Your results; discernment counseling

Discernment counseling is a therapeutic approach designed for those who are struggling with the decision about whether to stay in a marriage, divorce, or wait and do nothing. 

Science-based effectiveness

Seasoned couples specialists

Private sessions only

Free, no-obligation phone call

Why discernment counseling is your best bet

It's sometimes called "pre divorce counseling" but if one of you is definite that you want a divorce, no question about it, this form of counseling isn't for you. If one of you is seriously contemplating divorce, or are a couple on the brink, this isn't the time to "work on the marriage."

That time has passed.

But if you have lingering doubts about whether getting divorced is an intelligent move, you'll want to slow down and give it some serious thought. Have a place where the professional sees both of you short term, individually and briefly together. It's for mixed agenda couples deciding to divorce or not.

Divorce is an impactful decision. It's a decision only each of you can make, and it's an important one. In other words, it is a time-limited approach to help you to judge your marital options well, especially if you are seriously contemplating divorce.

Make sure that marriage counseling isn’t a waste of your time and money. But also make sure you aren't jumping the gun and getting an unnecessary divorce.

Who goes to discernment conseling?

The "leaning out" partner...

You may be looking to “get out easy” without being the one everyone “blames” for the divorce or causing even more pain.

If you did counseling before, you may have “agreed” hardheartedly. Secretly, you were utterly convinced that “nothing would help.” Or you went to someone you thought was an expert and it went horribly. Or you might have even mentioned marriage counseling in the past and the idea was rejected.

You could be involved in an undisclosed, ongoing extra-marital affair that you aren't willing to reveal or to give up.

Or are so depressed, you can't do therapy well. The divorce process is equally overwhelming, too. Or you want a no-fault divorce but are getting no cooperation. Or there are children involved and you are concerned how a divorce might impact them.

This might not be the first time you've thought about leaving.

But at this point you just can't continue the way things are, not for your husband or wife, not for anybody. Not even if there are children involved. You are in so much pain, you believe divorce may be only solution.

You have a story to tell.

Pain, frustration. Perhaps that story hasn't been taken seriously, until now. Not even now. It's about your unhappiness. The efforts you put in to make things work, and how it didn't help.

The lonely feelings you've been covering up. How invisible you feel. And how the things you've done to try to make things better between you have left you've been even more hopeless. You just want to give up.

There's no air in the room when you are together. Vacations suck. You feel like a fake staying. And you want a life. Heck, you deserve a life. The passion is gone (if it ever was there) and you just don't believe in keeping up appearances.

But divorce? That's a big step.

You'd like a place to really have the space to talk it out with somebody. To even find the words to explain it to your spouse. You may not go for more than one session. That's fine. Each session stands on its own. We aren't there to "convince" you to stay. Just to slow you down and help you get clarity about what you want to do and why.

It's not marriage counseling, either. We aren't going to try to change around what makes you both so unhappy.

If you decide to go that route, that's for later. That's one of three choices you'll have to make. For now, you want to know which direction to go, with greater clarity and confidence.

But let's be honest: If you don't explore your own contributions to the problems in the marriage, you're just likely to repeat it. And if you have an active affair going on (no, we won't make you disclose that in Discernment Counseling...) repeating that same mistake might happen sooner rather than later.

The "leaning in" partner...

You knew there were problems, but leaving? That's not what you thought the two of you were made of. You're not a quitter. You can’t believe you’ve been betrayed like this when you’ve worked so long and so hard to keep the marriage together.

Is there an affair partner you found out about? Really? Her? Him? It's so hard to be your 'best self' in a situation like that. Of course, you're hurt. Mad. Or cold and unresponsive. Betrayed, and deeply wounded. A whole host of negative emotions.

And not putting your best foot forward.

The "leaning in" partner" is usually terribly upset. They've just had the rug pulled out from underneath them with their spouse saying: "I'm not in love with you anymore..." or worse "I want a divorce." They may be angry, in mourning, frustrated, and just plain upset. Maybe have become abusive, placating, inconsolable or willing to "do anything" to make things better. Or acting in a variety of ways depending on the day...or the minute.

But you're not a victim and you've got work to do.

First, you must decide if you want to keep this marriage. That's a decision you must make too. If you want the marriage, if you really, really want this marriage, you have to know why you do. Why it's worth fighting for. Why it's worth working hard to save. And it's on you to do most of the work to save it even if you're the only one working.

Know what is truly working and what's not.

Both of you can't ignore "the audience," if there is one. If you haven't told anybody, all the better. Don't, until you've complete discernment. You'll set off a flood of opinions that won't be neutral and won't help you to explore all the complex feelings safely and calmly.

Why our approach works

Couples Therapy Inc. is a team of two dozen clinicians all devoted to couples. What does that mean for you?

Methods backed by science

You can't wing-it when it comes to helping troubled marriages. You must know the science. And you have to practice it routinely, every week, week after week. All of our clinicians have one or more training certificates in science-based couples therapy as well as discernment training. 

Top tier professionals

The team shares a common drive to improve, regardless of how much previous training or expertise they may already possess. You can be assured that the clinician that you and your partner selects will have the training and expertise to support you.

analysis of the BIG BIG book

Assessment tools guide the kind of work we choose to do with you, moment by moment. You and your partner will fill out a thorough self-assessment prior to your discernment counseling. Treatment is more effective because we hit the ground running.

Get clarity

Discernment Counseling is considered successful when partners have clarity and confidence in their decision. Once you've gained clarity and direction, you can decide your next steps with confidence.

The help you need

We emphasize the importance of each partner recognizing their own contribution to the problems, and considering all the viable solutions, not just marriage counseling. Even if you do decide to divorce, knowing what part you’ve played in your marital troubles will be particularly useful to you in your future relationships.

We want to ensure that our services are a good fit for your goals. Our client services manager will answer any questions and make sure that discernment counseling is the right next step. We will also help you to find the right therapist and set up a 15 minute meet and greet so that you can be confident that this is the right move for the two of you.

The BIG BIG Book and why it matters so much...

Every question in The BIG BIG Book provides your couples therapist with essential information they'll need in order to help both of you.

You'll be asked to examine various problematic aspects of your relationship. You'll also learn what's still going well between you.

The BIG BIG Book helps you move into the present and examine your relationship in a new way. You start to put things into perspective. The frame of the problem becomes clearer. You learn how many issues you have, which don't have anything to do with your relationship.

The BIG BIG Book isn’t a fun “compatibility test” you take in 5 minutes.

It’s a thorough couples therapy assessment tool that examines your relationship, from a scientific point of view.

It is like a road map used at the start of a long trip. A clinical road map that tells you where you're going, and what the goals are. 

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K)

No one wants to do half-hearted couples counseling: not your couples therapist, you, or your spouse. Neither do we. Discernment counseling isn't marriage counseling. We make sure that if you do decide to go to marriage counseling, it isn’t a waste of your time and money.

Couples Therapy Inc, Founder and President

Scheduling your discernment counseling...

Schedule a call

This is the first step. You can schedule a 15 free minute call at your convenience right here. During this call you can ask our client services specialist any questions that you might have. She will ask you a few questions as well and help you to find a therapist that is the right fit for you.

Meet your therapist

This is an opportunity for you and your partner to speak with your therapist. Each (free) call is about 15 minutes. You can explain your situation in a bit more detail and ask any questions that you might have. After your meeting, our client services specialist will help you to find an appointment (or weekend, if scheduling an intensive) that works for you and the therapist. 

Complete the BIG BIG Book

After scheduling your session or weekend, you will be sent an invoice. After the invoice is paid your time is reserved and you will be sent the links to the BIG BIG Book. Set aside some time to work on this, planning to take breaks as you need them. Let us know when you have completed them so we can get them right to your therapist.

Attend your sessions

Your therapist has your BIG BIG Book and is prepared for you and your partner. All of our discernment counseling starts with a full State of the Union Assessment but your schedule may vary depending on your preferences.

Take this important step

Slow down.

Get clarity.

Discernment counseling options

Option 1

Discernment intensive weekend
  • The typical schedule for an intensive weekend is Friday from 6-8pm, Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm, and Sunday 9:30am-4:30pm. Some therapists offer alternative schedule including midweek intensives.
  • The State of the Union Assessment starts on Friday night, Saturday morning you will have individual interviews and the assessment concludes on Saturday morning with your feedback session.Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday are devoted to your personalized discernment counseling.
  • Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday are devoted to your personalized discernment counseling.
  • Intensives can be done online and are available in-person in some locations.

Option 2

Modified Discernment intensives
  • For those that are unable to schedule a weekend away, sessions can be done online and scheduled in blocks. These sessions are scheduled at your convenience but must be scheduled within 3 months.
  • All discernment counseling starts with a State of the Union Assessment which will be (3) 2-hour sessions. These must be scheduled within 3 weeks of each other.
  • After your assessment, you will schedule (3) 3-hour sessions to continue working with your therapist. These are scheduled in the 2 months following your assessment.

This is not marriage counseling, and there is no debate or argument during your joint meeting time.

Keep in mind that one of you is leaning out of the marriage and nearly ready to go forward with a divorce. The other person may be ready to do whatever it takes to save the marriage.

There will be a lot to talk about. Calmly. Rationally. Seriously.

Many people need the time, space, and an objective, supportive therapist to provide a place to thoughtfully consider all their options.

And it's time limited. It lasts from one, to a maximum of five counseling sessions, meeting both individually and as a couple during each session.

The goal is to reflect upon, and consider the best course of action for you

  • Explore how you got to this point in your relationship.
  • Evaluate objectively whether past counseling has been helpful or detrimental.
  • Examine all options about possible next steps.
  • What Makes Us Different

    Discernment Counseling is done by an elite group of professionals with advanced training in couples therapy. Many have been approved to conduct his work by the Couples on the Brink Project, the group that originated this groundbreaking approach.

    Discernment Counseling helps the couple, individually, to decide if counseling is really the way to go. Not surprisingly, marital therapy at that point, is of no help. This leaves the “leaning out” spouse even more convinced that divorce is the only viable option.

    The team

    All of our therapists have advanced degrees and training in The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy and Discernment Counseling. Others are certified or have advanced training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy as well. Our team of more than two dozen therapists have a combined 500+ years of experience in couples therapy.

    The assessment

    All of our therapy starts with the comprehensive online assessment we call: The BIG BIG Book. You won't find a more comprehensive couples assessment anywhere. This unique tool helps us to uncover your specific issues and goals. It will take you several hours to complete. Most of our couples credit this assessment as the start of their couples retreat experience. After the in person State of the Union Assessment you will have a clear picture of what the right approach to therapy is for you and your partner--this saves you time and money.

    The approach

    The methods that we use are backed by over 40 years of relationship research. If you find yourself pulled by family, friends, clergy, divorce professionals, even an individual therapist who have only heard your side of the story, you may be getting well-meaning but competing advice, and you may also be getting more confused. None of it is "objective" unless they are trained professionals who have done a thorough assessment of your relationship.

    Our Discernment Counseling Fees

    Intensive retreat prices for a weekend are between $3,500 and $6,500* depending upon the education, location, and experience of your therapist. Additional days can also be arranged.

    Payment is due at the time of booking and paid for by credit card.

    We regret not being able to hold dates without payment.

    *Dr. K, our president, offers a very limited number of intensives each year for $8,500.

    What are the expected outcomes of discernment counseling?


    Path 1

    Stay the same--do nothing and decide later. (most people hate this path)


    Path 2

    Make an informed, ideally mutual decision to divorce...a constructive divorce; you may then seek out divorce professionals to work with, such as divorce mediators.


    Path 3

    Decide on a reconciliation plan to wholeheartedly work on renewing the marriage. It's a long-term six-month commitment, but a fully committed one.

    In Discernment Counseling, you don’t have to be sure you want to remain married. 

    You don’t have to be convinced that you want a divorce.

    There is no pressure to commit to any given path.

    Why do we offer no-obligation phone calls?

    While highly effective, intensive couples therapy is not for everyone. 

    Sometimes a couple that is looking to work with us needs to be referred to other support. If there is domestic violence in your relationship, drug abuse, or untreated mental illness we do not recommend scheduling an intensive until those concerns are addressed.

    This call is intended to ensure that our services are a good fit for your relationship. Use this call to answer any questions you have and to make sure that an intensive is the right next step for you.

    Our website offers in-depth profiles on all of our clinicians but there may be something in particular you are looking for. We are happy to make recommendations. You will also schedule a free 15 minute call with the therapist; it's a great opportunity to get a "feel" for their approach and style.

    We know that you are not taking this decision lightly and we want to make sure that you have every opportunity to ask your questions and weigh your options.

    Frequently asked questions

    How quickly can our retreat be scheduled?

    We usually suggest 3-6 weeks lead time to allow you time to complete your BIG BIG Book and your therapist time to review it. Contact us for "emergency" retreats.

    Will insurance pay for this?

    Not likely. Few insurance companies pay for couples therapy. However, Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA's) may. Ask your Accountant or Compensation and Benefits Administrator if you qualify for FSA's.

    How do we choose a couples therapist?

    We are here to help! When you schedule your consult using the button below we will talk to you about what you are looking for and who might be a good fit in your area.

    Do we have to be married?

    We work with all couples that are looking to heal their intimate relationships. Whether you have been together for 1 year or 50, married or living apart; our intensives can help you reconnect.

    Is this a religious retreat?

    No. This is a non-religious, secular retreat which is science-based. We do, however, have a Christian minister, Dr. Doug Burford on our team for those requesting a bible-informed retreat. If he works with you as a minister, he can practice throughout the USA. If this is something that you are interested in, please mention that during your consult.

    What if we decide to cancel?

    Given the exceptionally prominent level of training on our team, our couples retreat intensives are in high demand. It's a serious mutual commitment, for you and for us. We set aside this large block of time only for you, and you do the same for each other. You both commit to your relationship, as we commit to helping you.

    For this reason, full payment is due at the time of scheduling. 

    Traditionally, if for any reason you decide to cancel, a 50% refund will be given up to 60 days prior to the scheduled start date. If you cancel less than 60 days prior to the scheduled start date, your fee is non-refundable. However, given the pandemic, cancellation policies now offer greater flexibility. Check with your couples therapist for more details.

    Learn more about discernment counseling when you schedule your free call.