Discernment Counseling

When it comes to divorce, making the right decision is harder than making the wrong one.

The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Should you save your marriage or not? Determining the course to take means figuring out if your problems can be solved.

What happens when your spouse isn’t sure they want to save the marriage or not? Should you stay or should you go? Traditional marriage counseling won’t help in this situation. In fact, it can make things worse!

“Stay-or-Go” Counseling (or Discernment Counseling) is for those who are considering divorce but want to be sure this is the right path for them. They want to take one more look before making a permanent decision with long term consequences.

“Stay-or-Go” Counseling helps couples who want more understanding of what’s happened to their marriage and help for deciding whether to break up or to try to repair it. It’s different from regular marriage counseling because this kind of discernment counseling is not about solving the problems in your marriage; it’s about figuring out whether the problems can be solved.

dri alliance kim bowenWho is discernment counseling for?

It’s designed mostly for couples where one partner is leaning out of the marriage and the other wants to stay together and fix the problems. In discernment counseling you can expect to:

  • gain clarity and confidence about what steps to take next with your marriage
  • develop a deeper understanding of what has happened to your marriage
  • look at “three sides” of your problems: yours, your spouse’s and that of an objective third party
  • make a good decision about whether to move towards divorce, or make one last try to restore the marriage to health

What does discernment counseling involve?

The discernment counselor helps couples choose among three options: moving towards divorce, carving out a period of time for an all-out effort to preserve the marriage, or agreeing to decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. The counselor respects the reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health.

The counselor helps both partners see their individual contributions to the problems and to possible solutions. Understanding what you’ve contributed to the marriage problems can be useful in future relationships even if this one ends.

Discernment counseling is considered successful when people have clarity and confidence in their decision (whatever decision that may be), and when they more fully understand what’s happened to their relationship.

How many sessions are there?

It is a short term process (1 to 5 sessions of 1.5-2 hours length) which leads to one of three possible outcomes:

  • Preserving the marriage as it is
  • A decision to divorce
  • Setting a clear agenda for change with both partners making all-out efforts to repair their marriage.

The focus of discernment counseling is not on solving marital problems, but on seeing if they could potentially be solved.

When is discernment counseling not suitable?

  • When one spouse is coercing or manipulating the other to participate.
  • When there is domestic violence.
  • When there is an Order of Protection from the court.

Interested in learning more? Contact us here so we can begin the conversation.