If you (or your spouse) are considering divorce but are not completely sure it’s the right decision, Discernment Counseling is designed for you. It’s a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at the options for your marriage.

What will we be doing?

You will always come in as a couple but the most important work occurs in one-to-one conversations with me. Why? Because my Discernment Counseling clients are typically in two different places. You will each be treated with compassion and respect, no matter how you are feeling about your marriage at the moment.

austin-couples-therapist-katharine-barnhill

The discernment counseling model

Discernment Counseling was developed by Dr. William (Bill) Doherty to help couples on the brink of divorce get clarity about how to move forward.

It differs from regular marriage therapy in three main ways:

1) The goal is not to solve problems in the relationship, but to figure out whether the problems can be solved.

2) The process involves a combination of individual time with the therapist and couples time with the therapist.

3) It is always short term (1-5 sessions).

The goal of Discernment Counseling is to give couples greater confidence and clarity about how to move forward, based on a deeper understanding of the relationship and its possibilities for the future.

Discernment Counseling holds 3 paths as outcome options:

Path 1: The status quo – keeping the relationship as it has been

Path 2: Separation/divorce

Path 3: A 4-6 month effort in couples therapy with divorce off the table, after which you can make a decision about whether to stay or leave

This counseling model is most appropriate for couples where one partner wants to preserve and fix the relationship and the other is leaning towards ending it. Research shows this kind of “mixed agenda” couple is common among couples approaching divorce, and is a difficult presentation in couples therapy. Research also shows that a significant percentage of couples who are in the process of divorcing have ambivalence about it, but don’t know how to slow things down and get greater clarity before moving ahead.

The first session is 2 hours long, and subsequent sessions are typically 1.5 hours. The maximum number of sessions we will have is 5. I will be working with each of you to see your own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends.

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Content taken from the DRI Alliance for Marriage and Divorce Professionals.

Discernment Counseling is not suited for these situations:

  • When one spouse has already made a final decision to divorce
  • When one spouse is coercing the other to participate

  • When there is danger of domestic violence

If you have any questions about Discernment Counseling please contact me.