that when parents complain in session about a particular issue that seems trivial, it's gotten to that point because a multitude of other small things have not been adequately addressed. It's like having an injured elbow, even the rub of a shirt sleeve can be excruciatingly painful. Also, as described differently above, if the elbow is getting constantly banged, medical treatment is not going to be able to help much. Co-parenting coordination can be like an elbow pad, providing secure protection so that healing can occur.
Our hope is that this website will provide you with a thorough understanding of co-parenting coordination and a clear insight into the ways that it benefits everyone.
The on-line library has a considerable amount of reference material, but most of the published articles are written with the legal community as the intended audience.
When we find one, or write one, that speaks primarily to the mental health community, we will add a link to it here. If you are willing to read an entire book, there are two that are excellent.
Working With High-Conflict Families of Divorce: A Guide for Professionals, by Baris, M., Coates, C., Duvall, B., Garrity, C., Johnson, E., LaCrosse, E. (2001) (link to contents and preface).
The Psychotherapist as Parent Coordinator in High-Conflict Divorce: Strategies and Techniques, by Susan M. Boyan and Ann Marie Termini (2004) (link to Haworth Press' Product Details).
For additional information, and a compilation of information that is specific to Canada, please review the Canadian Co-parenting Coordinators Association's website, www.parentcoordinators.ca.