Are you considering filing for divorce, but your spouse or partner is uncertain that this is the right choice (or vice versa)? This scenario is not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, 30 percent of couples who seek therapy are “mixed-agenda” couples, meaning one is leaning out of the relationship while the other still wishes to save it, according to William J. Doherty Ph.D., professor in the family social science department at the University of Minnesota.
What is discernment therapy?
One way to think about discernment therapy is that it is a way for couples to review their options for their relationship before making a final decision about divorce. The goal of discernment therapy is to help couples find clarity and confidence in the decisions they will make about their marriage or partnership.
How do I know if discernment therapy is right for us?
Discernment therapy is for couples who are considering divorce but are not completely sure if it’s the right path for them. If one of you is completely confident that you want a divorce, this option may not be suitable for you. But if both of you are ambivalent and would like to consider your options, discernment therapy may provide a good path forward. Discernment therapy can help couples give their marriage another chance, even if one partner is moving towards divorce.
According to Dr. Doherty and the University of Minnesota, discernment therapy is NOT suitable when:
- one spouse has made a final decision to divorce and wants counseling to encourage the other spouse to accept that decision,
- there is danger of domestic violence,
- there is an Order of Protection from the court, or
- one spouse is coercing the other to participate.
How does discernment therapy differ from couples or marriage counseling?
With couples therapy or marriage counseling, partners are seeking help to repair or save a relationship, and improve the dynamics of the relationship going forward. With discernment therapy, couples can expect to come to a decision about whether to try to change these dynamics.
How is this therapy structured?
It can vary based on each couple and their needs, but generally the discernment therapy process involves 1-5 sessions. Therapists help couples map out one of three paths:
- to stay married as has been,
- to move toward divorce, or
- to agree on a reconciliation period during which time the couple will seek therapy and other resources as needed to work on their relationship.
Does COCD offer discernment therapy?
Yes. We help families no matter where they are in their separation or divorce journey. Sometimes, that journey includes delaying the decision to divorce. Other times couples do not end up divorcing at all. For couples with children in which one or both are not yet ready to proceed with divorce and may need more time, education, and/or counseling to determine a path forward, COCD offers a planning for transition package.
How do I work with COCD if my partner and I are not on the same page?
We require that both parents consent to working together and engage equally in our process. We don’t expect you and your co-parent to agree on all of the issues surrounding your divorce or separation, but we do require that you both agree to work with COCD.
What if I still have questions?
No matter where you are in your decision making process, we recommend contacting COCD so that we can help explain the options and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. We welcome your questions. We are here to help.