In the January issue of the American Psychologist¹, the APA published practice guidelines for the role of parent coordinator. Didn’t know of that job? Neither did I…at least by this name.
What is parent coordination?
Per APA, “parent coordination is a nonadversarial dispute resolution process that is court ordered or agreed on by divorced and separated parents who have an ongoing pattern of hight conflict and/or litigation about their children…” (p. 64) The focus is on the best interests of the children. The essay suggests that the process is not typically confidential since the coordinator may need to interact with judges and other allied health advocates.
What is the focus of these guidelines?
In lay terms:
Guideline 1: keep your roles clear. Example: don’t offer therapy and coordination to the same people.
Guideline 2: Coordinators understand the key issues that will be at stake (e.g., impact of separation on children, abuse symptoms, etc.)
Guideline 3: Don’t be a coordinator unless you have competency (aware of biases, understand the problem of siding with one parent) and supervision
Guideline 4: Child safety is the primary focus
There were 4 more guidelines (be culturally aware, keep good records, follow good case management and billing practices, develop good professional relationships) but the first four are most focused on the clinical practice of parent coordination.
While these guidelines are basic, it is a good warning to many therapists who try to play a neutral role in managing estranged parent conflicts even while providing therapy to one or the other. This dual role rarely works well. But, counselors ought to consider this role for couples wishing to parent their children well even as they have divorced or are separated and considering divorce. No matter your views on divorce, it can only be helpful to children if their parents argue less about how to parent their children.
¹APA (2012). Guidelines for the practice of parenting coordination. American Psychologist, 67, 63-71.