One of the most common things individuals may hear when they start considering a divorce is a plea to try marriage counseling first. This request may come from a spouse who wishes to stay married or a well-meaning friend or family member. With all the emotions and stress that may occur near the potential end of a marriage, it may be difficult for a person or a couple to determine whether they should try counseling. A relatively new option, discernment counseling, may help couples determine whether it is best to try to fix the marriage or pursue a divorce.
Although marriage counseling may help couples work through issues and improve their communication, it does not always fix relationships. As Psychology Today points out, marriage counseling may lead to negative consequences in some situations. This is especially common when counseling begins after one person has decided he or she wants the marriage to end. At that point, marriage counseling may provoke more negative emotions and reactions, because it becomes clear that the spouses do not have an equal desire to remain married.
According to Business Insider, discernment counseling may help "mixed-agenda" couples. This means there is one spouse who wants to stay married and one who does not, which is a scenario that may not benefit from traditional marriage counseling. The main goal of discernment counseling is to help a couple decide relatively quickly whether they want to pursue divorce or stay married.
In most cases, the counselor meets with each spouse separately. This may help each person understand the causes of strife in the relationship and his or her level of responsibility. With this greater level of comprehension, the couple may be able to decide together whether they want to try to fix the relationship or end it. When both spouses mutually agree on the next step (recommitment or divorce) they may move forward more confidently.