Divorce/Discernment counseling is short term therapy and the focus is not on solving marital problems but on seeing if the problems can be potentially solved. Unlike traditional marriage counseling that assumes that both people are willing to work on the marriage, discernment counseling helps couples 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. If divorce becomes inevitable, our counselors help to decouple the relationship in the most productive, caring way possible.
The therapists at Twin Cities Mental Health & Couples Center help individuals and couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards divorce, or take time and decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. Our therapists respect the reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health. We emphasize the importance of each party seeing his or her own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions, agreeing that the information 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, our therapists help 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. Another option is to move toward uncoupling and discernment in this process. This is especially important for couples with children.
Discernment counseling involves approximately five counseling sessions. The first session is usually 2 hours, and subsequent sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours. Discernment counseling is not suitable when one spouse has made a final decision to divorce and is going through the process just to encourage the other partner to accept the decision, when there is a danger of domestic violence or an order of protection from the court, and when one spouse is coercing the other to participate.