Discernment counseling is a service offered to couples when one of the partners is not sure if he or she wants to stay married. The goal of Discernment Counseling is clarity and confidence about which direction to take for the marriage, based on a deeper understanding of the relationship and its problems.
It is different from couples’ therapy because the goal is not to fix the marital problems; it’s just to see if the problems can be fixed.
Frequently one spouse is “leaning in” or doesn’t want separation and the other one is “leaning out”, or seriously considering divorce or separation. In Discernment Counseling the different perspectives of the spouses are respected. The therapist is going to explore the different alternatives and the role played by each partner in the situation.
There are no expectations to a number of sessions, from one to five. The initial commitment is the first 2 hour session. During each session, the partners decide separately if they would like one more session, up to a maximum of five (the subsequent sessions last one and a half hours). The outcomes are framed in terms of three paths: stay married as it, move towards divorce, or decide to do full-on couples therapy for six months to see if the marriage can be put into a good place, with a clear agenda for personal change and with divorce off the table during this time (source: ).
If you decide to book a Discernment Counseling session, I will have a 20 minutes phone conversation with each partner, to make sure you are good candidates. Discernment Counseling is not for you is you already have made a decision about the marriage. Then the structure of the session is some time together, but most time would be spent individually with each partner. At the end the couple decide if they take one of the three paths or need another session.
It helps the couple to resolutely decide and come to terms with their decisions regarding the commitment to the relationship, and to help each person understand their contribution as to the issues that were present.
Research shows that up to 30% of couples start marriage therapy without really knowing if what they want is to stay married or to try to resolve the problems, which ends up being discouraging and not efficient. You can avoid this by calling me for an initial consultation and I will help you understand if Discernment Counseling is the best alternative for you.