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Help for couples on the brink of separation

Discernment Counseling provides clarity, understanding, and help in decision-making for partners on the brink of divorce. It offers those in relationship crisis short-term counseling (5 meetings or less) for the purpose of helping couples weigh options and create mindful and confident decisions regarding the future of their marriage, all while being guided by a highly trained and experienced therapist.


Discernment Counseling helps those whose marriages are deeply in crisis and who feel couples counseling involving repair and reconciliation is not an option. Why? Sometimes, one spouse is leaning way out of the marriage and not wanting to repair intimacy or find reconciliation; while the other desperately wants to save the marriage: couples counseling needs two motivated partners. We call partners who are on the brink, “mixed agenda” couples.

Discernment Counseling is designed for you: it’s a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at your options for your marriage.  


Discernment Counseling is a new way of helping couples in which one person is “leaning out” of the relationship (i.e. not sure that regular marriage counseling would help) and the other is "leaning in"(i.e. interested in rebuilding the marriage).

Discernment Counseling is not treatment, it's an assessment 

Discernment Counseling offers a specialized protocol for mixed agenda couples to make a clear and confident decision regarding their immediate future. Through conversation with each partner separately and then together, I will help you and your spouse reach a decision to take one of three paths:

Path One

Stay together in the relationship

as it has been

Path Two

Separation and begin the

divorce process

Path Three

A six-month commitment to couples therapy, after which a decision will be made to stay together or get divorced.

Protocol to start Discernment Counseling

  • Intake phone calls: Each partner schedules a 20-minute phone call with me. If you both agree to Discernment Counseling, we proceed to step 2, meeting for a session. 

  • Session One: We will meet for 2 hours.  For the first 35-40 minutes of our session, you and your spouse will meet with me together.  We will then break into individual sessions, which will last 35-minutes each. We will conclude the session with a final 10-minute meeting together at the end of which, you will decide if you need another session.  The goal is to help both of you find clarity and confidence in your decision-making, while deepening your understanding of your contribution and strategize with you on how to achieve next steps, whether you decide on path 1, 2, or 3.  Discernment Counseling is a structured protocol designed to achieve goals.

  • Subsequent 1.5-hour sessions: no more than four total. Each subsequent session involves talking to you and your spouse together and separately. In the last meeting, the decision as to which path you will take is made. If path three is chosen, your final Discernment Counseling session will be devoted to transitioning to marriage therapy, with the marriage therapist of your choice.   

For partners who are "leaning out" of the marriage:

For partners who are "leaning in" to the marriage:

  • You’ve probably told your husband or wife that you are deeply unhappy in your marriage and you may even have brought up divorce. This can be an extremely difficult time filled with anxiety, guilt, and depression.

  • Whether or not you have started the divorce process, you’re not certain it’s the right step.  Discernment Counseling is designed to help you make the best decision about the future of your marriage.

  • Sometimes friends and family members weigh in, telling you that you should move on or keep trying to make it work. It’s helpful to get an objective perspective: as your Discernment Counselor, I can give this to you.

  • Your spouse may be reacting strongly to your feelings about ending the marriage. This is normal: most of us are not our best selves when feeling threatened with such an enormous loss. We know that their anger, sadness, clinging, promising to totally change, etc. may tempt you to give up on the marriage prematurely in order to escape something that right now you cannot fathom. Discernment Counseling can help create space and gives both you and your spouse a voice about your distress and your hopes.

  • You may be reading this because your spouse has put divorce on the table or even started the divorce process.  Since the time you were faced with this possibility, you may have gone through a wide range of emotions such anger, denial, fear, and sadness. You may be trying to change your spouses’ mind, or you may be distancing yourself and hoping for the best. In other words, this has been a very tough time, and I’d like to help.

  • The process of Discernment Counseling will honor your desire to save your marriage and will help you bring your best self to this crisis.

  • You can’t directly change your spouse’s mind about working on the marriage, but you can ask if your spouse will consider doing Discernment Counseling with you—not to fix the marriage right now but to see if it's possible to fix.

Some thoughts about Discernment Counseling

Surveys find that up to 40% of divorced people have regrets about their divorce decision, often because they feel they (and their partner) didn't try hard enough to make the marriage work.  Discernment Counseling can offer you and your spouse support, acknowledgement and empathy for where you are right now in your thinking and feeling about your marriage; and, help you both look at what you would need to change in yourself to have a healthy relationship, whether in this relationship or in a future one. 

Couples who go through Discernment Counseling often come out the other side feeling more settled and confident about their next steps, whether to make an all-out effort in 6 months of couples therapy to restore their relationship to health; or; to move forward with divorce. Research shows that about 48% of couples choose the reconciliation path in couples therapy, 18% choose to keep the relationship as it is for the time being (often due to extenuating circumstances), and the remaining 34% proceed directly to divorce after having carefully considered their options. Of those who choose divorce, lawyers tell us these couples are calmer and the divorce process is smoother because of the work done in Discernment Counseling.

I hope you consider this new service for couples like you, if your marriage is in crisis. You may end up with a realistic plan to restore your marriage to health, or, you may end up with a decision to divorce that you will be less likely to regret in years to come.  I hope you and your spouse will find new learning and awareness about yourselves that you can carry with you into the future.

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