How Does Co-Parenting Therapy Work

Co-parenting therapy is a special kind of couples therapy for parents who are going through a separation and / or divorce.

Co-parenting therapy DOES NOT WORK when one or both of the separating parents cannot put their own hurt and anger aside for the greater good of their child(ren).

Common goals of co-parenting include helping separating or separated parents establish and maintain:

  • Clear lines of communication
  • Realistic expectations of one another
  • Appropriate boundaries
  • Smooth transitions between homes for the child(ren)
  • The child(ren) as their main priority

If parents cannot contain their anger with one another, it greatly burdens the child(ren). Some parents pull their children directly into the parental conflict by asking them to become "messengers" for information delivered to the other parent, or "spies" regarding the other parent's dating or work life. The damage caused by such actions may not be easily seen by parents, as not all children externalize their upset with tantrums. Some children internalize their emotional upset and become hypervigilant about trying to please each parent, at the expense of their own need to be a child. Others fear becoming angry themselves, instead suffering from headaches and stomachaches. Regardless of how the parental strife manifests itself in children, one thing is clear: the consequences can lead to long-term relational difficulty for the child.

If parents can get their act together, then their child won't be racked with anxiety about who's going to pick him up after school on Tuesday, and who's going to remember to pack his pajamas and lunch bag, and who's going to sign him up for soccer practice, and all the myriad details that are of paramount importance to a child's life.

Factors that can complicate or sabotage co-parenting therapy
  • Parents who are unable to "let go" of their own hurt and rage about the separation or divorce
  • Parents who try to use co-parenting therapy to re-hash the battles that precipitated the break up in the first place
  • Parents who try to use co-parenting therapy to find answers about the break up.
Factors that facilitate co-parenting therapy
  • Parents who are willing to let go of their own conflict in order to focus on the child(ren)
  • Parents who are interested in effective communication with one another
  • Parents who can (or are interested in) containing their own emotions.
How does coparenting therapy help the child(ren
  • The parents work on "adult" issues, allowing the child to remain a child
  • Reduced conflict between parents reduces a child's anxiety.


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