Discernment counselling is a short-term structured approach for couples to explore their options before making a final decision about separation and/or divorce.
It is most appropriate for couples where one partner wants to preserve and repair (leaning in) the relationship and the other is leaning towards ending it (leaning out) but hasn’t made a final decision.
The counselor helps both partners see their individual contributions to the problems and the possible solutions of their relationships.
Understanding your contributions to these problems is an important part of the process to the success of future relationships even if the current one comes to an end.
There is an initial joint session to explore history, best times and impact on children. The subsequent sessions are mostly individual conversations with the counselor, followed by each partner sharing what s/he is learning in these conversations.
The counselor respects the reasons for ending the relationship while opening the possibility of restoring the relationship to health.
Discernment counselling differs from regular marriage counselling in three ways:
1. the goal is not to solve problems in the relationship, but to figure out whether the problems can be solved;
2. the process involves mainly individual conversations with each partner, since they each have different needs and agendas, and
3. it is always short term.
Discernment counselling helps couples on the brink of breakup to create:
1. clarity and confidence about next steps for their relationship;
2. a deeper understanding of what has happened to their relationship; and
3. increased personal awareness of your contributions to the problems.
Discernment counselling focuses on three paths:
Path 1: make no changes and stay together;
Path 2: end the relationship through separation or divorce; or
Path 3: commit to a six-month intensive effort in marriage counselling (and sometimes other services) to improve the marriage. Typically this would be emotionally focused therapy for couples.