What is Discernment Counseling?

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Experiencing or wondering if you’re in a failing marriage can be quite difficult. It is very hard to dedicate your life and your time to a relationship that you believe is a few steps away from complete degradation.

Often, people are unsure of whether or not their marriage is worth repairing, and this can have a detrimental effect on mental health.

Marriage can mean different things to different people, and it does tend to change over time. When couples get married, they are might feel happy and totally in love with their spouse. This is often referred to as the “honeymoon” phase, where it seems like nothing can go wrong.

However, after time, the honeymoon phase fades and you are still left with the same person you married and with whom you were previously infatuated. The love changes, and sometimes without the proper relationship work it can feel like it diminishes, so your happy thoughts of the future are in jeopardy. Although this sequence of events does not happen for every couple, it certainly happens in a good percentage of marriages.

Being stuck in an uncertain marriage can be frustrating. On one hand, you desire to remain bound to the person you still love and care for very much, or did in the past. On the other hand, if you consider your marriage stale and stagnant, you might wish to pursue other avenues. This is an extremely challenging decision to make, and your decision has major ramifications.

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Luckily, counseling tools are available to help couples with their decision.

Discernment counseling is a therapy method that is specifically designed to assist married people in their pursuit of a healthy relationship. Discernment counseling will be defined and thoroughly explored in the remainder of this article.

In addition to counseling during therapy sessions, it can be a good idea to read articles on marital relationships. Mental health professionals have written thousands of articles on the topic and their information is backed by years of research and clinical experience.

In order to read marriage counseling articles and seek the counsel of a therapist, try visiting MyTherapist. It’s a trusted mental health resource that has helped thousands of people with their mental health and relationship struggles.

Discernment Counseling Defined

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Discernment counseling focuses on helping married couples to gain a better perspective of the current state of their marriage. This perspective can provide couples with the clarity they need to make the decision to end their marriage or continue on in their pursuit to cultivate a loving marriage.

Discernment counseling was created by Bill Doherty, Ph.D., a professor, and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Center at the University of Minnesota. In contrast to typical forms of marriage counseling that focus on preserving the marriage, discernment counseling’s only goal is to help the couple decide if they would like to continue with their relationship.

Unlike other forms of marriage counseling that can continue for years, discernment counseling is relatively short in duration. This form of therapy is usually conducted within five sessions so that couples need not waste time in an unhealthy relationship if they decide to end their marriage.

It is important to note that discernment therapy is not used as a treatment method for dysfunctional marriages, but rather should be considered a means to assess the status of the marriage. Discernment counseling can provide couples with the information they need to properly evaluate their marriage and take action.

In essence, the question that discernment therapy addresses are: “Are you, or are you not, willing to make changes in your marriage to preserve it?” If each person in the relationship answers this question with a “yes,” then they could start changing their marriage immediately. Then, after approximately six months of sustained effort, the “Are you willing to work on your marriage?” question should be considered once again.

Who Discernment Counseling Works For

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You may think that discernment counseling is only suited for couples when both spouses are unsure about their marriage. However, this is not the case. Even when one person is already certain about ending the marriage, this form of counseling can allow the opportunity to review the history of the marriage and discuss possible future directions.

Divorce is a difficult process, and it does not happen overnight. Typically, one spouse is more comfortable with the divorce process than the other, and they may even be more emotionally balanced in comparison.

Discernment counseling allows for the spouse who is “behind” to catch up emotionally with the other spouse. This is particularly important for spouses who have children, as this waiting period can assist in the creation of a cordial future relationship.

Additionally, when one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse wants to work on the marriage, discernment counseling can help. This form of therapy can alleviate emotional issues and other conflicts. Likewise, discernment counseling can benefit spouses who both want a divorce in the same way.

After Discernment Counseling

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For couples who decide to end their marriage, the next steps are pretty straightforward. Legal divorce proceedings should progress in the proper fashion and the relationship between the spouses should remain cordial. Hopefully, the counseling process resolved or at least addressed some of the issues that can make a divorce get nasty.

Couples who choose to work on their marriage will already have an understanding of which areas of their marriage require the most attention. Discernment counseling identifies problem areas so that they may be improved upon in the next steps of therapy. This allows for focused, directed therapy that will not waste time.

Discernment counseling is not an answer for all marriage problems. It cannot make spouses fall in love again or force dedication to a marriage. Harmony is not necessarily created through this therapy type but can be cultivated in subsequent marriage counseling sessions that follow discernment therapy.

Clarity is the aim of discernment counseling, and spouses who are unhappy with their marriage should strongly consider this therapy option. Try to give this counseling choice a shot if you feel stuck with no place to run. It can help you understand your situation and leave you feeling empowered.