My Interview with Sallyanne Hartnell of Reflect Coaching

A few weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down and talking with Sallyanne Hartnell, principal divorce coach at Reflect Coaching.

It was a great conversation, covering a wide range of topics like:

  • What is divorce coaching?

  • Why has Sallyanne chosen to coach people through their divorce or separation?

  • How can a divorce coach help the other advisers in somebody’s ‘divorce team’?

  • What are some of Sallyanne’s tips to help people ‘step out of their story’ through – and after – their divorce.

We’ll be releasing snippets of our chat over the coming weeks, but I thought I’d post the transcript of our discussion here for those keen to learn more.

Anybody with questions can reach Sallyanne via her website – – and also keep up to date with her LinkedIn profile, and her Instagram page – .

Here’s the transcript of our chat, with some light editing for clarity:

Jordan VakaOkay. So, we’ve spoken a little bit around what you do and sort of how it happens.

But I’m curious to find out a bit more around why you’re doing it.

Sallyanne Hartnell: Basically, my business came about from a need that I felt was not being met for these clients –  women who are either newly or about to be separated or have just gone through the divorce process whereby they have a lawyer, they have really well-meaning and loving family and friends around them.

They might have a psychologist or a counselor, but they don’t have someone who can be really objective that can help them step through all the decisions that need to be made, where they’re going to live, how they’re going to work, how they’re going to co-parent with their ex-partner.

They really need an objective guide and support person.

And when I divorced 12 years ago, it just didn’t exist.

So I’ve developed the business to support, to offer the support that I felt I really needed and that other women have told me they need.

JV: You mentioned that there was a lack of — something was missing when you went through your divorce.

So obviously the standard picture for a lot of people is that you have your lawyer or maybe an accountant, when you go through the process.

Where does the coaching aspect fit into the team that people should be building around them when they go through divorce?

SH: As a coach, I am basically a sounding board, an objective guide, someone who’s been there before and done it and come through the process.

So I have experience, I have knowledge.

I’m not your best friend. I’m actually much, much like a sporting coach on your guide.

And I can help clients gain clarity around how they communicate with the other professionals in their team, with their kids, with their ex-partner, even with their family.

Just to step them through the process. I’m actually, I actually find too that coaching is more a long-term process.

So we’re looking at way out at the end point, not just getting a woman from deciding to separate and through the divorce and the tick, there’s your little divorce certificate.

I’m looking at how they want their life to look and feel at the very end point.

JV: So that long-term perspective is really interesting, because going through a divorce is a series of very short term, very urgent decisions that people have to make.

You’re suggesting that the coaching role is more like, “Hey, once we get past this ‘rough patch’” – or however you want to put it – “who’s the person you want to be in a year, five years, ten years’ time?”.

Is that a bit of a challenge to get people’s mindset to shift out of that short term immediacy into a longer term perspective?

SH: It’s a big challenge.

As you know, people going through divorce are completely overwhelmed and that is where a coach can really support a client to overcome that overwhelm.

Just to step back, break it down into manageable chunks in that short term, immediate, really difficult and emotional phase.

Once they’ve navigated that short-term space, then they can put their head up and think, “okay, what’s next?”.

And again, that’s the second phase of coaching.

Taking a client from “where am I now?” to “where do I want to be”, in not just one or two years, but I talk five, 10, 15 years.

How do you want it to look way out there?

Let’s start by defining that endpoint and then bring it back and create steps, incremental steps, to get there.

So your original question was, is it challenging? Yes, it is!

A client needs to be willing to step out of their story, stop that, churning emotion and be able to put pause on some of those really powerful emotions – the anger, grief, sadness, overwhelm, confusion – and be able to put pause on those.

 JV: We were talking about how the conflict between that long-term perspective that you’re bringing into it – to encourage people to look into their future looks they’re walking towards inevitably – and the short term immediacy and the emotional impact.

I would imagine that taking the time to step out of that short-term process would be incredibly beneficial for people to think about their future. But, also, people are really bad at prioritizing themselves.

How does that play out in your experience?

SH: I really challenge my clients to put themselves as number one priority.

To be like the oxygen mask analogy. If you don’t look after yourself, particularly as a mother and a woman — they are my clients, so that’s who I’m speaking about – if you’re not prioritizing yourself and your own self care, health, well-being, emotional, mental, physical, you can’t take care of anyone else.

You can’t take care of your kids and you most certainly can’t make objective decisions that have value long-term.

If you’re not prioritizing your own self-care, wellbeing, you’re going to make ad hoc decisions, which may not be in your own long-term best interests.

JV: Yeah. That change of perspective is really important. You’ve mentioned in the past that they need to “step out of their story” and you said in the past that people can get stuck in their story.

Could you expand on that though?

SH: Every relationship has its story, history, how you met, how long you’ve been together, what’s happened in that relationship.

Coaching is different from counseling or psychology-based practice in that we look at where a client is currently and where they want to go, rather than unpack the history and the baggage and go over it and work at how you got where you got.

My clients are where they are. I help them define that and to do that they really need to let go of some of the story.

So was there infidelity, were there financial issues, was there difficulty communicating?

Then the story stops there, and we move from where the client is to where they want to be.

That’s what I mean by getting a client to get out of their own way or get out of their story, especially if it’s on repeat.

If it’s on repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, a client can’t move forward.

So in order to work with a coach, you need to be willing to let go of that and move forward. Otherwise we get nowhere.

JV: You mentioned they’re working with the coach and you mentioned earlier as well that you’re not going to be their best friend.

So, is that fair to say that there is a bit of work involved for the client in this process?

SH: Absolutely. Coaching is a process which is client driven.

So you really need as a coaching client to be willing to step out of your story to stop that spin and move forward.

There’s work to be done, whether it be on your emotional intelligence, on your finances, on your finance story, whatever it is.

Between sessions with a coach with me, my clients are doing their work.

JV: And so the mechanics of that are – we sit down, you’ll have a discussion with a client, I’m assuming here, but you talk about what they were talking about previously, you talk about the challenges they’re facing now and then there’s some homework involved?

SH: Absolutely.

So in an initial coaching session, we will work on defining where the client is right now, whether it be in their current relationships, their communication style, their financial situation, their work life, where they’re living, co-parenting, solo parenting, all of those elements of life.

We define where they are.

And then we’ll define where they want to be.

So that means setting goals around what they want their life to look and feel like.

It’s not just a mechanic, coaching’s not just a mechanical list tick, you know, ticking off the list I should say.

It’s about how you want your life to look and feel in the future.

So we set goals, that’s basically first session and then each session thereafter we’ll set action points that a client needs to follow through on between sessions.

So that’s the work.

JV: And so I guess that also lets them see their progress.

SH: Absolutely. So those action steps need to be measurable. The goals that we set and need to be objectifiable so that you can measure progress towards them.

JV: Because, I mean coaching, some people are quite resistant to the idea.

It’s, as you mentioned, it’s not been around very long in terms of the divorce process, but seeing that sort of tangible progress, it must help people a great deal?

SH: Oh, it does. It’s really powerful.

And a lot of my clients get to the end of their coaching series and it’s only then that they look back – and I step through this as part of the process – we actually do a review and say, okay, in the beginning you were here.

And then we did this, and then you did that and then you did this and now you’re here.

And that realization of how far they’ve come on that journey can be really emotional. But it’s really powerful.

JV: And it’s the fact that you mentioned, they did it, they did it, they did it. That must multiply that effect as well.

SH: Yeah. It’s like anything, if you do it yourself, you learn — you learn really powerful lessons.

Some things work, some things don’t.

But you learn what works for you, and my clients learn that and they take those lessons and they apply them to their lives beyond the coaching series.

So, it really is empowering and life changing.

JV: So we’ve talked a little bit about that process of mechanics, but I’m curious to find out what a successful outcome is for you.

If you could talk about what does the client look like when they come to see you?

What are some of the characteristics and by the end of the process, where would you like them to be?

SH: Generally – and regardless of where a client is in the divorce journey – generally my clients come when they’re overwhelmed, they’re second guessing every decision they need to make, because there are so many massive decisions to be made.

They are often grieving, sad, angry, all of that in the mix and just feeling really vulnerable and not knowing where to turn — a little bit like a deer in headlights.

The process is about overcoming that overwhelm.

So where do they end up? As I said before, coaching is about setting a longer-term goal. So, a successful process or successful coaching journey is about a client achieving that goal.

Whether that is standing at their kid’s birthday party and next to their ex-husband or whether that’s redefining their work life so that it fits around kids and co-parenting. So it’s really dependent on the client, but it’s about setting a goal, incrementally taking actions and plans to step towards it and then achieving it.

JV: That makes a lot of sense. All right. It’s very similar to the way we work, I think. Definitely a very different part of the client’s experience.

So that’s, yeah, it makes a lot of sense.

SH: I guess both parts, both processes, yours and mine is about guiding, teaching and empowering.

It’s those three sorts of things where you’re the expert, but you want to make sure that your client ends up as their own expert.

JV: And up to the point of making, that you don’t have to do the work.

Like you’re helping the client discover what work they should be doing themselves because if we do everything for them, you’re not getting anywhere.

SH: Exactly.

JV: Ideally, and it sounds silly, but we should be making ourselves redundant, almost.

SH: Yeah, I really like that idea, but my job is to coach myself out of a job.

JV: I think that’s a really, yeah, it’s just really powerful for me because it is such a moment of tumultuous uncertainty.

We’ve talked a little bit about the team that people should build around them and obviously a big part of that are their lawyers.

The lawyers are focusing on one particular area of the experience. And then I never really realized how much extra work they do in that area.

Can you talk a little bit about how your work can intersect with the lawyer’s approach – and some of the benefits of lawyers in that case?

SH: How does it intersect? As you said, Jordan, so much of what lawyers, family lawyers end up doing is not actually about law.

Their expertise lies in law, so — intersection of coaching and law allows a client to be more fully, emotionally, supported and practically supported so that the lawyer can focus on the legal stuff.

I’m not a legal expert. I don’t touch the legal stuff, but I work in all of the other areas.

Communication, self-esteem, self-confidence, even organization. So, for instance, I’m making sure that clients know what they need to take to a legal meeting.

And also I think really importantly, coaching clients work with me on determining where they’re willing to compromise, what are their absolute non-negotiables, and how they can communicate that calmly and clearly and, and unemotionally to their legal team, but also to, their soon-to-be ex-partner.

JV: So according to the lawyers that I’ve spoken to, that part – the emotional part – can be a bit challenging.

I mean that, to put it very simply, they have to take instructions from the client and to navigate them through a very complex process because that client is having a lot of trouble to emotionally process what’s going on.

Making those instructions can be really hard. So is it fair to say that for lawyers, coaching can remove some of that emotional bandwidth of the discussion?

SH: Exactly, yup. A coaching client is much more set, emotionally supported.

They can run ideas past someone who offers an objective opinion. My coaching clients will bring a whole heap of ideas and concepts together and we’ll knock it out together.

JV: And having that capacity then of them being emotionally supported out of the lawyer’s meeting room, that must help with the decision-making process as well.

Particularly because they’ve got goals and objectives set.

So, would you encourage your clients to talk with a lawyer about their goals and objectives?

SH: Yes, yes. Particularly if I’ve worked with a client to define their end goal, how do they want it to look in five- or 10-years’ time, if that’s communicated to a lawyer or to a legal team, the team knows that the outcome everybody’s working towards is a calm, amicable, relatively simple solution.

One whereby the two ex-partners, co-parents can stand together at weddings or at significant events.

And if everybody’s on that same page, then conflict is minimized.

And the lawyers can support the client by saying, if I do that, X, Y, Z, if I send that letter or if I communicate that to your ex partner’s law legal team, that’s not in support of what you said you most wanted.

JV: That’s great, yeah. So, the legal process can be put in support of their longer-term goals.

SH: Exactly.

JV: Which isn’t something a lot of clients take the time to define.

Thanks so much Sallyanne. As we’re wrapping up, I just thought I’d ask you, how can people actually to get in contact with you?

SH: So, my website is , phone number is on the website, shoot me an email.

There’s an opportunity for a complimentary 45-minute consultation whereby we work out whether I’m a good coach for you, what you need, and, you know, what your next steps are.

JV: Fantastic, thanks a lot.

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