Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is a targeted approach for “mixed agenda” couples where one partner desires reconciliation and renewal of the relationship, while the other partner has expressed consideration of ending it. Currently a focus of research at the University of Minnesota, Discernment Counseling acknowledges that couples who have different motivations, yet are faced with a crisis or decision point, may actually be hampered through methods of traditional marriage counseling. As a result, Discernment Counseling targets specific objectives and helps a couple:

  • come to a better understanding of what has happened to their marriage.

  • understand both partners’ view of their problems.

  • evaluate whether past counseling has been helpful or possibly detrimental.

  • explore options about possible next steps to take in their relationship.

  • evaluate the possibility of solving their problems and staying married.

  • make an informed and mutual decision about whether or not to move towards divorce.

What can I expect from Discernment Counseling?

In Discernment Counseling we help individuals and couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards divorce, or take a time out and decide later. Sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. Each individual is treated with respect and the reasons for divorce are explored while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to a healthy state.

We emphasize the importance of each party recognizing their own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if the partnership ends. Discernment Counseling is considered successful when people have clarity and confidence in their decision.

Discernment Counseling is short term involving a maximum of five counseling sessions. As a decision emerges, we help each partner to either find professionals who can help them have a constructive divorce or to formulate a reconciliation plan to create a healthy, renewed marriage. In some cases, couples decide to take a time out from the discernment process and return to it later.