Power of Discernment in Marriage Counseling: Strengthening Relationships

Power of Discernment in Marriage Counseling: Strengthening Relationships

Each couple is unique in its dynamics, issues, and coping mechanisms. Hence, the need for an approach that acknowledges this individuality and helps untangle the complex web of marital discord becomes essential. This is where the critical role of discernment marriage counseling comes into the picture. Incorporating discernment in counseling practices empowers couples to navigate their issues with better understanding, empathy, and, most importantly, clarity.

Can Discernment Counseling Save A Marriage?

Can Discernment Counseling Save A Marriage?Discernment counseling indeed holds significant potential to save a marriage. But it’s crucial to understand its purpose is not specifically to save the relationship, but rather to provide clarity and confidence in deciding a direction. It’s a form of counseling that helps couples understand their relationship better, pinpoint the sources of their problems, and assess whether their issues can be resolved.

Its aim is to help couples move from a state of indecision to a well-thought-out resolution. Whether that means reconciling or parting ways. This clarity can often lead to relationship preservation and improvement. As it allows both individuals to fully grasp their circumstances and make the most informed decisions.

However, it’s important to remember that the success of discernment counseling (or any form of counseling) depends largely on the couple’s willingness to change, communicate openly, and commit to the process.

What Is The Discernment Process In Marriage Counseling?

Discernment counseling is a structured approach to therapy that typically happens over one to five sessions. Each session lasting up to two hours. It’s designed for couples where at least one partner is contemplating divorce or is unsure about the viability of the relationship.

  • Individual Conversations

The process begins with individual conversations between the counselor and each spouse. During these conversations, the counselor will try to understand each partner’s perspective on the relationship, their feelings towards each other, and their thoughts on the possibility of reconciliation or divorce.

  • Joint Discussion

After individual meetings, a joint discussion is facilitated where each partner communicates their feelings and thoughts about the relationship. The counselor aids in this process by creating a safe and non-judgmental space for conversation.

  • Exploration of Three Paths

The discernment counselor helps the couple understand the three potential paths before them: maintaining the status quo, proceeding towards a divorce, or committing to an intensive therapy process for a certain period (like 6 months) with divorce off the table.

  • Insights and Understanding

The counselor guides the couple to understand the contribution of each partner to the marital discord. This is not about placing blame. But about fostering a better understanding of the dynamics within the relationship.

  • Decision-Making

By the end of discernment counseling, the couple should have more clarity about which path to take. Regardless of the decision, the process should help the couple communicate more effectively. And understand their relationship better.

How Discernment Marriage Counseling Differs From Traditional Therapy?

How Discernment Marriage Counseling Differs From Traditional Therapy?Discernment marriage counseling and traditional marriage therapy, while both valuable, have different goals and methods that distinguish them.

Focus of Counseling

Traditional marriage therapy is typically focused on problem-solving and improving the relationship over an extended period. It assumes that both parties are willing to work on the marriage and implement changes. On the other hand, discernment counseling aims to provide clarity and confidence about the next steps for the couple.

Especially, when one or both partners are considering divorce or are unsure about the future of the relationship. It’s a short-term process, generally spanning one to five sessions, with the primary goal being decision-making.

Approach to Client’s Ambivalence

In traditional counseling, ambivalence towards the relationship is often seen as a barrier to progress. However, discernment counseling embraces this ambivalence as the starting point. It recognizes that the partners may have different levels of commitment and offers space for each partner to explore their feelings and options independently before making a decision.


The desired outcome of traditional marriage counseling is generally the improvement and healing of the relationship. It aims to help couples develop better communication skills, resolve conflicts, and foster intimacy. Conversely, discernment counseling might result in a decision to divorce, a decision to work on the marriage through traditional therapy, or a decision to keep things as they are for a certain period.

Role of the Therapist

In traditional therapy, the therapist works as a neutral party helping the couple to solve their issues. And, in discernment counseling, the counselor takes a more directive role, guiding the partners towards clarity about their decision, helping them to understand their contribution to the problems in the relationship, and exploring possible solutions.

In essence, though both forms of counseling can be beneficial. But, discernment counseling is particularly useful when couples are uncertain about their future. Whereas traditional marriage therapy is more appropriate when both partners are committed to repairing and improving their relationship.

What Techniques Are Used In Discernment Marriage Counseling?

What Techniques Are Used In Discernment Marriage Counseling?Here are some of the primary techniques used:

Reflective Listening

The counselor uses reflective listening to understand the perspectives of both partners and to facilitate communication between them. This involves the counselor echoing, summarizing, or paraphrasing what a partner says. And this, ensures their thoughts and feelings are accurately understood.

Individual and Joint Sessions

The discernment process involves both individual and joint sessions. Individual sessions allow each partner to express their feelings and thoughts without the fear of judgment or conflict. Joint sessions enable the partners to communicate their feelings to each other with the counselor acting as a mediator.

Exploring the Relationship History

The counselor guides the couple in an exploration of their relationship history. This includes examining patterns of behavior, past incidents of conflict, and significant milestones. This process helps the couple to understand their dynamics better and to identify what has led them to their current situation.

Identifying and Understanding Contributions

The counselor helps each partner identify and understand their contributions to the problems in the marriage. This is not about blame but rather about fostering awareness and personal responsibility.

Presentation of Three Paths

The counselor outlines the three paths that the couple can choose from: maintaining the status quo, moving towards a divorce, or committing to a set period of traditional couples therapy with divorce off the table. This clear delineation helps the couple to consider their options realistically.

Facilitating Decision-Making

The counselor assists the couple in making their decision. They provide insights, highlight the potential consequences of each path, and support the couple in reaching a decision with clarity and confidence.

These techniques are all designed to facilitate open communication, foster understanding, and help the couple make an informed decision about their future. Remember, the goal of discernment counseling is not to solve the marital problems but to decide whether solving them is something both parties want to commit to.

Potential Outcomes of Discernment in Marriage Counseling

The purpose of discernment counseling is to guide couples to decide on the path forward for their relationship with more clarity and confidence. As such, the potential outcomes are not measured in terms of “saving” or “ending” a marriage. But rather in the resolution and direction decided upon by the couple.

Here are some potential outcomes:

  1. Reconciliation and Renewed Commitment: After gaining a better understanding of their issues and their contributions to the problems in their relationship, some couples may decide to commit to their marriage. They may opt to engage in traditional couples therapy to resolve their issues and work towards strengthening their relationship.
  2. Decision to Separate or Divorce: Some couples, after thoroughly understanding their issues and after gaining clarity, may decide to separate or divorce. This decision is often made with less conflict and more mutual understanding and respect, reducing the emotional turmoil usually associated with such a process.
  3. Continuation of the Status Quo: A third potential outcome is that couples may choose to continue with their current situation for a specific period. Particularly if they are still unsure about the direction they want to take.
  4. Enhanced Communication: Regardless of the decision made, a key outcome of discernment counseling is improved communication between partners. The process often allows couples to understand each other better and express their feelings more effectively.
  5. Personal Growth and Understanding: Discernment counseling can lead to personal growth and increased self-awareness for both individuals. They can understand their roles in the relationship dynamics better, helping them make healthier choices in the future, even if they decide to part ways.

Remember, the goal of discernment counseling is not to “fix” the marriage. In fact, to help couples understand their relationship dynamics better and make an informed decision about their future together.


In conclusion, discernment marriage counseling is a valuable tool for couples at a crossroads in their relationship. Rather than focusing on problem-solving as traditional therapy does, this aims to bring clarity and confidence to the decision-making process. It provides a safe environment for couples to express their feelings, understand their contributions to the relationship’s problems. Ultimately, to explore potential paths forward.

Hence, it can be an important step in empowering couples to navigate their issues, whatever the final decision may be. Marriage is a beautiful journey, However every marriage encounters challenges. If you have any queries regarding Online Marriage Counseling experienced therapists at CoupleMantra can help: Book a trial couple therapy session

Scroll to Top