For Couples on The Brink

Many couples find their way to therapy as a last resort, when one or both of them is already thinking about ending the relationship.

This can be a time of high emotions and intense anxiety, both for the person who is leaning out of the relationship and the person who wants to save it. And while the stakes can feel very high, the harder you try to fix it the worse it gets! Even couple therapy may seem to drive you in different directions.

If you find yourself and your partner at that stage, your best choice may be Discernment Counseling . Unlike regular couple therapy, Discernment doesn't try to fix a couple's problems. Instead, Discernment Counseling is designed to bring down the level of anxiety, clarify what led to this point for each of you, and explore ALL options before any irrevocable decisions are made. When a couple goes through Discernment Counseling, they usually finish the process with clarity and confidence about what their next steps regarding their relationship will be, while having a greater depth of understanding as to how they got to where they are. As a bonus, they are usually less volatile and angry, independent on whether they decide to reconcile or break up.

Discernment Counseling is short, usually ranging from one to six sessions . The sessions include couple and individual conversations with the therapist; during the individual conversations, you are free to freely speak about the problems, explore their impact on you, and receive help to keep the relationship from further deterioration. Your first session usually runs two hours, and following sessions are 90 minutes. I can usually screen and see Discernment Counseling couples within one to two weeks of contact. All Discernment Counseling sessions are held on Fridays via telehealth.

The Discernment Counseling Process. When you contact me for Discernment Counseling, I will set up  free 10-20 minute sessions with you and your partner separately to see if you are a good fit for the Discernment Counseling process and to answer all your questions. If we decide you are a good fit, I will let you know after I have screened both of you and we will proceed to setting up your first Discernment Counseling session. At the end of each session, I will ask you if you clearly know what you want to do (stay status quo, break up, or commit to six months of intense couple therapy). If you both have clearly decided, then that is the end of the Discernment process. If you are still thinking about what to do, we schedule a new session. We do this for a maximum of six sessions. Most couples know their direction by Session Three.


What happens at the end of Discernment Counseling? Couples reach the end of the Discernment process when they've decided that they are willing to commit to six months of intensive work on the relationship, or they are ready to move toward the ending the relationship, or they've decided against any change for now (staying status quo). 

If you and your partner commit to working on the relationship, I have a network of experienced and well-trained couple therapists that I will refer you to for your couple therapy (and I will bring the therapist up to date on the work you did in Discernment Counseling and my insights into your relationship). We will also do one final session to create an individual change list for each of you that you will take with you into your couple therapy.

If you and your partner decide that you’ve done all you can and it is time to end the relationship, I will offer you an extra session where we can discuss how to tell children or family members, and what type of legal avenues are open to you.

If you decide to stay status quo before you take action, we can talk about options like contracting a set time while you continue to explore your feelings, try individual therapy, or working out relationship rules while you continue to cohabit.

Discernment Counseling has been successfully used with different couples, including hetero and LBGT couples.

For more information on Discernment Counseling, contact me at [email protected].