Couples counseling has been around for many years. A married couple in a troublesome situation may come to a therapist or psychologist for help to better understand each other and to learn ways to work together and make a marriage stronger.
Many couples, however, do not seek counseling until they are at a crisis point, already discussing divorce. University of Minnesota family social science department professor, Bill Doherty, has begun a new therapy called “discernment counseling.” He says, “We basically only see people where divorce is on the table” (source).
Last year the Family Court Review published a study about divorcing couples. Researchers were curious about what might happen if the courts offered a reconciliation service. Only in 10% of the reporting couples would both partners seriously consider such offerings. Couples that had only one partner willing to try numbered around 30%.
Doherty describes that 30% as “mixed agenda couples” having one partner who is “leaning out or wanting to go, while the other is leaning in or wanting to stay.”
Doherty’s counseling for divorce includes five sessions which are structured differently than traditional marriage counseling. In this case, the couple and counselor begin together with a “check-in,” then each individual meets with the counselor separately, and they finish up together with a “check-out” and summary of their take away. Topics discussed during these important gatherings include what brought them together and what was good about the marriage, what brought them to this critical point and how they have tried to save the marriage.
Doherty “lays out three alternatives: marriage as it has been, divorce, or a six-month reconciliation with marriage therapy. Of the 25 couples Dr. Doherty counseled, 40% decided to try the reconciliation; the rest divorced or are still thinking it over.” source