Marriage Counseling & Divorce: Should I Try Couples Therapy Before I Decide to Divorce?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

marriage counseling and divorce by freed marcroft family law attorneys“Should I try marriage counseling?” is a natural question when marriage gets bumpy.  When couples face issues they never thought they would, the thought of divorce may start to cross their minds.  However, before making such a significant decision, many wonder whether they should try marriage counseling.  This article will explore when couples therapy is a good option for those struggling in their marriage.  We will take a closer look at the benefits of marriage counseling and how it can help couples navigate through their issues.  We will also discuss a specific type of marriage therapy called divorce or discernment counseling.  Discernment counseling is designed to help couples decide whether divorce is the right choice for them.  So if you’re currently struggling in your marriage and wondering if couples therapy is right for you, please read on.

What is Marriage Counseling?

Marriage counseling is a form of therapy that helps couples work through their problems.  It is a collaborative process that involves a trained therapist who helps couples identify their issues and develop strategies to solve them.  Marriage counseling aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen the relationship.

Finding a therapist trained and experienced in working with couples is crucial.  A good therapist will create a safe and non-judgmental environment where you can express your feelings and concerns.  They will also help you both identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies to improve their relationship.

Read: What’s Better for the Kids: Staying in an Unhappy Marriage or Divorce?

Marriage Counseling vs. Couples Therapy

Therapy and counseling are basically used interchangeably.  That said, the term counseling tends to be relatively short-term and focused on a specific issue.  Because marital counseling focuses on a defined life challenge, it’s often called “counseling.”  By contrast, therapy tends to be longer-term, more holistic, and focused on treating mental illness.

Counseling tends to be shorter-term and goal-oriented.  It addresses concrete, specific life challenges.  By contrast, therapy tends to be longer-term, more exploratory, and holistic.  It is generally used to treat mental illness.

Different Types of Mental Health Professionals

Many different types of mental health professionals can be effective marriage counselors.  Here is more about the three categories: psychologists, therapists, and counselors — all of whom work in mental, emotional, and behavioral health.
Here’s more:
  • Psychologists have a doctoral degree, either in philosophy (Ph.D.), psychology (PsyD), or education (EdD).
  • Therapist is a general term for a professional who treats mental health concerns.  It is often used interchangeably for each of these three categories.  In other words, you can refer to a mental health professional with a master’s degree — such as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) — as a therapist.  You can also refer to a psychologist with a doctorate as a therapist.
  • Counselors often specialize in a specific area, like marriage.  There is overlap here — for example, an LMFT may be referred to as a counselor.

The real key is that you’re seeking a mental health professional specializing in marital relationships.

Marriage Counseling vs. Divorce Discernment Counseling

Marriage counseling and divorce discernment counseling are two different types of therapy.  First, marriage counseling is a form of treatment that helps couples work through their issues and improve their relationship.  Second, divorce discernment counseling is a particular type of marital counseling designed to help couples decide whether to work on their marriage.  In other words, it focuses on the decision of whether to remain married, not on solving problems in the marriage.  If spouses choose to reconcile, they may transition from discernment counseling to marriage therapy.  If, on the other hand, the spouses decide to end their marriage, discernment counseling can help support an amicable divorce.

Potential Benefits of Discernment Counseling

If you are unsure whether you want to divorce, it doesn’t make sense to try to repair the marriage — which is the focus of marriage therapy.  Instead, consider the discernment counseling option.
The potential benefits of discernment counseling include the following:


An environment of patience allows many couples to process their own feelings while setting a positive tone for their future relationship, whether married or unmarried.


Discernment counseling gives both spouses an opportunity to not only discuss their current feelings but also to explore their concerns and hopes for the future.  It offers the chance to reflect on both the positive and negative aspects of their marriage and consider what changes, if any, they desire.

Improved Communication

A couple’s communication often improves as a result of discernment counseling.  If, for example, they choose to pursue marriage counseling following discernment counseling, their communication may be less of a struggle.  Plus, they will have clarified which issues most of their conflicts results from.  Additionally, identifying conflicts before marriage counseling can be helpful as each partner has focused on what they can do to help improve the relationship or how to start the divorce process amicably.

More Amicable Divorce

Couples who participate in discernment counseling and decide that ending the marriage is the best option may find settling issues related to divorce easier.  This can positively impact both spouses’ mental and emotional health and may also improve the financials in a divorce.

Read: How to Have an Amicable Divorce

Potential Benefits of Marriage Counseling

If you have both committed to working on your relationship, marriage counseling can be valuable for couples experiencing difficulties.  The potential benefits of marriage counseling are numerous and can include:

Improved Communication

One of the most significant benefits of marriage counseling is improved communication.  Communication breakdown is common in many marriages, leading to misunderstandings, conflicts, and resentment.  In therapy, couples learn how to communicate effectively, express their feelings, and listen to their partner.  This can help them build a stronger emotional connection and resolve conflicts more effectively.

Resolution of Conflicts

Marriage counseling can help couples identify the underlying issues causing conflicts in their relationship.  Couples can develop strategies to resolve these conflicts and improve their relationship by working with a therapist.  This can help them build a stronger and more fulfilling relationship.

Improved Emotional Connection

Marriage counseling can help couples build a stronger emotional connection.  By expressing their feelings and concerns in a safe and non-judgmental environment, couples can better understand each other.  This can help them build trust, intimacy, and a stronger emotional bond.

Better Problem-Solving Skills

Marriage counseling can help couples develop better problem-solving skills.  By working with a therapist, couples can learn how to identify the root causes of their problems and develop effective strategies to solve them.  This can help them build a stronger and more resilient relationship.

Tips for Making the Most Out of Marriage Counseling

If you and your partner decide to seek marriage or discernment, there are some things you can do to make the most out of your sessions:

  • Keep an Open Mind.  Counseling can be challenging, and it’s important to keep an open mind.  Be willing to listen to your partner’s perspective and be open to new ideas.
  • Be Honest.  It’s important, to be honest with your partner and your counselor.  Express your feelings and concerns openly and honestly, even if difficult.
  • Listen.  Focus on really listening to your partner’s perspective.
  • Be Patient.  Be patient and committed to the process.

Next Steps

Marriage is a journey that requires effort and commitment from both partners.  Staying in a marriage might not always be the right choice — in some cases, divorce may be the best option.  Discernment counseling can help you decide whether to stay in and work on your marriage through marriage counseling.  Marriage counseling can be a valuable tool for couples experiencing difficulties who both commit to working on their relationship. It’s not always the right choice.  Ultimately, the decision to seek therapy or divorce is a personal one that only the couple can make.  If you and your partner are struggling in your relationship, seeking help and exploring your options is important.

Remember, seeking help shows strength and commitment to your relationship.  Please let us know if we can be of assistance.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC