A bit of introduction. Bill Doherty, Ph.D. here. I am an academic, a researcher, a marriage and family therapist, and recently a divorce reform activist to create a completely non-court track to divorce.
In the past decade I’ve been doing research and working with collaborative lawyers and family mediators on the issue of divorce ambivalence, which research has shown is much more widespread among couples in the divorce process than was previously known. I’ve also come to greatly admire the work of family-sensitive lawyers and mediators.
Unfortunately, my therapy tribe knows little about how to make good referrals to professionals like you who can help couples have soft landings in divorce.
I also want to help you make better referrals to couples therapists when clients present with divorce ambivalence.
In the therapy world, I’ve developed discernment counseling as a new way for couples therapists to help “mixed agenda” couples where one partner wants to work on the marriage and the other is leaning out of the marriage and is ambivalent about couples therapy. Traditionally these couples get stuck and leave therapy. The goals of discernment counseling are clarity and confidence about a direction for the marriage, based on a deeper understanding of what has happened to the marriage and each person’s contributions to the problems. With the 1-5 sessions discernment counseling protocol, about half of these couples decide to embark on intensive couples therapy and most of the other half decide to move directly to divorce, having come to better understand themselves and their relationship.
So why should you care about this development in the couples therapy field?
Therapists who do discernment counseling need referral outlets, and the couples finishing discernment counseling make great clients for divorce lawyers and mediators because they have worked on their emotional blockages and pain. You are able to do what you do best without the struggle of one partner wanting to move forward and the other holding back in the divorce process.
The therapist training in discernment counseling is extensive and involves access to ongoing webinars and consultations. Then market themselves with this special training.
Your training is a free three hour online training, co-presented with a collaborative lawyer/mediator, giving you a brief research-validated assessment tool and walks you through a seven minute divorce ambivalence protocol. You learn how to sensitively refer divorce ambivalent clients for discernment counseling to figure out their direction.
The training also addresses concerns about “losing business” by referring out couples. That has not materialized with our divorce colleagues in Minnesota because clients are grateful for a professional who meets their needs and not the professional’s needs. They refer others to that professional. And discernment counselors who receive your referrals are glad to refer back to you.
Our published research shows that 30 percent of individuals who have already filed for divorce express divorce ambivalence indicate some degree of interest in avoiding the divorce and getting help for their marriage. The numbers are even higher for people presenting for initial consultations.
Our goal is the same as yours: to prevent unnecessary divorces and to assure good divorces for those who chose that path.
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