Couples In Step Hearts

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Are you considering divorce or separation but unsure that’s the right path for you? Is one of you considering that path, but the other of you is not? That’s a hard place to be! Here’s where Discernment Counselling can help.

Discernment Counselling offers the opportunity to pause, take a breath, and carefully consider the long term consequences of divorce/separation.

Here is a 30 minute video that describes Discernment Counselling in greater detail.

Discernment Counselling and Couple’s Therapy: The Difference

There is a clear difference between Discernment Counselling and Couple’s Therapy. Couple’s Therapy assumes both people are willing to work on the marriage/relationship. Discernment Counselling assumes that one partner is “ambivalent” or “leaning out” of the relationship while the other spouse is “leaning in.” Each perspective is honoured.

  • Typically the “leaning out” of the relationship partner is unconvinced regular couple counselling will help

  • Typically the other partner is “leaning in” and interested in rebuilding the relationship

You will Choose One of the Following Paths

  • Restore your relationship to health

  • Move towards separation/divorce

  • Continue with the relationship as it is and decide later.

restore your relationship

The Goals of This Approach

  • To gain clarity and confidence about a direction for your relationship

  • To gain confidence in the direction you decide to move forward on

  • To gain a deeper understanding of each partner’s contributions to the current state of the relationship.

Discernment Counselling is not to solve your marital/relationship problems, but to see if they are solvable.

How Does It Work?

You will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your relationship at the moment. There are no bad or good guys.

You will come in as a couple, but the most important work occurs in the one-to-one conversations with your therapist. Why? Because you are starting out in different places.

Your therapist will respect your reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring your relationship to health.

Your therapist will ask each of you to see your contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends.

Considering Discernment Counselling?

Practical and Important Details

Discernment Counselling is short term.

Our office will ask each partner to commit to Discernment Counselling sessions.

Sessions are weekly.  Sometimes Discernment Counselling sessions are twice a week. Discernment Counselling Sessions are not every other week.

You may have as few as one session or as many as five to seven sessions. Our office will schedule you for five sessions so that the time is reserved for you. If Discernment Counselling concludes after fewer than 5 sessions the sessions scheduled for you are cancelled with no obligation from you. You each decide at the conclusion of each session whether to come back or not for a subsequent session.

At Couples In Step Discernment Counselling sessions are two hours each. You must each be available for the entire two hour time slot.

. Discernment Counselling sessions are on

  • Wednesday afternoons from 12:30-2:30 pm or
  • Thursday afternoons from 1-3 pm.

Occasionally Discernment Sessions are proceeded with an information session (30-60 minutes) for each partner. The information sessions are fee-for-service sessions.

Discernment Counselling is Not Suitable When…

  • One partner has already made a final decision to divorce/separation

  • One partner is coercing the other to participate

  • There is danger of intimate partner violence.

Discernment Counselling is Suitable Even When…

  • One partner is engaged in lifestyle choices such as use of substances

  • One partner is involved in an affair.

About Discernment Counselling

Discernment Counselling was developed by Bill Doherty, PhD, as part of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Program. Recently Huffington Post ran an article about Discernment Counselling.

Irene has using aspects of Dr. Doherty’s approach since 2012 when she first read an article authored by by Dr. Doherty in a professional journal. In 2014 Dr. Doherty, along with his daughter Elizabeth Doherty formed the DRI Alliance. The DRI Alliance is dedicated to preserving couple relationships where possible and to give couples the opportunity to move toward a family friendly divorce when a relationship is ending. The DRI Alliance trains therapists, lawyers, and mediators in the Discernment Counselling approach. Irene has been a member of the DRI Alliance since its inception, deepening her understanding and skill in this approach.

Certified Discernment Counsellor