Helping Couples on the Brink of Divorce: Discernment Counseling for Troubled Relationships (Paperback)
New in paperback, this book presents a five-session protocol for distressed couples to learn about what has happened to their relationship and each person's contributions to the problems, with the goal of clarifying a direction for their marriage. Therapists and counselors can find themselves at an impasse when working with "mixed-agenda" couples--where one partner is considering divorce, while the other wants to preserve the marriage and start therapy. Such couples are a common and difficult challenge in clinical practice. To help confirm each partner's agenda before taking decisive steps toward either reconciliation or divorce, this book presents a richly-illustrated protocol called discernment counseling, for helping couples understand what has happened to their relationship and each person's contributions to the problems. The goal is to gain clarity and confidence about a direction for their marriage. Discernment counseling generally ends with a decision to divorce or a decision to engage in six months of couples therapy. Chapters cover special topics such as affairs and when one spouse has "fallen out of love" with the other. Discernment counseling features individual conversations with the leaning-in and leaning-out spouse, along with carefully orchestrated times for each partner to share what they learned in the individual conversations. A special feature of the protocol is its short-term nature, with an initial commitment to just one session and a decision each time whether to do another session, up to five. This strategy invites both spouses to keep making choices to continue the work.
William J. Doherty, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project and the Citizen Professional Center. With his daughter Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, he directs The Doherty Relationship Institute. Dr. Doherty has authored 15 books for professionals and the lay public. He has served as president of the National Council on Family Relations and received the Significant Contribution to the Field of Marriage and Family Therapy Award from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. In addition to his clinical research and teaching, he focuses on community initiatives aimed at democratic renewal and positive social change. Steven M. Harris, PhD, LMFT, is a professor and director of the Couple and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota. He has been practicing as a marriage and family therapist for more than 26 years. He also serves as associate director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project. He is involved in a variety of research projects, including the National Divorce Decision-Making Project, and in clinical practice with couples on the brink of divorce. Dr. Harris is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and is the coauthor of Seven Letters That Will Bring You Closer to Your College Student and Should I Try to Work It Out?