I Do. Now I Don't. What Is Discernment Counseling?

Updated: Sep 28

Original Post 2019 Joseph Shaub, MA, JD

Bill Doherty, one of the deans and wise elders of the American couples therapy community has written for years about the "mixed agenda couple." One partner is "leaning in" to the relationship and the other is "leaning out." Couples therapy with such couples is almost invariably frustrating for the therapist and the couple and a lot of time and money gets spent thrashing around in a non-productive uncoordinated dance.


Doherty and a number of therapeutic and legal colleagues in Minneapolis fashioned an approach to supporting these couples and called it Discernment Counseling. it is a truly valuable addition to the skills of the couples therapist. However, the first thing we must understand is that Discernment Counseling is not couples therapy.


What Is Discernment Counseling?


You take your ring off. You put the ring on. You take it off. You put it on - twirl it around your finger as you contemplate your painful dilemma. "Am I in or am I out?

Every couple in serious distress has three basic paths before them. They can either: