Should We Consider Discernment Counseling?

Approximately 30% of couples seeking counseling have one partner “leaning out” of the relationship. Meaning, that partner thinks they may want to terminate the relationship. Usually, the other partner is “leaning in.” Meaning, they are motivated to fix the relationship. This is called a “mixed agenda couple.” Because of these competing agendas, Discernment Counseling is much more effective than regular couples counseling.

Couples counseling. Relationship therapy

What is Discernment Counseling?

In Discernment Counseling, the focus is on helping each partner clarify their own feelings and thoughts about the relationship. Discernment Counseling helps to protect the leaning-in partner from more disappointment, while providing the leaning-out partner with a safe place to be honest about their feelings. As feelings and thoughts are clarified, a decision about the future of the relationship can be reached more easily. From there, the couple can be guided in separating amicably, or new goals for the current relationship can be established, and traditional couples therapy can begin.

What Benefit Can Discernment Counseling Provide?

  • Clarity about which direction to take for their relationship
  • Confidence about their decision
  • Understanding about what went wrong in the relationship and how it could get better, including each person’s role in how the relationship deteriorated (sets the stage for effective couples counseling)
  • Helping couples take the next step toward going in separate directions, but maintaining the respect and integrity necessary to do so in the best way possible OR finding what areas in their marriage need attention and working toward repair and renewal of the current relationship.


What is the Format?

It is short in duration (between five and seven sessions) and most of the intense work is done in individual sessions.

Each session will be organized in the following manner:

  • Initially, both partners meet with the Therapist together to discuss their goals and objectives for why they would like to engage in Discernment Counseling.  Moving forward, all subsequent sessions are focused on issues relating to communication and connection around the goals outlined in the first session (30 minutes).
  • Each partner then meets individually with the Therapist to discuss their personal thoughts, feelings and goals around their perception of current and future issues (30 minutes each).
  • Finally, both partners meet with the Therapist for a concluding summary, and mutually decide the homework and framework for the next session (30 minutes)

If you would like more information about the benefits of Discernment Counseling and whether it might be helpful with your current relationship situation, please contact us – we would be happy to discuss this option in more depth and answer any questions you may have.


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