Debi Richens is highly regarded for her Personal Evolution coaching work in Trauma, PTSD, Grief, and Loss. She has a particular interest in Parental Alienation, Grandparent Alienation and Estrangement. She has a firm belief that everyone should be afforded a voice and be heard, and often, they need hand holding to feel safe enough to have that voice.
The Founder of The Soul Phoenix Coaching & Mentoring, Debi has years of lived experience of supporting others. Her 20-year career in dentistry saw her specialising in mentoring patients who were carrying great fear and anxiety in having even basic treatments and investigations. Many have had complex treatments that would not have been possible without Debi’s support. In her personal life she has experienced a complex childhood, and life changing bereavements – her brother-in-law, and then three generations of the same side of the family. This caused huge disruption in her marriage which ended in divorce after 20 years. Along the way, she has dealt with severe health issues, and two near death experiences, as well as losing her only child to parental alienation. She found the journey of becoming a divorcee and alienated parent extremely isolating emotionally and financially and has worked through many challenges in rebuilding her life.
Although her working life has encompassed many experiences, and a lifelong learning journey of growing skills and knowledge, her Certification as a Grief Recovery Specialist changed her life completely, and she now uses all her skills and knowledge to support others through Trauma, PTSD, Grief, and Loss.
Debi is experienced and available for one-to-one support, training, workshops, speaking opportunities, and media interviews. She is a regular podcast guest, and contributor to articles on parental and grandparent alienation.
Thank you for interviewing with us today, can you introduce yourself to us?
I am a Specialist Coach in the world of family alienation and estrangement. As a child from a fractured family, and a parent/grandparent living with alienation and estrangement, I have a keen interest in supporting women to unearth themselves from the emotional and physical pain that alienation and estrangement brings to life. It is my mission to ensure that other women don’t experience the depth of devastating experiences that I have had and learn how to heal and restore themselves in a more effective and empowering way. Another part of my remit is to change the way government and the law sees and understands the issues of alienation and estrangement and the impact these are having upon society.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
Even though I grew up in a fractured family, I didn’t understand the dynamics of this type of life until I started to experience it through the devastating divorce and post-divorce abuse that I experienced from 2005, along with the financial and health hardships that this divorce brought into my world.
From being separated from my only child within 24 hours of asking for a divorce, through financial abuse created to make it impossible for me to have my child in my life, and emotional abuse from others who involved themselves in the divorce, along with two lifesaving surgeries directly related to the emotional abuse I experienced. I can safely say, I have plenty of life experience and understanding now.
I experienced levels of post-divorce domestic abuse that were horrific, not only from my ex-husband and the people he brought into the divorce arena, but also from my only child who had been very heavily influenced by the adults around her. She was 14 when we were separated. The slander, towards me, around her wedding in 2015, was a particularly harrowing experience. She is 32 now, and a mother to two little girls of 8 and nearly 6.
I felt broken and couldn’t explain the complex emotions that I was experiencing that were having such a painful effect on my trying to move forward in life. Being told by one GP that I was a ‘neurotic divorcee’ and another that I was ‘depressed’ was soul destroying. I felt totally unheard, until I learned that I was experiencing acute grief. This changed my whole world, and I took the step to become a Grief Recovery Specialist in 2019.
Along the way, I also experienced being estranged by my middle brother after our father died. He would not deal with his grief and took his anger and pain out on me. When I stood up to him, he completely cut me out of his life. That was September 2013. He died in May 2022 without resolution to our estrangement.
Throughout this journey, I cared for my new partner’s mother who had Alzheimer’s, and my own mother, who had a variety of health issues throughout my whole life. They have both since died.
Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?
Predominantly, when I first started, I was working with a variety of grief issues. I had an idea that I wanted to work with people such as myself but at that time felt I needed to gain more experience and some clarity around how I did my coaching. Now, I have niched right down into family breakdown and estrangement, particularly women living with parental alienation, and or, grandparent alienation.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so, how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?
I am a Business Mentor through the Santander Breakthrough Women in Business Program. I joined the programme as a mentee in 2019, when I set up Berkshire Grandparents Support Group, and they were so impressed with my commitment and growth within the programme that they invited me back to be a mentor in 2020. I have continued to mentor each year since.
Mentoring has allowed me to give solid support to my mentees, whilst giving me back continued growth in my foundation. Santander provide a wealth of tools that are invaluable, an ongoing live support programme of workshops, and the community is incredibly supportive. Personally, and professionally this mentoring programme has allowed the growth of some extraordinary friendships that have supported my confidence and aspirations in my business.
What outlets do you use for marketing?
Presently, I use social media – Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for marketing my coaching practice.
What or Who has inspired you most recently?
Most recently, I have been inspired by a present client who has chosen to stay working with me as I support her with becoming visible in her own grief practice. She is the reason I do what I do.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
Never to say no to opportunities that present themselves, you never know where they will lead you.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I meditate regularly, go to a fitness hub several times a week, and create all kinds of art – I love painting. I keep in regular touch with friends and family worldwide. My partner and I walk regularly with our tripawed Jack Russell Macy – her favourite haunts are woodlands.
Name a seminal point in your career so far?
My seminal moment was completing the Grief Recovery Certification in 2019 – everything changed for me in that moment.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
My ultimate career satisfaction so far has been witnessing the changes for my clients and seeing them go on and thrive in a life they had only dreamed of before.
Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?
I had a great deal of time for Jacqueline Gold CBE, she stood tall in a man’s world, and created a thriving business, Ann Summers, that changed the lives of many women who lived with financial and emotional abuse.
How do you define your own success?
I define my own success by still being here, and still growing. Life has been a constant juxtaposition of events, often quite polarising, and I have consistently pushed through them to lift myself up to a place I never expected to be, and I am still going forward.
Finally, what can we expect from you next?
Alongside my coaching work, I work with a large number of parents, grandparents and academics worldwide who are working to create changes in law with regard to the behaviours of alienation that our children and grandchildren are presently experiencing, no matter where that behaviour comes from.
The UN Convention on The Rights of the Child that states in Article 18 (parental responsibilities and state assistance) Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their child and should always consider what is best for the child. Governments must support parents by creating support services for children and giving parents the help, they need to raise their children, and in Article 19 (protection from violence, abuse and neglect) Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them.
We believe children have a right to full familial access with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and wider family circle. My aim is to be a public voice for those who live in fear of speaking for themselves and their children/grandchildren. To this end, I am actively looking for ways that I can speak on radio, television and other mediums.