Saturday, December 3, 2016

Couples on the Brink

By Susan Morlock, MA, LPC

Nearly everyone enters marriage or a committed relationship with the dream of a lifelong union. But many couples reach a crisis point where breakup is on the table. Usually there is one “leaning-out” partner, who thinks that splitting up might be the best way to move forward, and one “leaning-in” partner, who wants to preserve the relationship and make things better.
            If this is your situation—one of you leaning out and the other leaning in—it’s a tough place to be. Traditional couple’s counseling may not be helpful if one of you is not sure you want to work on the relationship at this point.            
            Fortunately, there is a new way of helping you. Discernment Counseling can help you find clarity and confidence about next steps. It can help you find a deeper understanding of what’s happened to your relationship and each person’s contributions to the problems. It’s not couple’s counseling aiming to solve your problems or bring you closer. Instead, Discernment Counseling helps you figure out whether your problems can be solved and whether you both want to try.
           Discernment Counseling focuses on three paths:
  1. Staying married or partnered as you have been
  2. Separating or divorcing
  3. Making a six-month, all-out effort in couple’s therapy to see if you can make your relationship healthy and good for both of you.

           As you consider these paths in Discernment Counseling, you will learn more about your relationship and about yourselves as individuals—information that will help you make a good decision about the future.
         Discernment Counseling sessions involve mostly conversations between each individual partner and the counselor, along with some therapy time as a couple. The counselor respects each person’s perspective—reasons to end the relationship and reasons to preserve it.
         Discernment Counseling is short-term work, as brief as one session and as long as five. You are committing yourselves to only one session at the outset; then each time, you decide whether to return, for up to a maximum of five sessions. The first session is two-hours long and any subsequent sessions are one-and-one-half hours.
         Confronting problems in a partnership can be painful. But Discernment Counseling can help you clarify your intentions in an accepting and nonjudgmental setting. When each person feels validated, the pressure can lift, and decisions about the future of the relationship can be made with compassion and clarity.
Susan Morlock, MA, LPC is a staff therapist at The Awakening Center. She has specialized training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Trauma Therapy using EMDR, Discernment Counseling, Internal Family Systems, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Her areas of expertise include anxiety, depression, stress and anger management, job and career concerns, eating disorders, and relationship issues. To find out more about Discernment Counseling or to get in touch with Susan, call 773-929-6262 x 20 or email


  1. Great info! It seems like a good option for those who are "leaning out." They might be more willing to consider this option over a full commitment to couples counseling.

  2. Thanks for clarifying what Discernment Counseling is!

  3. Great explanation of Discernment Counseling!