Discernment Counseling

Couple arguing

Counseling for Couples  

Discernment counseling is short term, and the focus is not on solving marital problems but on seeing if they could potentially be solved. (From the Couples on the Brink Program with William Doherty, Ph.D.)  

·       Unlike traditional marriage counseling that assumes that both people are willing to work on the marriage, discernment counseling helps people decide whether to work on their marriage or keep moving towards divorce.

·       Unlike individual counseling that usually takes one person's side, the discernment counselor works to understand both partners, even if they see things very differently.

Who is discernment counseling for?

Discernment Counseling is for people who are considering divorce but are not completely sure if it's the right path for them. They want to take one more look before making a permanent decision with long term consequences.

It's for people who want to give their marriage another chance even though their spouse is moving towards divorce.

If you are interested in discernment counseling but your spouse is not interested at this time, I can still help.

What does discernment counseling involve?

The discernment counselor helps individuals and couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards divorce, or take a time out and 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 emphasizes the importance of each party seeing his or her own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends. Discernment counseling is considered successful

when people have clarity and confidence in their decision.

When a decision emerges, the counselor helps the parties either to find professionals who can help them have a constructive divorce or to formulate a reconciliation work plan to create a healthy, successful marriage. In some cases, couples decide to take a time out from the discernment process and return later.

How many sessions are there?

Discernment counseling involves a maximum of five counseling sessions. The first session is usually 2 hours, an

d subsequent sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours. Fees for counseling will be discussed when you contact me. 

Discernment counseling is NOT suitable when...

·       ... there is a danger of domestic violence.

·       ... there is an Order of Protection from the court.

·       ... one spouse is coercing the other to participate.


·       Q: Is discernment counseling the same as marriage counseling?  A: No. Discernment counseling is short term help for deciding whether to divorce or work more on the marriage. Marriage counseling, which is generally opened ended in length, aims to help people solve their problems and restore their marriage to health.  

·       Q: How do you determine success in discernment counseling?  A: Although it would be wonderful if all troubled marriages could become healthy and satisfying for both parties, we understand that this is not always possible. Therefore, our basic criterion for success is that the spouses come to a deeper understand of themselves and what’s happened to their marriage, and have reached a decision that allows them to move ahead with their lives in a healthy way for themselves and their families. In some cases, this deeper understanding opens doors to possible reconciliation, and in other cases one or both parties decide that divorce is their best option. We try to show couples what a reconciliation path might look like for them, but we honor the choices that people make for themselves.