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Life is not what it's supposed to be.  It's what it is.  The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.   Virginia Satir

considering divorce

At a Crossroads

Discernment Counselling

Discernment Counselling is a new way of helping couples when one or both spouses are considering separation or divorce but not completely sure of the decision. It is designed to help couples when their marriage is "on the brink" of divorce.  Oftentimes one partner is not sure that regular marriage counselling would help (the "leaning out" partner) and the other partner is interested in rebuilding the relationship (the "leaning in" partner).

With Discernment Counselling, I help you to decide whether to try to restore your marriage to health, move toward separation or divorce, or take time out and decide later. It is a chance to slow down, take a breath, and make some space. In that space you will have the opportunity to gain clarity and confidence about which direction to take, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future.

Discernment Counselling is distinct from couples therapy. With Discernment Counselling, the goal is not to solve your marital problems, but rather to see if they are solvable. You will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your marriage at the moment. You will come in as a couple but the most important work occurs in one-to-one conversations with me.  Why? Because you are starting out in different places.

Discernment counselling involves respecting your reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring your marriage to health. There is an emphasis on learning about your self in relationship, and on building awareness of the ways you have contributed to relationship problems and to possible solutions. It is an opportunity to gain clarity and build awareness that will serve you well at this present critical juncture in your relationship as well as into your future. Whether you choose to move forward together or apart, Discernment Counselling will help you do so with more awareness and understanding. 

Number of sessions: a maximum of five counselling sessions. The first session is usually 2 hours and the subsequent sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours.

Discernment Counselling is not suited for these situations:

  • When one spouse has already made a final decision to divorce

  • When one spouse is coercing the other to participate

  • When there is danger of domestic violence

Discernment Counselling is based on the following principles:

  • Life-long commitment is especially difficult in today's consumer-driven culture

  • Children have an important stake in the health and endurance of their parent's marriage

  • Valuable lessons can be drawn from the process of trying to save a troubled marriage

  • Because most troubled marriages can be restored to health if both partners dedicate themselves to make that happen, the first stance of the therapist should be to help see if the path of healing through couples therapy is possible.

  • Because love and fairness must go hand in hand, healing a marriage must not come at the expense of one of the spouses.

  • Some divorces are unavoidable because one partner chooses the path of divorce, sometimes against the wishes of their spouse.

  • When clients choose divorce, their therapist has a responsibility to make them aware of additional resources, including individual therapists and divorce professionals who can facilitate a fair and healing separation process.

Discernment Counselling was created by the Doherty Relationship Institute.  More information on Discernment Counselling and Marriage Therapy can be found on their Modern Commitment Website.


Leah Ross is specially trained in Discernment Counselling and recognized as a Certified Discernment Counsellor by the Doherty Relationship Institute

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