Discernment Counseling

/Discernment Counseling
Discernment Counseling 2016-12-12T14:55:17+00:00

Are You And Your Spouse On The Brink Of Divorce?

Does your relationship with your partner feel so broken that you do not know whether it can be repaired?  Are you or your spouse confused whether to stay in your marriage and try to repair it or just throw in the towel?  Perhaps it feels like the gap between the two of you cannot be mended and you are unsure whether the relationship is worth saving.  Maybe you know that you want to work on your relationship but your partner feels discouraged and is thinking about divorce.  If you or your spouse are considering divorce but are not completely sure that it is the best path, discernment counseling may be the right option for you.

Many Couples Consider Divorce As a Way Out of Pain & Unhappiness

Many couples find themselves in the painful place of considering whether to end their marriage or work on it. Often times, this is the result of at least one partner, if not both, feeling unhappy with the state of the marriage and questioning whether his or her needs can truly be met in the relationship. You or your partner may be feeling hopeless about your ability to close the chasm between you or unable to continue to bear the pain of feeling repeatedly disappointed by the other or the relationship. You and/or your partner might be desperate for a major change to occur and are wondering whether divorce is the answer. One of you may be advocating that you try to work on the relationship or even give marriage counseling a chance first while the other feels doubtful. You may feel confused about what the best path is at this point- separate from each other for a short while, get a divorce or work on your relationship. If these are the questions you and your partner are facing, discernment counseling is exactly for you.

A Discernment Counselor Can Help You Decide What to Do

Discernment counseling, also known as discernment therapy is a new approach for helping couples when at least one partner feels unsure about whether to continue or end the relationship.  It is particularly effective for couples where one person is “leaning out” of the relationship— not sure that marriage counseling would help and asking “should I get divorced”–and the other is “leaning in”—that is, interested in rebuilding the marriage.

Rather than making a half-hearted attempt at marriage counseling or making a hasty decision that can be financially and emotionally costly for you and your entire family, discernment counseling offers a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at your options for your marriageUnlike marital counseling, the goal of working with a discernment counselor is not to solve your marital problems but rather to see if your problems are solvable. The goal is for you and your partner to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future.

Your discernment counselor’s goal is to help you make the decision to select one of three paths: 1) decide whether to try to restore your marriage to health; 2) move toward divorce; or 3) take a time out and decide later.

Discernment therapy occurs in a limited amount of sessions, 5 sessions at max.  The first session is usually two hours and the subsequent sessions are 1.5 or 2 hours. During each session, you and your partner will come in as a couple.  However, given that you are starting out in different places, each of you will also have the chance to meet with your discernment counselor, one on one.

You and your partner will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your marriage at the moment. In our eyes, there are no bad guys or good guys.  Your discernment counselor is interested in one primary thing— providing you a safe place to explore your thoughts and emotions so that you can each feel clearer and more confident about the best direction for you.

Your counselor is committed to holding space and respect for your reasons for divorce, while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health.

Your counselor will also support each of you in seeing your own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends.

If you or your partner have already made a final decision to proceed with divorce, discernment counseling will not be effective for you and your partner.  In order for discernment therapy to work, the partner that is considering ending the relationship must still be in the process of making a decision.  Discernment counseling is also not effective if you or your partner feel coerced by the other to participate or if there is danger of domestic violence.

But, you may still have questions or concerns about discernment counseling…

My partner has already made the decision to end our marriage and get a divorce but I’m still not sure it is the right decision. Can discernment counseling help us?

Unfortunately, as your partner has already made a decision, discernment counseling will not be helpful at this point.  Discernment counseling can only help when no final decision has been made yet and the partner leaning out of the relationship is still unsure.  Given that this is not the case, you might choose to explore closure counseling, which is focused on helping you both accept the decision and end the relationship in an amicable way, or individual therapy, which can help you with the process of transitioning and coping with the feelings you might be experiencing.

What happens if my spouse and I select the path of rebuilding our relationship?

If you and your spouse decide to choose the path of rebuilding your relationship, we invite you to commit to 6 months of all-out effort working on your relationship, including marriage counseling, with divorce off the table.  Through marital counseling, you and your partner can focus on solving the problems in the marriage, whether that is difficulties with communicating, unresolved past hurt/betrayals, personality differences, parenting, sex or finances.  When you and your partner invest the time and effort in marriage counseling before divorce, you can build a stronger foundation and give your marriage the best chance to succeed.  As our discernment counselors are also marriage counselors, you can choose to continue to work with your therapist and transition into doing couple’s therapy or you can choose to start afresh with a different couple’s therapist in our practice or elsewhere.

What happens if my spouse and I select the path of pursuing a divorce?

If you and your partner choose the path of divorce, we can help you begin the process of having a healthy divorce.  This can include additional sessions focused on helping you both accept the painful decision, navigate how to talk to your children, if there are any, and or, make immediate plans about separation. We can also offer referrals to support your transition, including referrals for individual therapists as well as mediators and collaborative divorce attorneys.

What happens after the 5th session, if we still don’t know what path is best for us but we want to continue the discernment counseling process?

Discernment counseling is not intended to go on indefinitely.  Furthermore, it loses its usefulness if it is simply functioning as a way to support you and your partner in maintaining the status quo, as it is not designed for that. If you and your partner, particularly the partner that feels unsure about rebuilding the relationship (i.e., the “leaning out” partner), believe you are close to selecting a path, you can talk with your discernment counselor about the option of extending the discernment process for a few more sessions.

You Can Feel Equipped To Make a Decision About Your Marriage

Are you ready to escape the anxiety and painful limbo of not knowing whether to end your relationship or work on rebuilding it? Do you still have questions about discernment counseling and how it can help you and your partner make a decision? We invite you to contact Relationship HQ at 212.730.7400 to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation. We can meet in person in our New York City office or over the phone to discuss your situation, respond to any questions you may have and determine if you would benefit from discernment counseling.

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