Professional Discernment Counseling in Portsmouth, NH

For Couples on the Brink

If you or your spouse are considering divorce but are not completely sure that’s the best path, you are in a tough spot. and Discernment Counseling is designed for you. It’s a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at the options for your marriage.

Discernment Counseling is a new way of helping couples where one person is “leaning out” of the relationship, and not sure that regular marriage counseling would help—and the other is “leaning in”—that is, interested in rebuilding the marriage. The Discernment Counselor will help you decide whether to try to restore your marriage to health, move toward divorce, or take a time out and decide later. The goal is for you to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future. The goal is not to solve your marital problems but to see if they are solvable.

You will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your marriage at the moment—no bad guys and good guys. You will come in as a couple but the most important work occurs in the one-to-one conversations with the counselor. Why? Because you are starting out in different places. The Discernment Counselor respects your reasons for divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health. The counselor emphasizes the importance of each of you seeing your own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends.

If after one, or up to five sessions, a decision has been reached to do the work of reconciliation, then you as a couple would move into regular couples therapy with divorce off the table for up to six months, exploring tools and skills designed to repair damage and to strengthen your marriage. The six month window for this work is viewed as ample time to provide needed information about the possibilities for your relationship. If instead, a decision has been made to divorce, then you would be referred to the appropriate professionals to facilitate a collaborative divorce. If you decide to stay in the relationship as it is, then you would take a time out on your own to decide later about a direction for your marriage.

Number of Sessions:

A maximum of five counseling sessions. The first session is usually two hours and the subsequent are 1.5 or 2 hours.

Discernment Counseling is not suited for these situations:

  • When one spouse has already made a final decision to divorce
  • When one spouse is coercing the other to participate
  • When there is danger of domestic violence

I’m very excited about Discernment Counseling which serves “mixed agenda” couples in a very sensitive, unique, and productive way.

At the time of this writing I am the only clinician in New Hampshire listed on the National Directory of Discernment Counselors, having been certified after completing the advanced level of training.

I am also a clinical member of The Doherty Relationship Institute Alliance, the research and training center for Discernment Counseling.

If you think you and your partner might be candidates for Discernment Counseling, feel free to contact me at my Portsmouth office at 603-431-7131. I will be happy to provide you with more information or to schedule an initial appointment with you.

For more details about Discernment Counseling, go to: Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project

For “Leaning Out” Spouses

For “Leaning In” Spouses

For lawyers and mediators interested in getting more information about the Doherty Relationship Institute Alliance for Marriage and Divorce Professionals, go to: Doherty Relationship Institute Alliance for Marriage and Divorce Professionals

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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