Co-parenting can be stressful, challenging, and frustrating, especially if you’ve recently separated or are going through a contentious divorce.
Intense feelings of hurt, regret, anger, or grief can complicate communication with your ex-partner regarding your child’s well-being.
Although some couples can part ways and co-parent with relative ease, others, especially those who experience heated separations or have different ways of parenting, can benefit from co-parent counseling.
Co-parent counseling helps improve parenting relationships by promoting communication, reducing conflict, and implementing helpful strategies that enhance and protect the children’s well-being. It provides skills and education to help parents make decisions based on the child’s best interests.
Let’s explore who can benefit from co-parent counseling, how it can help, and its benefits, types, goals, techniques, and costs.
Who Can Benefit From Co-Parent Counseling?
Co-parent counseling can benefit divorced, separated, or never-married parents who live apart but share the custody of the children.
It can help those who have decided to separate and need guidance on how to co-parent, including how to tell the children, how to develop a parenting plan, and what to expect in terms of impact on the family.
It can also benefit those in the process of divorce or separation who need professional help to keep things civil and resolve any disagreements in co-parenting before creating a parenting plan.
It can also help you if you’ve recently divorced and need guidance and support to deal with co-parenting issues that arise.
Co-parent counseling can also help co-parents deal with life transitions and changes in circumstances after divorce or separation, including blended families, remarriages, when one parent moves away or gets a new girlfriend or boyfriend, or when a child or parent develops mental or physical health issues.
How Can Co-Parent Counseling Help?
Co-parent counseling helps parents shift from adversarial roles as former partners to cooperative and complementary roles as co-parents.
When done correctly, co-parent counseling helps improve a child’s self-esteem and confidence by assuring them that both parents love them and will continue to be a part of their lives.
Sessions in co-parent counseling are designed to help parents identify their children’s needs and constructively discuss them instead of fighting over issues.
Co-parents are made aware of how their conflict detrimentally impacts the emotional development of their children and are taught techniques for managing their anger, improving communication, and resolving conflict.
Benefits of Co-Parent Therapy
Co-parent therapy can help you put your hurt and anger aside to move forward while remaining the best parent you can be.
The main benefits of co-parent therapy include the following:
1. Reducing Conflict
Separation and divorce can be challenging to navigate. Co-parents may deal with the same issues they had in their romantic relationship, resulting in conflict and difficulties moving forward.
Power struggles and arguments can become the norm, impacting the children’s and parents’ mental well-being and getting in the way of any future relationship.
Co-parent therapy can help parents learn how to resolve conflicts and set healthy boundaries to avoid falling back into past complaints.
They learn to focus on a strictly co-parenting relationship while also gaining the skills to prevent future conflict, like being more understanding and making decisions solely based on the children’s needs.
2. Improving Communication
Healthy communication is one of the most essential aspects of co-parenting and is sometimes the most difficult.
Co-parent therapy can teach parents effective communication strategies that focus on the children and help end conflicts so each parent can move forward in their own life.
These can include only communicating about the kids, exchanging information without prying into each other’s lives or bringing up the past, addressing problems without shifting blame, and scheduling events or timesharing that focuses on the children.
3. Learning Helpful Parenting Strategies
Regardless of the divorce or separation circumstances, the events can be stressful, resulting in parenting taking a back seat as conflict with ex-partners becomes the main driving force.
Co-parent therapy can help reconnect your purpose as parents so you can put your focus back on parenting and becoming the best parent you can be despite the change in circumstances.
Parents can learn effective strategies like consistency between households to give the kids a sense of normalcy, understanding what their kids express or feel, and working as a team on behavioral problems or discipline issues.
Types of Co-Parent Counseling
The approach of the co-parenting counselor can differ depending on your family situation or the issues you’re dealing with.
Some common types of co-parent counseling include:
1. Communication Counselling
The counselor will evaluate how co-parents communicate, determine positive or negative aspects, and help them learn the skills they need to improve.
It can include teaching them how to manage their frustrations, avoid accusations, focus on the kids, and speak respectfully to one another.
2. Conflict Resolution Counseling
The counselor can help parents anticipate conflicts, like disagreements on custody arrangements, and teach them how to resolve them.
Although co-parents may not always agree on every decision, they can learn how to express their feelings respectfully and work toward a compromise or joint resolution in the kids’ best interest.
3. Co-Parenting Plan Counseling
This involves helping parents create and execute a plan for co-parenting and providing a supportive environment to address potential obstacles.
Co-parents can discuss navigating appointments, custody, or functions and can be referred to therapy if the counselor feels additional support is necessary.
What Are the Goals of Co-Parent Counseling?
The goals of co-parent counseling include reducing conflict among parents and helping children cope with stresses involved with separation or divorce.
Such purposes are usually attained by increasing the parent’s awareness of the children’s experiences, imparting conflict resolution skills, improving communication, and prioritizing the kids’ needs above all else.
Goals can vary depending on the family’s needs and situation.
Co-parents can determine their own goals and get input from the counselor while court-mandated co-parent counseling can have predetermined goals.
What Do You Talk About in Co-Parent Counseling?
What you talk about will depend on your family’s needs and the approach used by the counselor.
It can involve discussing the needs of the children and building upon shared concerns, searching for solutions, and exchanging information on priorities.
You can also talk about how your thoughts and behaviors impact your co-parenting so you can resolve issues through authentic compassion, empathy, and concern for the kids.
Do the Children Participate in Co-Parent Counseling?
Children are encouraged to participate in co-parent counseling and should meet with the counselor early in the process to allow more time for free and honest processing of thoughts and feelings.
It will enable the child to express how they feel about the divorce or separation and to find solutions to any issues resulting from the change.
The children can learn healthy coping skills instead of resorting to angry outbursts, how to transition between two different households, and how to deal with friends and peers who ask questions about the split.
Court-Ordered Co-Parent Counseling
Court-ordered co-parent counseling is ordered when the parents and family attorneys fail to agree or reach a resolution about child custody or visitation.
The court may require counseling for up to a year to minimize conflict and ensure the child’s best interests are met by promoting effective communication between the co-parents and the child.
High-Conflict Co-Parent Counseling
Co-parent counseling is only suitable for co-parents experiencing mild to moderate conflict levels.
It can also benefit parents who are experiencing high conflict levels over one issue but can generally cooperate and work together.
However, co-parent counseling isn’t suitable for high conflict that is persistent and intractable or where parties have been involved in domestic violence.
Co-Parent Counseling With a Narcissist
Participating in co-parent counseling with a narcissist can be challenging, but it’s essential that you go in with an open mind, sincerity, and a ready-to-cooperate attitude.
Avoid defeating yourself ahead of time, and allow the therapist to see your ex-partner’s uncooperative nature.
Even if you think your ex-partner won’t agree, suggest some goals a normal person would agree to and let the counselor see how they operate.
Co-Parent Therapy Techniques
Counselors can use techniques like:
Strategic Problem Solving
This involves identifying the issues at hand and focusing on negotiating choices and solutions as objectively as possible instead of focusing on the emotional reasons behind the problems.
The needs of the children are the priority and not you or your ex-partner’s emotional wants, needs, or desires.
Therapeutic Problem Solving
This involves a more emotional way of resolving issues by looking at the psychological factors driving conflict and hindering negotiations.
Co-Parent Counseling Cost
You can expect to pay $100 to $250 or more per session for co-parent counseling. Costs can vary depending on the counselor’s experience, qualifications, or location.
Is Co-Parenting Counseling Covered by Insurance?
Co-parenting counseling can only be covered by insurance if you’re seeking co-parent counseling without a court referral.
It can be under a family therapy code or if one of the parents is diagnosed with a mental health condition for reimbursement purposes.
However, co-parenting counseling cannot be covered by insurance when ordered by a judge, and the court order will state who pays.
Tips for Choosing a Co-Parent Counselor
You can search for counselors licensed in your state who specialize in working with parenting or divorce issues.
You can conduct searches on online therapist directories or through health insurance companies and customize your search for co-parenting topics.
Co-Parent Counseling Online
Co-parent counseling online makes it more accessible, affordable, and convenient to access co-parenting counselors and therapists.
Some platforms like BetterHelp offer quick access to therapists specializing in co-parenting, and you only need to complete an online questionnaire to get matched.
Co-parent counseling can help resolve any issues with your ex-partner that can hinder you from being the best parent you can be.
You can learn how to resolve conflict, improve communication, and employ effective parenting strategies suitable for changing circumstances.
Jayme is a professional writer, vegan nutritionist, and relationship & communications counselor. As an avid reader, researcher, and writer, she is constantly expanding her interests and looking into new avenues of mental health awareness and self-care. She lives with her two rescue dachshunds in Hampshire in the United Kingdom.