05 - Divorce Coach, Tara Eisenhard
Did you know that using a Divorce Coach can help you minimize your legal wrangling? Tara Eisenhard shares what a Divorce Coach is and how they can help families get through the divorce process with more ease and grace.
Tara Eisenhard is a passionate divorce coach who believes that families should evolve, not dissolve, through the divorce process. She is the author of The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes and the blog, Relative Evolutions.
Your host, Christina Vinters, is a nationally designated Chartered Mediator on a mission to inspire and facilitate healthy family transitions. She is an “ex” Divorce Lawyer (Non-Practicing Member of the Bar), Author of Pathways to Amicable Divorce, and the DIY Divorce Manual, and Peacemaking Business Consultant.
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Christina: Hi everyone! Today we're going to be talking about divorce coaching. Divorce Coaching is a really interesting new service, relatively new. You've heard about the sports coach, the life coach, the business coach. Today you're gonna learn about how a divorce coach can fit into your separation process and help you find your footing and make decisions on your process that will help to go smoothly for you.
Today I'm talking to Tara Eisenhard. Tara is a passionate divorce coach who believes that families should evolve, not dissolve, through the divorce process. She also does mediation and is the author of The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child's Eyes. She also is a regular blogger and blogs under the name Relative Evolutions. Tara provides some great analogies and ways of thinking about how a divorce coach can help you in your circumstances. Let's jump into the interview.
Christina: Welcome, Tara! Thank you so much for joining me today.
Tara: Thanks so much for having me! I'm happy to talk.
Christina: So, I'm excited to have you share with our listeners a little bit about yourself – you're doing a combination of some really interesting work, and yes. So tell us what brought you into the field of divorce?
Tara: Well, my parents actually separated when I was 13, and they had a very good divorce. So it was a positive experience in my family. I grew up thinking that divorce was a really good thing overall. And unfortunately, I grew up and I got divorced, which was not unfortunate. That was great, I also had a good divorce. But when I told people that I was getting divorced, that's when I realized that unfortunately, my experience is not very normal. And so for a lot of people, divorce is a horrible experience that tears families apart. And I wanted to know why. So I started to... First I was just curious for my own information and I did some research and started to kinda go down this rabbit hole where I was learning everything that I could about divorce and how could it be better than it is, and why it is the way it is. And eventually, it just continued to ignite this passion within me to change the way that we talk about divorce and change the way that we approach divorce in our culture and try to make it better for more people. So at this point, it's been about 11 years since my divorce and I am now a divorce coach, I'm an author, I'm a mediator. And really just trying to spread the word that divorce can be a positive experience and a really healing thing for a family.
Christina: That's fantastic! I'm really excited to share with people your positive approach. Because I think people are really inundated with a lot of negative assumptions and stories that they've heard from people. And you're in a somewhat of a new and growing area which is divorce coaching. So can you tell us a little bit about what exactly is that?
Tara: So divorce coaching can mean different things. Sometimes you might see the word and its associated with more of like comfier service – somebody that's going to help you fill out paper work, for instance. I don't get involved in any of the actual legal process. My focus is a directional one. I work with my clients primarily on a one-on-one basis to help them to really get some self-awareness around what their goals are, what is working for them, what's not working. And then we try to put together a plan to help them strategize, how to get where they wanna be at the end of all of this and really throughout the process. As they're transitioning and transforming to find their new normal and birth their new life.
Christina: And how would you say that that compares with counseling? I think because this is a new area, it's something people aren't really familiar with. They wouldn't have heard, maybe their friends or family members talking about it. So how do you make that distinction?
Tara: So there's a really great analogy that I'd like to use involving a suitcase. And if you have a suitcase, and you take it to a therapist or counselor, that person is going to help you open the suitcase, will get how you packed, did you pack appropriately, what does it mean whether you folded your clothes, do you have enough room in the suitcase, is time to buy new clothes, that kinda thing and really dig deep into that suitcase. If you take the suitcase to a coach, the coach is gonna say to you, “OK, where is that that you wanna take the suitcase and travel to?” And then you tell them, and the coach is gonna say, “Well, here are some bus schedules and some train schedules and some plane schedules. Let's talk about the best way for you to get from here to there.” So really easy way to sum it up is therapy and counseling is a deep process; coaching is a directional one.
Christina: Oh, that's a fantastic analogy, I really liked that! That's very visual. It really helps wrap your mind around that whole concept. So you're helping people navigate the divorce process and make decisions about how they want to move through. For example, the various legal processes might be one. Do you get into the emotional aspects at all? Or will that be something that you would refer out for example if somebody is having emotional barriers? Do you then help them with the process of choosing a counselor?
Tara: I can help them to decide what kind of help they need. So just for instance, I have a program where one of the modules talks specifically about emotions and we talk about what healthy healing means, and for instance, if we talk about emotional wounds the way that we would look at a physical wound on your body. If you have a physical wound on your body, you need to know is this something that you can treat at home? Do you need to go to a doctor? If you need to go to a doctor, do you need to see a specialist? Is it necessary for you to get stitches or have surgery? Do you need ongoing therapy and ongoing treatment? So there's lots of variables that can come into play. And what I do on the emotional side is I really just help people to look at kind of how deep that emotional wound really is, and what kind of help do they need, if they need some additional therapy. Do they need to have, you know, medication for instances that something's going to help them, or would it help just to go and have somebody to talk to, and how often is that going to, you know, therapy gonna be necessary for them. That kinda thing.
Christina: Hmm, OK. And what kinds of issues would you say are pretty common that you're finding that a lot of your clients are experiencing while they're going through the separation?
Tara: Well, some really common issues are, for one, just kind of the sense of overwhelm. “What do I do next? My mom tells me to do this, my sister tells to do this. My best friend wants me to do this. My lawyer tells me that we need to do this.” So I work with people on kind of taking out that external chatter and really focusing on what their individual goals are. Another big one is the communication with the ex. “You know, every time I talk to my ex-husband on the phone or my soon-to-be-ex, you know we get into a huge argument and we spend 3 hours screaming at each other while the kids are waiting for dinner in another room,” or something like that. So, work with people around ways that they can be more productive in that communication. Setting those personal boundaries in their communication with their ex or even maybe some other family members, too, when we're talking about that overwhelming person giving advice. So setting boundaries and creating rules around which they're gonna function in this new kind of relationship.
Christina: That's fantastic! I think that is a much-needed service. I think they need to learn a new way of communicating and particularly if they're gonna be co-parenting in the future. Because they're in a place now where obviously their communication did not serve them well during the relationship. So they need to find a way to shift that so that they're not experiencing that same pain and frustration for years to come.
Tara: Yes. Absolutely.
Christina: And so what does your process for working with clients look like? In terms of frequency, do you have packages, do you have online options?
Tara: I do. And, so there's two different ways of how I work with people. I do have online courses, I have my kinda signature courses called Divorce Made Doable. It's a six-week program and there's a virtual classroom. Each week is a different module, and then I also offer additional support with that. So we have a Facebook group, we do weekly conference calls and anybody who signs up for that course gets two one-on-one coaching sessions with me. Each week is a different topic and it's planned ahead of time. The other way that I work with people is to do a one-on-one coaching. And in that case, I meet them wherever they are, and whatever it is that they need to talk about in their unique situation. So it might be communication with the ex. It might be I don't know what to do next. I need to you know, figure out my budget. Or, I'm getting too much overwhelming information from other people. I don't know what to do with my kids, you know, as far as how I'm talking to them and how I'm presenting myself to them. All kinds of different things that can come into play there. And as far as the individual piece is concerned, I do have a package price for people that want to book multiple sessions at once. But not everybody needs a lot, you know. It just kinda depends – I usually recommend once a week is kind of a good, you know it's a good frequency to touch base, check in. Coaching always involves some kind of homework, some kind of follow up. So there's somewhere to go when this session is over. People know what they need to do next. But, you know, if it's a small issue, sometimes one session is enough. And if it's an ongoing kinda thing that you wanna get deeper and go broader, then you know, they might talk to me for multiple sessions. Five, ten, whatever.
Christina: OK, it's nice to know you're flexible with that. So you can meet people where they are. And for the course, is that geared towards people who are at the very beginning of the separation process?
Tara: The course is actually, and really any of my services are geared toward anybody at any stage. The content and the approach that I have is basically that, you know, our core needs as human beings apply, regardless of whether I've been separated for two minutes, two months, or twenty years. Because there's issues that are unique to that separation process. If they're continuing to be issues, things like communication from my ex, and people telling me what I need to be doing. Those are things that persist. So, it really doesn't matter. I've had people take the course that are still living together and they just know that their marriage is over and they don't know what to do next. They're looking to get a good start. And then I've had people go through the program that have actually been divorced for several years. And they're just looking for ways to kind of wrap it all up and kind of get some closure around it, and feel better emotionally, and know for sure that this is what I'm gonna do to put this chapter to bed and turn into a new one.
Christina: For those people who have some financial concerns, I think it's quite common for people to be worried about involving more professionals than they need to. You touched on the pricing piece a little bit earlier. I wonder if you could comment a bit on how coaching might compare to legal fees or counselor's fees. And whether this is the kind of thing that might actually be preventative, you know if you do some coaching, maybe that will help reduce fees in other areas. Can you comment on that?
Tara: Absolutely! And one of the things that I tell people is that quite often, the more professionals you involve in your process, the more you can control the cost of the process. Which really doesn't sound like it makes sense until you start to think about what the process looks like when you're taking everything to separate attorneys who are not necessarily skilled in dealing with, for instance, the emotional aspects of it. Or goal-setting. Things along those lines. So, working with a coach... the cost of coaching is less than the cost of working with an attorney. And that can, the prices of attorneys vary obviously by hundreds of dollars an hour. So the coaching cost can save you hundreds of dollars an hour, over working with the attorney. And then also knowing, through coaching, knowing, if we go back to that emotional wound. Being able to figure out where do I wanna go, what kind of help do I need with this, do I need to talk to a financial adviser, you know if my ex and I both go to, like a divorce financial analyst. Where that's one professional that is neutral that's helping both of us as opposed to paying two separate attorneys, to fight and communicate for us. Which is obviously going to cost a lot more money in the long run.
Christina: And so with coaching, you've got the benefit of helping make decisions that are really aligned with the person's own goals and the potential financial savings. Are there any risks or anybody for whom you think coaching wouldn't be appropriate?
Tara: Well it depends on the individual. And basically, you know, it comes down to whether or not somebody is ready for coaching, whether or not it's an appropriate outlet. And it's not appropriate for everybody. Coaching, like I said, it's a directional process. And so, you know I always talk to people before we start to schedule sessions, just to make sure that we're kind of on the same wavelength and that coaching is going to be an appropriate thing for them. For somebody who is not ready to let go of the past, somebody who isn't ready to begin to take those kinds of steps forward, even if its baby steps. In that case, therapy might be a much better option to kinda help get unstuck emotionally before, you know, they're ready to run out and start setting new goals and kind of run that marathon.
Christina: OK that's a really good point. Now, what advice would you have for people who are at the beginning stages of their separation?
Tara: So my number one piece of advice, and it's actually two-fold. The first piece is to get honest. And be honest with yourself, with your partner, about the state of the relationship. A lot of times, things start to go downhill and you've got one person saying “This is over” and the other person saying, “Oh no, how can you give up?”, which is how my process started out. But you know when people are able, to be honest about the current state of a marriage and if I'm really honest I don't want to be married to somebody who doesn't wanna be married to me. Once you have that kind of clarity, you can reach that place of acceptance and be able to move forward much easier. The other piece is really self-awareness. Because when we know what our needs are when we know what our goals are, we're so much better equipped to move forward in a productive manner as opposed to just being angry and being in this place of misery, and wanting nothing more than for somebody else to feel miserable too.
Christina: Absolutely, and that does not go anywhere positive, does it?
Tara: No. Never.
Christina: So what is exciting in your business right now that you would like people to know about? That they might find helpful as well?
Tara: Well, probably the most exciting thing is that I'm also working to put together some other online options. We don't have them out right now but you can continue to look at my website and see what's, you know, what's new, what's going on there. And then you know, as always, I'm just really, in general, passionate about helping people. I absolutely love divorce, which is a very unique thing to say. I'm told everybody's very shocked when I say that. But I love divorce. I think it can be a wonderful, beautiful and healing process and I'm really eager to help people kind of make the best of their situation and help their family evolve in a respectful and peaceful manner.
Christina: And you're also pro-marriage though, so you wanna share both sides of that? You just recently get married again, didn't you?
Tara: I did! I did! I am absolutely pro-marriage. Not that I hate marriage. But I did... I got married in January of this year. And my outlook on it is really that.. You know I think that partnership were... as human beings, we're hardwired for connection and so partnerships come very easily for us. We wanna share our lives with another person. I think that love, in general, is wonderful and beautiful. And I love the idea of two people taking the world together and making the most of their bad situations, and kind of coming through it as a team. But I also see that as human beings, we grow and we change every single day. And when a relationship is appropriate in your 20s, it might not be appropriate in your 30s. The person that you wanna raise your children with is not necessarily the person that you wanna be retired with. And I don't think that any relationship should survive at the expense of its participants. So I think that as we grow and change, sometimes relationships do, too. And that's why I see divorce as a solution to a problem. It's, you know, divorce isn't a problem. Marriage isn't a problem. It's just that people grow and change and as we move through life, we need different solutions to be able to make the most of where we are.
Christina: Exactly. Because happy marriages don't end in divorce.
Tara: That's very true!
Christina: Only the unhappy ones.
Christina: So I just wanted to quickly circle back and make sure that it's clear for people. So you've got the online course – do you work with people on an individual basis, both in person and online? Or is it just one or the other?
Tara: I can work with people in person or online. I'm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the United States. So locally, you know I'd be happy to meet with people but if there's somebody that is on the other side of the country or on the other side of the continent, I would be happy to meet with them via Skype or telephone conversation.
Christina: Fantastic! And what are the best ways for our listeners to get in touch with you?
Tara: If they wanted to kinda just check me out, they can go to my website its taraeisenhard.com. I'm also on social media. I'm on Instagram, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter, I'm on LinkedIn. And as far as contacting me, they can go to my website. There's actually a contact form on there that will come right to me if somebody wants to make an appointment for a consultation, or they just have questions about our program or anything like that.
Christina: Perfect! OK, and we will have all of those links in the show notes for everyone.
Tara: Sounds great!
Christina: Excellent! Well, thank you for your time today Tara. I think this is an excellent service you're providing people, and you're gonna do a lot of great help.
Tara: Thank you so much!