Nearly everyone enters marriage with the dream of a lifelong union. But many couples reach a crisis point where divorce is on the table. Sometimes it's after years of emotional distance, financial problems, sexual problems, or constant arguing. Sometimes it's after a recent affair or an illness that creates an emergency.

Whatever the reason, usually one spouse thinks that divorce is the only way to solve the problem, while the other spouse wants to hang on and make things better. Then they fight about whether to divorce. Once the legal divorce process begins, the alienation and conflict can escalate, and before long all hope for the marriage or for a constructive divorce is gone.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Discernment Counseling is a new way for couples to pause, take a breath, and look at their options. It's different from traditional marriage counseling aimed at improving the marriage. We don't assume that you both want to preserve the marriage, only that you are both willing to take a look at what's happened to your marriage and decide whether to break up or to try to repair it.

If you or your spouse are considering divorce, I can help you

  • gain clarity and confidence about what steps to take next with your marriage
  • understand what has happened to your marriage
  • look at both sides of problems - yours and your spouse's
  • determine whether past counseling has been helpful or not so helpful
  • evaluate the possibility of solving your problems and staying married
  • make a good decision about whether or not to move towards divorce

Counseling for Couples: Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is short term, and the focus is not on solving marital problems but on seeing if they could potentially be solved.

  • Unlike traditional marriage counseling that assumes that both people are willing to work on the marriage, discernment counseling helps people decide whether to work on their marriage or keep moving towards divorce.
  • Unlike individual counseling that usually takes one person's side, the discernment counselor works to understand both partners, even if they see things very differently.

Who is discernment counseling for?

Discernment Counseling is for people who are considering divorce but are not completely sure if it's the right path for them. They want to take one more look before making a permanent decision with long term consequences.

It's for people who want to give their marriage another chance even though their spouse is moving towards divorce.

If you are interested in discernment counseling but your spouse is not interested at this time, I can still help.

What does discernment counseling involve?

The discernment counselor helps individuals and couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards divorce, or take a time out and decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. The counselor respects the reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health.

The counselor emphasizes the importance of each party seeing his or her own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends. Discernment counseling is considered successful when people have clarity and confidence in their decision.

When a decision emerges, the counselor helps the parties either to find professionals who can help them have a constructive divorce or to formulate a reconciliation work plan to create a healthy, successful marriage. In some cases, couples decide to take a time out from the discernment process and return later.

How many sessions are there?

Discernment counseling involves a maximum of five counseling sessions. The first session is usually 2 hours, and subsequent sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours. Fees for Discernment Counseling are $110/hour.

Discernment counseling is NOT suitable when

  • one spouse has made a final decision to divorce and wants counseling to encourage the other spouse accept that decision
  • there is a danger of domestic violence
  • there is an Order of Protection from the court
  • one spouse is coercing the other to participate



Content about Discernment Counseling taken from: Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project