Discernment Counseling is a relatively new form of counseling for couples. It is designed for couples in which at least one partner is seriously considering divorce or separation. For these couples, typically one spouse is leaning out of the relationship whereas the other partner is leaning into the relationship. These couples are referred to as mixed agenda couples.
When one partner is questioning the utility of couples counseling, this approach allows a couple to explore three different paths. Path 1 is maintaining the status-quo. Path 2 is divorce or separation. Path 3 is a six month commitment to couples counseling.
Discernment Counseling, consisting of four to seven one hour sessions, helps couples make one of the three choices with clarity and confidence. Only 12 percent of couples chose Path 1 of maintaining the status quo. If a couple chooses Path 2 of divorce, and it only takes one individual to make this decision, the counselor can assist the couple in doing this as collaboratively as possible.
Discernment Counseling primarily uses individual meetings with each partner to understand their marital dynamics and to determine what issues each person needs to work on in their current relationship—or in their next relationship if they choose the path of divorce or breaking up. If the couple chooses Path 3—six months of couples counseling—the discernment counseling would have already identified the issues each partner needs to work on to give their relationship a chance. At the end of the six months of couples counseling, the couple can decide if they want to continue the relationship, with or without couples counseling, part ways, or maintain the status quo.
Discernment Counseling is an important addition to the field of couples counseling, especially for couples in which a leaning out person is seriously considering divorce. Discernment Counseling helps clarify which path to choose.