Many unhappily married couples remain together for far too long. They neither commit to work on the marriage to save it nor make the decision to end it. That’s particularly true when neither spouse has strong feelings about taking either step.
However, that’s not healthy for couples or their children. That’s why something called “discernment counseling” has gained popularity in recent years.
What is discernment counseling?
Unlike traditional marriage counseling, the purpose isn’t to help couples work on their marriage. As one Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) who’s also a Certified Discernment Counselor (CDC), describes it thusly:
Discernment counseling is a structured assessment process, not treatment. It is designed to provide a couple with the information they need to evaluate their relationship and take action – either to pursue a divorce or to commit to a 6-month course of intensive marital therapy.
If a couple (or one spouse) has already decided on divorce, the LMFT notes that discernment counseling can still help by giving them “a place where they can review…their marriage and…each of their needs and concerns for the future as they…divorce.”
This can help them sort out issues that could end up affecting their ability to have an amicable divorce. That means fewer arguments over things like boats and SUVs that are really about unresolved hurt and anger.
If a couple has children, this discernment counseling can help them discuss their co-parenting goals. This can minimize the impact of the divorce on their children and help both adults be better parents in the future. It can make it easier to use alternative divorce resolutions (ADR) that can help them settle their divorce, with the help of their attorneys, without costly and time-consuming litigation.