Discernment Counseling is a relatively new intervention for couples who are on the brink, trying to decide whether to stay together or separate, particularly if one of the partners would prefer to stay and the other is turning away from the relationship. Discernment Counseling is a time limited, (5-6 sessions) intensive protocol to break through relationship gridlock and help spouses move on to the next of three possible paths:
1. Pause, do nothing different
2. Separation or divorce, with next steps
3. Take separation and divorce off the table for 6 months with a commitment to explore the relationship breakdown
Because of the magnitude of a divorce filing, I suggest that most couples, even when both are leaning toward divorce, go through discernment counseling BEFORE filing. Together we look closely at the nature of the breakdown and consider what repair would look like and realistically require. The option of divorce is considered as well, and we explore those challenges realistically. Also, embedded in discernment counseling is information related to the different paths of divorce - litigation, mediation, and collaboration.
De-emphasizing blame and resentment and instead looking toward personal accountability helps refocus conversations and perspectives. Spouses who come in convinced the marriage must end often are surprised at what gets uncovered in these sessions. This isn't typical marriage counseling as it is designed only to help spouses better understand their own goals and objectives for the relationship. My job is to help each partner refocus their energy on their own role in what's gone on, and take responsibility for that and what comes next.
Both marriage and divorce are major decisions not to be entered into lightly; consider discernment counseling before filing for divorce.