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When couples are in distress, sometimes couples therapy is not the best option.

When couples are in distress, sometimes couples therapy is not the best option.

What is Discernment Counselling?

Deciding to stay or to go is the most complex and challenging decision a couple can make.  It can be agonising.  Some couples can remain stuck in the indecision for months or even years.  It’s a tough decision to make.

Couples therapy can help when couples are in distress; however, it will only work if both partners are on the same page and willing to work on the relationship.  Couples therapy becomes difficult when one partner is not clear on what they want or if they are willing to attend. The problem may be that they are not sure whether to stay in the relationship or not. Couples can end up stuck.

Fortunately, there is a new type of counselling called Discernment Counselling that is designed to help couples get unstuck and make a decision one way or another.  Discernment Counselling helps couples go from confusion to clarity to make the decision, and the confidence to know that they are making the right decision.

What is Discernment Counselling?

Traditional couples therapy such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) focuses on saving the marriage when both partners want to keep the relationship.  Discernment counselling focuses on helping the couple decide the next step they want to take with their relationship.

While traditional couples therapy can take between a few months to a year to complete, for Discernment Counselling, the initial commitment is the first 2-hour session. During the session, each partner decides if they want another session, up to a maximum of five sessions. The goal is not to fix the problem but to help couples get unstuck and move forward with a decision. The decision is based on a deeper understanding of what happened to their relationship and each person’s contribution to the problem.

The outcome of Discernment Counselling is that the couple decides on one of three paths.

  1. Stay married as is,
  2. Move towards divorce, or
  3. Attend couple counselling for SIX months with a clear plan for change and with separation off the table.

Who is Discernment Counselling for?

Discernment Counselling benefits ambivalent couples where one partner is leaning into the relationship and the other partner is leaning out.  For ambivalent couples, Discernment Counselling helps reduce the emotional conflict and the tug of war between deciding either to ‘stay’ or to ‘go’.  When couples are on the same page, they can finally make a decision on how to move forward. If they choose to divorce, the experience of the legal process can become smoother.

Sometimes one spouse is farther along in their decision to divorce. By creating space for the other partner to ‘catch up’, discernment counselling helps couples to set a positive tone for the future of their relationship. This is particularly important if the couple has children.

For couples who decide to commit to couples therapy, they will have identified the areas in their relationship and themselves they need to work on. The couple will be able to focus on these areas during therapy.

Discernment counselling is not a magic wand that can force a partner who is determined to divorce or separate to change their mind. It is not a replacement for traditional couples therapy.  It’s like a pre-therapy/divorce consultation. It is for couples who are unhappy and stuck trying to decide the next step in their relationship. Discernment Counselling allows couples to understand how they got stuck and help them gain clarity and confidence to move forward with whatever decision they make.

If you would like to know more about Discernment Counselling or if you have any queries or if you are ready to make an appointment, EFT Clinic director Gulya Diyarova, Clinic therapists Azah Yazmin and Laura Vowels are all trained in Discernment Counselling and would be happy to help you to make the right decision for your relationship.

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