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.
Gill Wier is now offering Discernment Counselling having completed the training this year. If you are interested please call Gill on 07504492224 or email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
First session (2 hours)
Subsequent 1-4 sessions (1.5 hours)