Should I Stay or Go...Discernment Counseling

I am offering a very helpful service called Discernment Counseling, stemming from Bill Doherty’s “Couples on the Brink” project. From my experience at least 1/3 of the couples I see come in with differing agendas about whether to try and save the marriage or move toward divorce. One person is "leaning out," or wanting to go, while the other is "leaning in," or wanting to stay.

In discernment counseling, I help the leaning-out spouse decide if the decision to leave the marriage is the correct one, and work on strategies for the leaning-in spouse to cope in a way that doesn't make the situation worse—without pleading, pushing or otherwise turning off the already irritated spouse. These mixed agenda couples often can find traditional couples counseling frustrating and unhelpful.

Discernment counseling is short term, and the focus is not on solving marital problems but on seeing if they could potentially be solved.
Considering Divorce or Separation?
 Consider Discernment Counseling First

What does discernment counseling involve?

  • The discernment counselor helps individuals and couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards ending the relationship, or take a time out and decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. The counselor respects the reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health.

  • The counselor emphasizes the importance of each party seeing his or her own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends. Discernment counseling is considered successful when people have clarity and confidence in their decision.

  • When a decision emerges, the counselor helps the parties either to find professionals who can help them have a constructive divorce or to formulate a reconciliation work plan to create a healthy, successful marriage. In some cases, couples decide to take a time out from the discernment process and return later.

How many sessions are there?

Discernment counseling involves a maximum of five counseling sessions. The first session is usually 2 hours, and subsequent sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours.

Discernment counseling is NOT suitable when

  • there is a danger of domestic violence.

  • there is an Order of Protection from the court.

  • one spouse is coercing the other to participate

wedding cake cut in half with bride and groom on either side
Julienne Derichs LCPC

Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling Serving  
Highland Park, Lake Forest, Deerfield, Lincolnshire, Illinois
847 266-8484
 Couples Counseling Today
    ...Courage, Compassion, Connection
Julienne B. Derichs LCPC


847 266-8484                    Office in Highwood, IL 60040                 
                                   (between Lake Forest and Highland Park, IL)