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Co-Parenting Counseling With High-Conflict Divorced Parents: Challenges for Psychologists at All Levels of Experience

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Several Lessons to Remember About Co-Parenting

There are many challenges of providing co-parenting consultation. Attentiveness to the following points can help organize and focus the work:

  • Provide co-parenting consultation, not psychotherapy: The “art” of co-parenting consultation is using your relational and psychoeducational training skills in a different medium for a different outcome. You are not providing psychotherapy but are seeking to make a marked difference in the communication skills and relationship dynamics of the parents.
  • Utilize a carefully worded, comprehensive, and written informed consent: Such forms must be carefully read, verbally discussed, and signed by both clients. This should be a very different document, and possibly more comprehensive, than that used for psychotherapy or assessment clients.
  • Reduce the conflict: Remember, the conflict itself, versus the content of the argument, is often more deleterious to the children. Focus on reducing the conflict. Stay focused on the well-being of the children rather than being an arbiter or surrogate judge.
  • Establish co-parenting policies: Help parents focus on policies they can both agree on, even if implemented differently.
  • Be mindful of the boundaries of your work: Your role as a co-parenting consultant is a neutral one. Be sure to avoid serving in the role of a forensic evaluator and do not engage in the unintentional practice of law. Be clear if you are serving in the role of a witness, or if you are there to provide coaching and training to help your clients reduce conflict to more successfully fulfill their parental roles.

Zimmerman, J. (2019). Co-parenting counseling with high-conflict divorced parents: challenges for psychologists at all levels of experience. Journal of Health Service Psychology, 45, 66–71.

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