Coparent counseling involves a series of (usually) confidential meetings with the parents and as many of the other significant parenting figures as possible to work on improving the communication, cooperation, trust, and respect among all of the adults in the children’s lives and to find solutions for any outstanding parenting problems.
My approach emphasizes practical problem solving as a vehicle for identifying and improving interpersonal dynamics. The parties are asked to bring actual coparenting problems to work on in session. In the process of solving these problems, I am able to observe their level of skill in many areas and intervene to shore up weaknesses. The counseling is a combination of educational and experiential work in coparenting skills including negotiation and conflict resolution, parenting skills including limit-setting and discipline, child development, identifying and resolving resentments and prejudices, and managing relative strengths and weaknesses. I typically start with a highly structured format and then gradually relax the structure as the parties demonstrate an ability to manage their interactions themselves. I usually mail out a summary of each session to help everyone remember what we worked on and to keep track of any agreements.
The first several meetings can be fairly rough until I can get the parties calmed down and treating each other with respect. If we make it past this phase, progress is usually fairly rapid. As soon as things are working smoothly, I usually start spreading the meetings out. We might go to every 3 weeks, then every month, then every other month, and so on. The final step is to stop scheduling regular meetings, but make a mutual agreement that everyone will come back before filing any new court motions or if any one of them requests another meeting. Cases that make it to this point rarely return to court.
If it appears that there are underlying emotional or psychological factors, I will usually refer these out for individual therapy and then coordinate the individual treatment with the coparent counseling.
Coparent counseling usually includes between six and twenty bi-weekly meetings with an average of ten (4-5 months). The cost is about $800/month. We can usually get started within a few days if everyone cooperates. The initial retainer is usually enough to cover about two months of work and is renewable monthly.