Discernment Counseling – For Couples “On the Brink”

William Doherty is a nationally recognized authority in marital therapy who has written a host of really helpful books – my favorite being Take Back Your MarriageDoherty came to speak to the annual conference of the Washington Association of Marriage and Family Therapy on 3/3 and introduced a room full of raptly attentive marital therapists to Discernment Counseling.  “How do we deal with the couple,” Doherty asks, “where one partner is leaning into the marriage and the other is leaning out?”  To attempt conventional marital therapy in such situations is an invitation to disappointment on everyone’s part.  So Doherty has devised a powerful approach in which he works mostly separately with each partner.  The referral often comes from divorce lawyers and in situations in which the “leaning out” partner is feeling done, but is willing to at least speak to someone because some ambivalence (if even ever-so-slight) remains.  The partners agree that divorce will be off the table for six months as they work to see if reconciliation is even possible.  The benefit of this kind of work is that that therapist can have open and very candid conversations with each person about the consequences of divorce; their own role in bringing the marriage to its current state and whether each is willing to make an all out effort to see if the marriage can be brought back.  Studies have shown that of divorcing couples, fully 30% have at least one partner who is ambivalent and in 10%, both parties are.  For more information, you can check out Doherty’s Couples on the Brink website.