Discernment Counselling

Avery Counselling - Discernment Counselling

More information on Discernment Counselling can be found on their website:


William J. Doherty, Brian J. Willoughby, and Bruce Peterson (no date). Interest in Marital Reconciliation among Divorcing Parents.  PDF from the Discernment Counseling Website. 

Discernment Process: 
There is an initial joint session to explore history, best times and impact on children.  The subsequent sessions are mostly individual conversations with Charlaine, followed by each partner sharing what s/he is learning in these conversations.
Charlaine respects the reasons for ending the relationship while opening the possibility of restoring the relationship to health.
Charlaine Avery is the first Certified Discernment Counselling Counsellor in BC


Discernment counselling is a short-term structured approach for couples to explore their options before making a final decision about separation and/or divorce.  It is most appropriate for couples where one partner wants to preserve and repair (leaning in) the relationship and the other is leaning towards ending it (leaning out) but hasn’t made a final decision. 

Charlaine helps both partners see their individual contributions to the problems and the possible solutions of their relationships. Understanding your contributions to these problems is an important part of the process to the success of future relationships even if the current one comes to an end.


Research shows that this kind of “mixed agenda” is common among couples approaching divorce.  This mixed agenda is one contributor to “half-hearted” marriage counselling. Despite the struggles, in one research study, for 45% of separated couples one or both partners reported hope for the future of the marriage and interest in reconciliation.  Interestingly, men were more likely than women to want to work on the relationship and reconciliation.

The discernment process may be as brief as one session or as long as five sessions.

Charlaine provides 90 minutes of discernment counselling which both people attend each session so that after the individual meetings, a summary can be immediately shared with the other partner. 


Discernment counselling is not appropriate if one partner has made a final decision, there is coercion, threats or a danger of violence.

Discernment counselling differs from regular marriage counselling in three ways:
1. the goal is not to solve problems in the relationship, but to figure out whether the problems can be solved;
2. the process involves mainly individual conversations with each partner, since they each have different needs and agendas, and
3. it is always short term.
Discernment counselling helps couples on the brink of breakup to create: 
1. clarity and confidence about next steps for their relationship;
2. a deeper understanding of what has happened to their relationship; and
3. increased personal awareness of your contributions to the problems.
Discernment counselling focuses on three paths:
Path 1:  make no changes and stay together;
Path 2:  end the relationship through separation or divorce; or
Path 3:  commit to a six-month intensive effort in marriage counselling (and sometimes other services) to improve the marriage. Typically this would be emotionally focused therapy for couples with Charlaine or a referral to another counsellor.