How to Use Your Strengths in Your Divorce,
An Interview with New York City Divorce Coach Kristin Davin
Kristin Davin is a psychologist and divorce coach in New York City. Kristin predominantly works with individuals, but also sees couples and has done an abundance of work with families going through the divorce process. Kristin has also provided best interest and custody evaluations to couples in need of an expert opinion.
Kristin was interviewed by Divorceify Co-founder Casey Shevin.
Casey Shevin: How would you describe your therapeutic approach to working with a divorce client?
Kristin Davin: I would describe it as strength-based and solution-focused treatment. I think that by and large, people come in with a set of problems and some issues to identify. However, I find that people also want to gain skills and strategies to make it easier to manage whatever it is they are going through, whether they’re contemplating separation and/or divorce, or whether they’re in the middle of the divorce process.
I help people visualize how they want things to be, articulate that and then set up short and long-term goals to attain that. It’s okay to talk about the problems and the issues, but it doesn’t really get you any farther along if you’re not really having a growth mindset of how can I come up with solutions?
Shevin: Divorce can really make you feel like your life is out of control – I imagine focusing on solutions really helps divorce clients regain a sense of control.
Davin: People have a tendency to focus on the things that they’re not doing well, rather than thinking about the things that they are doing well. “Oh, these are all things I’m doing wrong and these are all the things I can’t get right.” That could be true, but what about the things that you have been able to do well?
Generally, people have a few strengths that really rise to the top. I help my clients look for examples of other things that they’ve been successful at that might be similar to what they’re going through. So, when was another time that you were able to work through a problem or an issue that is very similar to this one and what were the skills that you were able to bring to the table to manage that? And how can you transfer and use those same skills to address the problem you are having right now?
When you’re going through any type of life transition you can be motivated by emotion. I help my clients think a little bit more rationally so that they can problem solve a little bit more effectively.
Shevin: As a divorce coach, what types of issues do you help divorcing couples address together in couples therapy?
Davin: I’ve worked with couples that are on the brink of divorce or on the brink of separation and I’ll do some discernment counseling with them or I will help them to figure out “Well, what individual changes need to be made by each person to determine if it’s going to be salvageable or not?”
I might have another couple that comes in and they want to talk about the rules of separation because maybe they’ve determined that at this time they don’t want to stay together, but how are they going to separate? And then I also work with people that have divorced and are dealing with through co-parenting issues.
Shevin: What are some of the reasons that a couple that has already decided to divorce might seek couples counseling?
Davin: Well, I think one of the predominant reasons is that they have children. If they weren’t able to communicate in their marriage, what makes them think they’re going to be able to communicate about their children effectively after divorce? It’s going to make things even more complicated.
If you have children, how are you going to talk to your children about getting divorced? That conversation will depend upon the developmental stage of the children, obviously.
When people come in for therapy together to talk about getting divorced, the goals of therapy are very different. People aren’t coming in to identify the problems. We’re talking about what their divorce is going to look like and how they are going to manage the ebbs and flows and the emotions that come with that. How they are going to manage their own stuff so that they don’t let that spill over onto their children and that family dynamic. And we talk about how their new family is going to look.
Shevin: Personally, I think going to counseling during divorce is one of the best things people can do for their children. Most people are very concerned about their kids’ well being during the divorce, and I think getting help managing their own emotions during the process and modeling that for their children this is the number one thing they can do for them.
What are some of the benefits of pre-marital counseling?
Davin: I provide an assessment of several different things — how you handle communication, conflict, family, in-laws, spiritual beliefs, children, lifestyle, daily habits – that clients take when they see me for pre-marital counseling. The assessment provides a lengthy report that highlights areas of strength, and areas of potential conflict, then we tackle some of those key areas.
I help couples have deeper, more exploratory conversations about things that are really important before they get married. When people say, “Well, we’re already engaged, why do that?” My questions are, “Well, why not? You might be surprised what you would uncover.”
Shevin: It’s almost like divorce prevention therapy.
Davin: I like that title. Here’s an example: Finances are one of the leading causes of divorce. Some people come to me and say, “Yeah, you know, we get along … we’re kind of on the same page,” but maybe they haven’t even really talked about it before. I ask people “What’s your relationship with money? Did you grow up with money? Do you have disposable income? Who makes more money? How do you feel about splitting costs? How do you feel about making purchases? Are you going to save? What about your long-term goals?” There are so many questions around someone’s view on money which leads into their emotional relationship with money, which is something that people don’t really even think about. It’s an exploratory conversation.
If you do the work at the front end, the likelihood of things backfiring at the backend is less. But if you don’t have those conversations and then a few years go by and you’re thinking, “Well, why didn’t we talk about that in the beginning?” Well, I don’t know, why didn’t you?
Shevin: As a divorce attorney I have noticed prenuptial agreements have become more popular. As the cultural norms and expectations around marriage shift, I think people are getting smarter about what does it mean to actually get married and how to make it a success.
Davin: And if you’re doing a prenup, why aren’t you doing premarital counseling?
Shevin: Divorce is typically seen as a negative in someone’s life, but you suggest it can be reframed as an opportunity to be embraced. How can embracing divorce turn it into a positive?
Davin: I’m not saying embrace it with, “Oh my God, this is going to be fabulous,” — it’s about how can you accept and embrace this time in your life and recognize it as an opportunity for growth. This can be a time of great personal development for yourself. You can make the changes you feel you need to make in your life. It’s about embracing the ups and downs that are inherent in change so that we can bring our best version of our self to our life. Run toward your life, not away from it.