Part 1: What is Discernment Counseling and is it Right for Me?

If you are considering a divorce, you have lots of options to confirm whether that is the right decision for you and your future. Some people choose to go on a retreat or even a trip with their spouse to talk through the right path and next steps. Other couples attempt marriage counseling for a length of time to try and validate their feelings and inclinations about the marriage. Other people might stay in limbo far too long, worried about how the decision to get divorced could impact their families, finances, friends, and future.

One approach you can explore, if you aren’t 100% sure whether you want a divorce, is Discernment Counseling. In this post, we outline what Discernment Counseling is and who is a right fit for this methodology. 

What is Discernment Counseling?

Discernment Counseling is a step between couples counseling and divorce with the goal of helping a couple or individual decide if they truly want to go through with a divorce, or take other steps to repair their marriage. 

Discernment counseling can be for a couple or an individual. Oftentimes, individuals who go through Discernment Counseling have struggled with the decision to get a divorce for a long time. They value getting insight from a professional who works with those contemplating divorce regularly, and someone who can provide additional context on the in and outs of the divorce process—as well as post-divorce life.

The outcome of Discernment Counseling is a “go” or “no-go” decision about divorce. If a couple chooses not to move forward with the divorce, typically they commit to at least six months of counseling to address and overcome their unmet needs and communication challenges that are causing issues in the relationship.

How Does it Differ From Traditional Counseling?

Marriage counseling tends to get at the root of the issues in the relationship whereas Discernment Counseling helps a couple or individual make a decision to either move forward with a divorce or commit to further couples counseling. Usually, Discernment Counseling includes a counselor spending time with each party individually, as well as together, to understand whether:

  • They want to be married in general
  • They want to be married to their partner
  • The why or why not of their decision

Discernment counseling is typically 1-5 sessions that are 90-120-minutes in length. It is a relatively inexpensive way to validate whether you are making a really expensive mistake (both emotionally and financially) by divorcing if the relationship is repairable. The goal of the Discernment Counseling sessions is making a definitive decision about a relationship while marriage counseling’s goal is to improve the health of the relationship over a longer time frame.

Who is a Good Fit for Discernment Counseling?

Discernment Counseling is a great fit for individuals or couples who are even slightly ambivalent about the right next steps in their marriage. If there is any desire or inclination to save the marriage, Discernment Counseling can help a couple choose the right path. 

Discernment Counseling is appropriate for individuals or couples that are:

  • At a standstill in their relationship
  • Unsure whether they can fix their problems
  • On different pages about their marriage
  • Are talking about divorce

It’s important to take this step early if you want to save your marriage. Often couples use Discernment Counseling, marriage counseling, and therapy as a last resort and the hurt runs too deep to fix at that point, and there is often too little hope left. Addressing unmet needs and poor communication in a marriage when things are just starting to get off track helps save many marriages. Like a check engine light that comes on in your car, knowing the warning signs of unmet needs and not ignoring them prevents both cars and marriages from falling apart.

By going through the process of Discernment Counseling, clients report feeling more sure of their decision to stay or go in their marriage, less guilt, and lower levels of remorse. Couples find that this type of counseling validates their decision and helps them feel more confident about their future.

In Colorado, one of the most experienced discernment counseling professionals is Deb Daufeldt of New Chapter Solutions. Deb has used her expertise to help hundreds of clients transition to new chapters of their relationships and lives through her private online counseling practice. If you are ready to learn more about how Discernment Counseling can help you make a decision about your marriage, contact Deb Daufeldt of New Chapter Solutions to learn more about how her work can support your needs through a complementary 20-minute evaluation. 

Deb often works with the team at A.M. Financial to provide a comprehensive picture of what divorce will look like, from the emotional to the financial side of this life transition. Check out part two of this post where we explore the dynamics of finances in divorce and how they come up in Discernment Counseling sessions.