WHAT IS “DECISION COUNSELING” (DC)?
Our “Decision Counseling” (DC) process is not couples therapy. Adapted from Bill Doherty’s Discernment Counseling, Decision Counseling is a time-limited process designed to help you get clear and feel confident about your decision to either:
1) Do nothing and stay in the marriage as it is,
2) Separate &/or Divorce, or
3) Commit whole-heartedly to intensive couples therapy for 6 months, without separation or divorce as options.
Decision Counseling couples usually meet with a trained, licensed mental health professional for 2 to 8 weeks, in sessions of 1-1/2 to 2 hours per week.
Decision Counseling presumes there is no shared or equal commitment by both partners to repair the relationship, so DC does not attempt to “fix” or “repair” the relationship.
Each partner gains clarity about his/her contribution to the challenges that exist, and what each partner would need to change and accept, if the relationship were to continue. Decision Counseling will benefit both partners, whether they remain in the relationship or decide to separate/divorce (see Benefits below).
WHEN DO YOU PURSUE DECISION COUNSELING?
“She wants to save the marriage, but I’ve had it.”
“I’m pretty sure the relationship is over for me, and I’d like to find a respectful way to let my partner know.”
“My partner says it’s too late, but I want to save the relationship.”
“We both have really mixed feelings about whether to stay together or divorce.”
Most couples have doubts about their relationship at some point. Couples therapy can be a critical tool for rebuilding your relationship. At the same time, if one partner starts couples therapy with one foot out the door, and both partners are not fully committed to saving the relationship, the effectiveness of couples therapy is likely to be limited.
Decision Counseling helps partners assess and ensure both are on the same page, and provides clarity before either beginning couples therapy or moving towards separation or divorce.
Decision Counseling can . . .
- Relieve the relationship from an underlying pressure or an unspoken drive for a hasty, premature resolution by one or both partners
- Generate greater clarity and confidence about whatever you decide
- Help you understand what it would take, exactly, for both of you to be willing to sustain the relationship
- Enhance your readiness for a more focused, committed, and therefore more effective, couples therapy process, if that is your decision
- Identify personal challenges that you would want to work on to be more effective in any relationship
- Help prepare you for a more peaceful, respectful separation/divorce, if that is your decision
- Increase your sense of personal responsibility and power about whatever you decide
- Help identify clear, nonjudgmental reasons for deciding to end the relationship, and prepare you for a peaceful, respectful separation/divorce, if that is your decision
- Decrease blaming yourself or your partner in ways that damage your future relationship with your partner/co-parent, and risk harming your children
- Provide comfort, clarity and closure for a partner not wanting the divorce/break-up, so you can both move forward more respectfully (if you are a co-parent, this may also mean less distress for your children)
- Assist your sustaining and/or developing dignity and respect for yourself and your partner, regardless of your decision about the future course of your relationship
WHAT TO EXPECT
- At each meeting you will meet together, then individually with a therapist. Following each individual meeting, you will read a statement, co-created with your therapist, to your partner regarding what you’ve learned about your partner/yourself, as well as whether you are willing to meet for another session, for example.
- At the end of DC, if you each decide to make an all-out effort to pursue intensive couples therapy for an additional 6 months, you both agree to take separation and divorce completely off the table throughout that time. If separation or divorce resurfaces as an option for either of you, DC may resume.
- A critical part of the work of DC may be to distinguish, for example, between:
a) a clear, sound decision to divorce,
b) the impulse to divorce without clarity, simply to get relief from prolonged emotional pain, and
c) frequent escape into thoughts about separation/divorce as “relief fantasies,” that may undermine your ability to invest in the relationship, even when you wish to invest.
- Your DC therapist will be decidedly more directive and focused than a couples counseling therapist often is. As counterproductive styles of relating occur, expect your therapist to stop and redirect your behavior gently, and teach new skills in order to move forward effectively.
Expect your therapist to train you in some basic listening, communication and anxiety-management skills to help you move through the current phase of your relationship more effectively (e.g. managing strong feelings is needed for clear decision-making, and having difficult but necessary conversations).
- Skills training does not aim to repair your relationship — nor does skills training assume the relationship will remain intact. These are the same skills taught during couples therapy, as well as co-mediation, collaborative divorce or co-parenting work. At the very least, if you decide to divorce, these skills will help you co-parent or discuss future concerns more effectively. Depending on the degree to which such skills are needed to move forward effectively, DC may require additional sessions.
- If DC results in the couple deciding to separate or divorce, more sessions may be scheduled to discuss which divorce options are most suitable to the couple’s needs, values and budget.
- Similarly, following a decision to separate or divorce, the therapist may help you therapeutically address concerns about your children’s reactions to separation, divorce or custody issues, referrals to counseling for children, clearing out old issues in order to move forward into a healthier separation, and restructuring your relationship as co-parents to avoid putting children in the middle.
- Co-parenting may also be addressed during or following DC, including getting along with your co-parent and others in their household, proposing parenting plans, as well as learning effective communication and conflict resolution skills.
- Once the therapist has served as a Decision Counselor, s/he may serve as a Couples Therapist, or a Co-parenting specialist, and may make referrals to appropriate divorce professionals. However, the therapist serving as a Decision Counselor or Couples Therapist may not also serve as a Divorce Coach, Co-mediator or Child Specialist. The Decision Counselor’s role clearly will NOT be that of a Child Custody Evaluator.
If you would like to proceed with Decision Counseling, please select and call any of our Licensed Mental Health Professionals directly, after reviewing our biographies on this website.