The Betz Law Firm Articles The Pros and Cons of Discernment Counseling

The Pros and Cons of Discernment Counseling

By David Betz  Jul. 17, 2018 2:45p

An unfortunate truth about marriage is that sometimes it must come to an end. One or both of the people involved feel that staying in their relationship is too painful, and they seek to end it. If this decision has been made, it is time to contact a St. Louis divorce attorney. If there is even a sliver of hope left, though, a couple may decide to try and make it work. One of the most common and useful methods is discernment counseling. Below, we will define it, tell you what is good about it, and tell you why it might not be right for you.

What Is Discernment Counseling?

The best way to explain discernment counseling is to compare it to conventional couples therapy. In traditional therapy, couples come to sessions without much of an agenda. They talk about whatever is on their minds, they work through it, and they move on to the next meeting. Discernment counseling is much more targeted, structured, and condensed. Unlike in couples therapy, discernment generally has a maximum of five 90 minute sessions before the couple must answer which path they want to take. There are three possible paths: Continuing the marriage as is, divorcing, and committing to making things work for six months.


The primary advantages of this type of counseling comes from its structure. First, it is time bound. Between five 90 minute sessions, couples are on a timer. They have a limited amount of time to decide if they want to be together or not. This time limit allows them to cut to the heart of their problems right away. In conventional therapy, a couple might spend an entire session on one meaningless argument, and get nowhere. In discernment counseling, this is not an option. The second major advantage is the three set paths that couples must choose from when they finish. Often, people will hide their feelings in a relationship and not be upfront with how invested they are. This feature circumvents that by forcing the couple to choose path 1, 2, or 3.


Ironically, the disadvantages of discernment counseling come from structure too. While the format of this type of therapy has many benefits, it will not be right for some couples that have a lot to discuss. If there is too much to unpack, setting a time limit may not be beneficial. Ultimately, it is best to decide exactly where you are in your relationship before choosing a therapy type. If you are on the brink of divorce, discernment is a great option. If you are not, you likely want to select conventional couples therapy.

When a marriage is not going well, couples have a variety of tools at their disposal. One of those tools is discernment counseling. It allows couples to cut straight to the point and make a decision as to whether or not they want to stay married. The lack of time in counseling has its drawbacks, but this kind of therapy is generally considered very effective. While the best outcome is often to stay married, sometimes it is not. If this is the case, it is best to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

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