Discernment Counseling is a revolutionary new way to approach couples in trouble. It involves less of the emotional vulnerability needed for couples therapy and also less of the conflict we see in divorce mediation.
Instead, Discernment Counseling meets a couple where they currently are: trying to decide whether to keep plugging away or move on. This type of counseling is perfect for couples in which one partner wants to stay in the marriage (the Leaning In partner) and one partner may be thinking about leaving the marriage (the Leaning Out partner). We call those "mixed agenda" couples because each partner is considering something different.
There are some key features of Discernment Counseling that may appeal to a couple in distress.
"Discernment counseling differs from regular marriage counseling in three ways:
a) the goal is not to solve problems in the relationship, but to figure out whether the problems can be solved;
b) the process involves mainly individual conversations with each partner, since they each have different needs and agendas, and
c) it is always short term." (Most Discernment Counseling processes only last 1-5 sessions!)
What's really lovely about Discernment Counseling is that it takes certain pressures off of the couple -- like the pressure to fake their way through therapy, the pressure to end the marriage cold turkey, or the pressure to figure it all out by themselves.
The Discernment Counseling therapist walks each partner through a series of questions and discussions that help the partners choose what's best for them individually, as well as for their marriage.
At the end of a Discernment Counseling process, each partner has to choose one of three things:
1) We are going to keep things just how they are and not do anything new.
2) W are going to separate and begin the process of ending our relationship.
3) We are going to commit to 6 months of intensive couples therapy in order to try to resolve our differences and save our marriage.
With both the second and third options, the couple can save themselves tons of time and money by going through Discernment Counseling first.
If they decide to separate, they are ahead of the game because they have each begun the process of finding themselves as individuals. If they decide to try couples therapy, they have identified the key issues that must be addressed immediately in order to save the relationship.
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** If this doesn't apply to you, but might be useful for someone you know, please feel free to pass it along!