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Discernment and Pre-Divorce Counseling in Austin, Texas

At Relationships Matter Austin, we are here to help you explore whether ending your relationship is the right decision for you. We provide a compassionate and understanding environment for you.

Are you or your partner considering separation or divorce?

  • Are you at a crossroads in your marriage or relationship, with one foot in and one foot out?
  • Or, are you desperate to save your marriage and fear it is on the brink of ending?
  • Perhaps one of you is “leaning out” of the relationship ­while the other is “leaning in”?
  • Do you feel stuck in an impossible situation and wish you could find a clear path forward?

Our licensed clinicians are here to explore these questions with you in a process called discernment counseling (also called pre-divorce counseling). We can help you gain clarity and confidence about which direction to take.

What is Discernment Counseling? 

Discernment counseling is for couples on the brink. If you or your spouse are considering divorce but are not completely sure that’s the best path, Discernment Counseling is designed for you. It’s a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at your options for your marriage.

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Discernment Counseling is a new way of helping couples where one person is “leaning out” of the relationship—and not sure that regular marriage counseling would help–and the other is “leaning in” that is, interested in rebuilding the marriage. Our experienced counselors will help you decide whether to try to restore your marriage to health, move toward divorce, or continue with the marriage as it is. The goal is for you to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future.

What is the goal of Discernment Counseling?

The goal is not to solve your marital problems but 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. Each appointment includes a combination of meeting as a couple as well as individual, 1:1 time with your counselor. This is because each individual is often starting out in a different place. We respect your reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health. We seek to help you each see your own contributions to the problems as well as the possible solutions. If the marriage does not continue, the insights gained through discernment counseling will be useful in future relationships.

Deciding On Whether To Stay Together or Separate is a Process, Not an Event

It’s very common for couples to wait quite some time before reaching out for help. There are many reasons for this, including one partner refusing to attend couples therapy and stigma about therapy. As many as 30 percent of couples who seek couples therapy are what is called “mixed agenda” couples, in which one person is leaning out of the marriage and the other is leaning in, hopeful that the marriage can be saved. In these cases, both partners are in great despair and struggling to manage complicated feelings in different ways.

Even when a couple decides to separate, that doesn’t mean the choice was clear, clean and final. Among couples who have filed for divorce, as many as 40 percent are mixed agenda, with one partner still hoping to save the marriage. Additionally, up to 40 percent of divorced people have regrets about deciding on divorce, often because they feel they (and their partner) didn’t try hard enough to make the marriage work. Thankfully, there is a way for you and your partner to make sure there are no rocks left unturned and things unexpressed. Discernment counseling is a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at all of your options for your marriage or relationship before you commit to a path forward.

Discernment Counseling Can Help You Gain Clarity and Feel Confident That You Are Making the Right Choice

The primary goal of Discernment Counseling is for each of you to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future. The goal is not to solve your relationship or marriage problems, but instead to see if they are solvable. We will help you decide whether to:

  • Commit to couples counseling for one last effort, with separation and divorce off the table. After that work, you reassess the future of the relationship.
  • Move toward separation or divorce.
  • Or, take a time out and decide later.
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Your counselor will create a holding environment where you and your partner can safely and thoroughly explore your options as you make what is likely one of the most important decisions in your life. In sessions, you will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your relationship at the moment. There is no “good partner, bad partner” in this process. You are both likely in pain, albeit in different ways, and the pain that you are experiencing will be valued and heard.

To benefit from discernment counseling, you don’t have to be sure that you want to leave the marriage and you don’t have to be sure that you want to work on it.

There is no pressure to commit to any given path at the moment (although it is important that neither of you feel absolutely certain that you want a divorce). Discernment counseling offers guided space and time for thoughtful consideration of all of your options to help you make the best decision about the future of your relationship.

It is possible for you to feel more settled and confident about your next steps, whether to make one last effort in couples therapy to restore your relationship to health, or to move forward with separation or divorce. You can make the best decision for you and your relationship.

Take a Step Towards Clarity and Confidence Today.

Frequently Asked Questions- Discernment & Pre-Divorce Counseling

How many sessions will we meet? Do we always attend together?

We will meet for up to 5 discernment counseling sessions. In each appointment, your counselor will help you decide whether it would be helpful to come in for another discernment counseling appointment. There is no commitment in the process beyond one session at a time.

The first appointment is 2 hours and subsequent appointments are 1.5 or 2 hours. Each session consists of time with the three of us together and time for me to meet with each of you individually. Both partners come in for each appointment, and the most important work occurs in the one-to-one conversations with me. You are each starting out in different places, and we will work differently with you because of this. And, we will not pick sides. We are here to help you make the best possible decision for your relationship and your future.

What’s the difference between marriage counseling and discernment counseling?

Marriage counseling is appropriate when both partners are committed to actively working on the relationship. Discernment counseling is appropriate when there is significant ambivalence or uncertainty in one or both partners about the future of the relationship. Marriage counseling is about working to bring about change. Discernment counseling is about working to see if both of you want to try to bring about change or want to move in a different direction.

When is Discernment Counseling not appropriate?

Discernment Counseling is not appropriate in the following situations:

• When one spouse has already made a final decision to divorce
• When one spouse is coercing the other to participate or when there is danger of violence

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