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Do People Really Need Breakup Coaches to Deal with Heartbreak?

There is no shortage of professed wisdom on getting through heartbreak.

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There is no standard training for breakup coaches; their experience ranges from some time in the self-help aisle to life coaching workshops to decades as a traditional psychotherapist. Similarly, services include everything from in-person talk sessions to motivational email blasts generated from a Mad Libs–like form that you fill out. Some messaging is based on actual psychological principals, some on a you-go-girl mentality that is, shall we say, not so academic. (Consider  this e-card featuring a princess in a pink gown that reads,”A certain ‘PRINCE’ turned out to have frog-like tendencies. Please bear with me while I wipe away the taste of amphibian.”) It’s no surprise then that some coaches seem like respectable professionals, while others come off as total hucksters.

You might wonder, as I did, why someone would see a breakup coach as opposed to your standard insurance-covered therapist. Elliott argues that traditional talk therapy is “much less interactive” and “much more passive.” “I think that when people are going through a breakup, they want someone to guide them as to what to do,” she tells me. “None of us are really taught what to do in breakups, other than people saying stupid things like, ‘There are plenty of fish in the sea’ or ‘Go out and get a pedicure and manicure.’” Antonson, a former psychotherapist, says her new-found profession addresses the less serious cases. “Coaching is more for people who are functioning relatively well,” she says. “But breakups tend to cause most of us to kind of regress … so sometimes it can be a bit confusing whether a person needs breakup coaching or therapy.”

Or, you know, a good friend.


Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow@tracyclarkflory on Twitter.

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