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Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains

Discernment Counselling

Discernment counselling was developed by Dr. Bill Doherty for couples who are on a brink of separation or divorce. This approach is based on decades of working with couples as well as research. The goal of discernment counselling is greater clarity and confidence in a decision about the future direction of the marriage/partnership, based on a deeper understanding of what has happened to the relationship and each person's contributions to the problems.

We make a clear distinction between discernment counselling and couple's therapy. This is crucial for this work because you are not required to commit to couple's therapy. In discernment counseling, there are no couple level interventions. We are aiming for clarity and confidence about the direction and helping you understand better what's happened to the relationship and how each of you has contributed. This is important because divorce is life a changing decision and it is crucial that this decision is not based on anger, resentment, or despair. Understanding each partner's contribution is important because if the marriage does end in divorce, it is impossible to leave oneself and the risk of repeating old patterns in any future relationship is very high. 

There's a distinctive structure in discernment counselling. It is short term, 1-5 sessions, and preferably weekly. The session(s) include individual time as well as couple. You only commit to first session and make a decision each time about whether to meet again.

In discernment counselling, most of the work occurs in separate conversations. In the sessions, the first part would be with the 2 of you together in the room. Then the next part with each of separate and the last part back together. In this work, the most intensive work, the most intensive conversations go on in one-to-one with each of you separately which is different again from regular marriage counseling. The reason for that is that each of you are maybe in a different place and I want to help you individually sort out how to move forward.

Focus throughout is on decision making about three paths: the marriage as it has been (path one), separation/ divorce (path two), or a six month reconciliation period with an all-out effort in couples therapy (and using other resources), with divorce off the table—and then a decision about the long term future (path three).

To learn more about discernment counselling, please, visit http://dohertyrelationshipinstitute.com/

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