Discernment Counseling

Sometimes when a couple seeks therapy one or both partners may seriously be considering breaking up or taking a time out but are not sure that this is the best path.  In this case, I offer a process called Discernment Counseling that is designed to help couples in this situation. This gives couples a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at their options for the relationship.  

If this is your situation, I will help you decide whether to try to restore your relationship to health, move toward breaking up, or take a time out and decide later.  The goal at this point is not for you to solve your relationship problems, which would be the goal of couple therapy, but to see if they are solvable.  I will work to help you to gain clarity and confidence about which direction you take, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future.

The most important work will occur in one-to-one conversations with me, recognizing that each individual is starting out from a different place.  That is, typically one of you is “leaning out” of the relationship and not sure that regular couple therapy will work, while the other is “leaning in,” that is, interested in rebuilding the relationship. By meeting individually with me, each of you will feel safe to explore all of what you are thinking and feeling without needing to be concerned about how your partner is reacting to you.  In this scenario, I simultaneously respect your reasons for wanting to break up and try to open up the possibility of restoring the relationship to health.   However, even though we are meeting largely individually, unlike in individual therapy, you will come in as a couple and will spend some time during each session talking together with your partner and me. 

This process emphasizes the importance of each of you seeing your own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions—something that will be useful for you in future relationships, even if this one ends.

Discernment Counseling is a short-term process, typically taking about 5 sessions.  If possible, the first session is 2 hours and subsequent ones are 1.5 hours.  This may not be possible if you are using your insurance and your plan doesn’t cover longer sessions.  In that case, the process will take a little longer.

Discernment Counseling is not suited for these situations:

  • * When one partner has already made a final decision to break up
  • * When one partner is coercing the other to participate
  • * When there is a danger of domestic violence

Below is short video by Bill Doherty, the creator of Discernment Counseling.