What is Discernment Counselling?

Posted 19th of April 2023 by Gill Wier

Developed by American therapist Bill Doherty, Discernment Counselling is a specific structured approach to help married couples who are on the brink of divorce (and couples in long term committed relationships who are on the brink of separation) to discern the way forward. It is particularly useful when one partner is “leaning out” of the relationship – seriously considering divorce or separation, while the other partner is “leaning in” – wanting to stay together and make things work. In this situation traditional couples counselling doesn’t always work and can be very challenging for the counsellor to manage as the couple has no shared agenda – they each have different goals or instincts about the best way forward. Discernment Counselling addresses this by allowing each partner to have individual time with the counsellor to gain clarity and confidence regarding which of three paths they will choose:

Path 1 – stay in the relationship as it is

Path 2 – end the relationship through separation and/or divorce

Path 3 – commit to 6 months of couples counselling to work on the issues in the relationship with divorce off the table during this time

Discernment Counselling takes place over 1-5 sessions and each session has a particular structure which involves both time together as a couple and individual time with the counsellor, but the main focus is on the individual time. In the individual time each partner is invited to reflect on what has happened to their relationship to bring it to the point where separation/divorce seems to be an option and on their own contribution to this as well as their partner’s contribution. The first session is 2 hours long and subsequent sessions are 1.5 hours long to enable time for both couple and individual contact with the counsellor.

The goal of Discernment Counselling is not to save the marriage/relationship but to slow down the process, prevent hasty decisions and provide support for both partners during this time of crisis. The aims are to increase each partner’s understanding of themselves and their partner, to gain clarity about how their relationship has reached this point and to gain confidence in their own decision about which path to take now. This means that whichever path you choose you will be doing so having fully explored this decision from all angles.

If you both choose “path 3” couples counselling is more likely to be effective as you are both entering the process with a shared agenda.  The counsellor will support each partner to develop a personal agenda for change to work on during the six month period of couples counselling. This means that any changes you work on during this time will be beneficial for you in developing as a person and helping you in this relationship or a future relationship.

If you are interested please call Gill Wier on 07504492224 or email gill@sheffieldcentralcounselling.co.uk  Gill will need to speak to each of you over the phone first of all to determine whether Discernment Counselling will be suitable for you.

Our fees

First session (2 hours) £120

Subsequent 1-4 sessions (1.5 hours) £90


Feedback from a client

“I was hopeful that we could come to a conclusion that we would both agree on. I felt safe, comfortable, and listened to by the counsellor. She allowed both my wife and I space to speak without interruptions and remained unbiased at each session.

We were both encouraged and supported to summarise our feelings and the role we each played in the marriage, positives and negatives. By the third session a conclusion was reached, albeit a difficult one but a decision none the less. We are now working on next steps." 





Book an appointment

Would you prefer....

What kind of appointment would you like?

Which counsellor would you like to see?

When would you like to book your appointment?

April 2024 >

M Tu W Th F Sa Su
22 23 24 25 26
29 30

All appointments are 1 hour long.
What time would you like your appointment to start?

Sun 21 Apr 2024 >

    1. 9:00
    2. 10:00
    3. 11:00
    4. 12:00
    5. 13:00
    6. 14:00
    7. 15:00
    8. 16:00
    9. 17:00
    10. 18:00
    11. 19:00
    12. 20:00

If this is your first session, please Register below;
if you are a returning client you can Login

Fields marked with * are required


You can generate a random password - it will then be emailed to you once your registration is complete

We collect your personal details so you can log back in to see your appointments and in case we need to get in touch with you. We won't ever sell or pass them on to anyone else without your permission. You can read our full Privacy Policy here. Please confirm you understand this.

Request a callback