Marriage Counseling VS. Discernment Counseling

What is the Difference and How do I Choose Which Couples Therapy is the Best Fit?   

By: Justine Devlin Ph.D. 

A silhouette of a couple appear to argue against a morning sky background. Marriage counseling in Tampa, FL can offer support with discernment counseling in Tampa, FL and other services. Contact a marriage counselor to learn more today! 33609 | 33704 | 33703 When making the important decision to engage in couples or marriage therapy, one can be overwhelmed by the variety of therapies available and it can be difficult to decipher which type of therapy is most convergent with your desired goals and outcomes. Two overarching types of therapy, based on desired goals/outcomes, are couples or marriage counseling and discernment counseling.

What is the difference between the two?

Discernment counseling varies greatly from traditional couples therapy in several ways, both the process and outcome are divergent. Discernment counseling is different from marriage counseling as the goal is NOT to solve the marriage problems, it exists to help decide whether or not to try or commit to solving these problems. Rather than the emphasis being on immediate change (marriage counseling), it assists in gaining clarity on if change is even possible.

What is the Goal of Discernment Counseling?

Generally, Discernment Counseling would be for couples who are on the “brink” of divorce and where one is strongly considering divorce. The goals of discernment counseling include clarity about which direction to take for your marriage (separation/divorce or making a commitment to engage in marriage counseling and committing to making the relationship work), confidence in this decision, and a deeper understanding of what has happened to your marriage. In addition, it focuses on what may be possible for the future. Therefore, discernment counseling is for couples in which one partner is “leaning in” and one is “leaning out”.

What does “leaning in or out” mean?

A close up of a couple sitting on an office sofa listening intently to someone offscreen. This could represent marriage counseling in Tampa, FL, or discernment counseling. Contact a marriage counselor to learn more about our services today! 33609 | 33704 | 33703 In discernment counseling, a leaning in partner is committed to making the marriage work and finding solutions to marital problems. The “leaning out” partner is considering divorce or separation. For discernment counseling to work, one partner must be leaning in, and the other leaning out. However, if a partner has already made a definite decision, and is 100% sure they can no longer be happy in the marriage and want a divorce, this form of therapy would not be appropriate. In contrast, if both partners know they are willing to work on the marriage and want to save the marriage and neither is truly leaning out then you would begin with traditional marriage therapy. 

DC includes three paths that will be emphasized during this 5 session maximum, brief therapy:

  • The first path is to remain in the marriage as it is now (nothing’s changed)
  • The second path is separation or divorce
  • Path three is deciding to put complete effort and commitment into 6 months of marriage therapy.

Therefore, the goals of marriage counseling are divergent from DC in the process and outcome as marriage counseling doesn’t have a specific number of sessions or time frame, and the goal or outcome is to resolve conflict in the marriage with the goal of staying married or committed to the relationship.

In Conclusion

When making a decision about which therapy is most appropriate, consider the goals of therapy prior to researching and selecting a psychologist or therapist. If the goal is to learn to resolve conflict, stay committed, and learn to communicate, marriage counseling is the best selection. However, if the goal is to gain clarity as to whether or not you even want to move forward with the relationship/marriage, and if it’s possible, discernment counseling is the most appropriate choice! 

For more information on Discernment Counseling visit:

Begin Discernment Counseling or Marriage Counseling in Tampa, FLAn image of a couple sitting in seprate chairs across from an attentive therapist. This could represent meeting with a marriage counselor in Tampa, FL to work out relationship issues. Contact a marriage counselor to learn more about our services including discernemnt counseling in Tampa, FL and more! 33609 | 33704 | 33703

If you and your partner are seeking to improve your relationship, our caring therapists would be happy to offer you the support you deserve to improve your bond. We offer mental health services from both our Tampa, FL and St. Pete, FL locations. To start your therapy journey with Wellness Psychological Services, please follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact Wellness Psychological Services
  2. Meet with a caring therapist
  3. Start creating new bonds with your partner

Psychologicalcal Services Offered At Wellness Psychological Services

Our Tampa, FL-based therapy practice offers a variety of mental health services for individuals and couples. For couples, we also offer marriage counselingdivorce discernment counselingsupport through a divorce, and mediation. For individuals, we offer anxiety treatmenttrauma therapydepression counselingOCD treatment, stress management, and testing services.

205 S. Hoover Blvd. Ste 202
Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 563-1155

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