Discernment counseling is useful for many couples on the brink of divorce or a break-up, helping them to find the best path forward. This post explains in detail exactly what discernment counseling is, which couples can benefit and what you can expect from these therapy sessions.
What is Discernment Counseling?
When a relationship isn’t working, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether to stay or go. There are many cases where it can benefit couples to work through their troubles and rediscover one’s love for one another. However, there are many other cases where it’s better to break up and move on.
Discernment counseling is ideal for couples that are undecided as to whether they should break up or stay together. A counselor can serve as a third party unbiased opinion, helping you to choose the right path going forwards. This could prevent you from making the wrong decision, whether this be staying in a relationship that isn’t working or breaking up from a relationship that still has potential.
Unlike regular relationship therapy, the goal is not to help the couple overcome their conflict so that the relationship can continue. The goal is instead to find the best solution so that each individual partner can be happy, whether this be staying together or breaking up.
What are some situations where a couple may benefit from discernment counseling?
If both you and your partner cannot decide whether to break up or continue, discernment counseling could be beneficial. There are a few instances where couples may be undecided:
- Perhaps you want to stay in the relationship, but your partner would like to file a divorce or break-up.
- Alternatively, you may want to end the relationship, but your partner may be eager for the two of you to give it another go.
- Another option could be that you are both undecided. You may have found yourself drifting apart, sleeping in different beds or even living in different households, but there may still be commitments or fears that are keeping you together.
There could be other more complicated situations where discernment counseling also seems right. Relationships are never straightforward and there are so many unique factors that affect each individual relationship. While there are many blog posts, books and videos that may offer advice on how to continue, this advice will never be entirely personalized to your situation. This is why it can be useful to look into discernment counseling – a counsellor will factor in all the unique problems affecting the relationship and use this to give you their professional opinion on the best course going forward.
When is Discernment Counseling not recommended?
Discernment counseling is not recommended if one partner is already fully committed to ending the relationship. Both partners need to be open to the idea of counseling. If one partner is certain that they want to break up or file or divorce and they do not want to attend a counseling session, the other partner must accept this. Even if the other partner is convinced to attend discernment counseling, it is unlikely any good will come from it as a therapist will likely support the partner who wants out.
Discernment counseling is also not recommended for couples that have been involved in domestic abuse. In such cases, it is too easy for a partner to be manipulated into continuing a relationship where they may continue to be abused. Unless this abusive stage is long behind you and the relationship is otherwise civil, it is recommended that you seek out separate therapy for relationships involving abuse.
What happens during discernment counseling sessions?
Discernment counseling sessions typically follow a certain pattern. This pattern is designed to help reach the best conclusion.
First, the therapist will meet up with each partner individually. This gives each partner a chance to discuss their feelings regarding the relationship and what they want going forward. This session aims to get to the bottom of the major problems so the best solutions can be found.
After this, the couple meet jointly with the therapist for a conclusion session in which a decision is made going forward. This could include:
- Opting to end the relationship
- Opting to give the relationship a 6 month period in which both partners try their hardest to save the relationship (often accompanied by relationship counseling)
- Opting to continue counseling until a decision is made
Some couples need several sessions before they can come to an outcome. It is important to not rush into a decision, so if you really feel that you need more time to come to a conclusion, you should let your therapist know. It’s worth noting that discernment counselling should not be seen as a way of delaying an inevitable breakup – if a partner has firmly decided they want to leave and after several sessions this has been agreed, their decision should be respected.
Multiple therapy sessions may be recommended for complex situations in which there is a lot to cover. For example, if you have kids together or share property together or run a business together, this could be something that makes the decision to stay or go much harder as there could be more to lose than just the relationship.
How do I book a Discernment Counseling session?
There are many therapists that specialize in discernment counselling. Make sure to find a therapist that offers this service and not just a therapist that offers relationship counseling.
To start booking sessions, you will both need to both agree to give it a go. A therapist will then find a date that suits both of you. Subsequent sessions can also be arranged around your schedules.
You can read more about booking a discernment counseling session on our Marriage Counseling & Couples Therapy page. Consider the fact that there may be situations where other types of therapy such as divorce counseling or relationship therapy are more suitable – it is worth researching into these types of counseling too so that you choose the right one.
Help in Lakewood & Longmont CO
If you are experiencing relationship issues, we invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a therapy specialist or click to learn more about our Marriage and Couples Counseling Services.
Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.
Author, Alayna Baillod, LCSW. Alayna is as real as-it-gets! Clients see Alayna as down-to-Earth, relatable, having a good sense of humor (and using it!) and confident in sharing her therapeutic expertise. She is an extensively trained, passionate therapist who strives to meet clients where they’re at while providing an appropriate amount of challenge to gently push clients to grow beyond their comfort zone. You can expect a supportive, guiding and grounded presence in the therapy room with Alayna.