Discernment Counseling (DC) is meant for “mixed agenda” couples; these are couples in which one person is not sure s/he wants to stay in or work on the relationship, and the other person is (although, those roles aren’t always static). We do DC because the research tells us that when we jump right into couples therapy and one person is back and forth about what they want, couples therapy almost always fails. Therefore, we do DC for several reasons:
- To help the “leaning out” person make a decision about whether they want to put separation/divorce off the table for 6 months and really work on the relationship, or move toward separation or divorce, or do nothing right now because they aren’t ready to do either one;
- To help the “learning in” person be their best self while the “leaning out” person is making that decision. Generally, that means helping them give the “leaning out” person space and not push them further away; and
- To help both people have a better understanding of their contribution to the deterioration of the relationship so that, regardless of the outcome of this relationship, they are able to go into a new relationship with new skills.
It is important to understand that DC is NOT couples therapy. You should not expect your relationship to improve during this time. Sometimes relationships do “improve“ because fighting stops, but nothing will fundamentally change. A major difference between couples therapy and DC is that I will be meeting with each of you individually and if you have things to say that you do not want the other one to hear, I can keep that information private during the DC process. If you end up proceeding to couples therapy, that information will come out; if you do not, the information stays private with me.
DC lasts up to 5 sessions. The first session is 2 hours long, and sessions 2-5 are 1.5 hours long. If you do 5 sessions and still have not decided on a path, it will be assumed that you are choosing the “do nothing” path, at which point, services with us will not continue until something changes in your life. Sometimes that means a referral to individual therapy, sometimes it just means that more time needs to pass.
Is Your Marriage on the Brink of Divorce?
Video features Bill Doherty, Ph.D., the developer of Discernment Counseling.
Please watch the video before responding to the following statement.
Choose the statement that best describes your situation:
- I'm done with this marriage; it's too late now even if my spouse were to make major changes.
- I have mixed feelings about divorce; sometimes I think it's a good idea and sometimes I am not sure.
- I would consider reconciling if my spouse got serious about making major changes.
- I don't want this divorce, and I would work hard to get us back together.
I'm done with this marriage; it's too late now even if my spouse were to make major changes.
If you are strongly leaning towards divorce because you feel done with the marriage, we can offer you two options.
One is short-term discernment counseling to help you take one more look at the decision and to help your spouse get clear as well about what's happened to the marriage.
If you end up sure you want to divorce, we can offer you personal help and referrals to good mediators and collaborative lawyers. We can assist you in making the best divorce possible with individual therapy, offering you a "family first" approach to the ups and downs of your divorce process. We are all about integrity and ensuring if you have children, that you do well by them as well as don't overreact and act badly towards your spouse. We can assist with reactions and emotions that come up for you with whatever your spouse is doing.
I have mixed feelings about divorce; sometimes I think it's a good idea and sometimes I am not sure.
You are a perfect candidate for Discernment Counseling.
If you are not ready yet, maybe you feel you want to sort through thoughts and feelings before sharing with your spouse. I can be a gentle yet challenging guide to help you see things more clearly.
Our belief is there is always more that we are doing individually to impact our spouse than we realize. Discernment Counseling is designed to offer clarity and confidence around your role in what got you to this point in your marriage and a direction you'd like to take it. There are three paths as the outcome of this 1-5 session work. Path 1, do not pursue divorce nor couples therapy. Path 2: pursue separation or divorce. Path 3 is a full out, six-month effort at couples therapy with divorce off the table.
I would consider reconciling if my spouse got serious about making major changes.
Be sure you've watched the video first before reading below.
This is a tough situation that discernment counseling might be helpful with. We can help you clarify what has to change if you are to stay in the marriage, and we can help you make that clear to your spouse in a non-antagonistic way. We can also help you figure out what you would need to change in yourself in a healthier marriage in the future.
Here we get a little murky. If you are really low on hope, Discernment Counseling is by far the best approach to gain clarity and confidence on what got you to this point and the work both of you have to do individually if there were to be any real momentum for your marriage.
If you have hope, motivation and energy for a serious round of couples therapy, belief that things could improve, and you're willing to look at your role in the dysfunction that is going, on you may do okay going right to couples therapy.
Overall, if you've taken this quiz and are demoralized, Discernment Counseling is the next best step. Keep in mind it's a short-term therapy so please, don't let location hinder you seeking this help. I am available for folks who chose couples therapy after.
I don't want this divorce, and I would work hard to get us back together.
If your spouse is throwing out the divorce word, you're in the right place.
If he or she is low on hope for the marriage and really not interested in couples therapy as a way to figure out what to do next, Discernment Counseling is likely the best path for both of you. Many times a leaning out spouse is pleased to find this type of service and will be open to attending one session. (We only commit to one session at a time. You both decide if you want to return.)
If your spouse is uninterested in Discernment Counseling, then you still have a lot of work you can do on yourself to improve your marriage. I will be glad to walk with you through these terribly stressful times in the hope that we can get your marriage to a point where your spouse is open to couples work.