Do you have couples in your congregation on the brink of divorce?

The Pastoral Discernment Counseling protocol came out of a think tank Bill Doherty, Ph.D., led with eight pastors over a two-year period where they had the chance to try it out and refine it.  

It’s a focused, one-session protocol where you spend time with the couple together and with each spouse separately. You don’t try to help them solve their problems, but instead you try to slow down the divorce train, instill hope, and help them decide whether to make serious joint effort to work on their problems with a couples therapist—or whether to do additional Discernment Counseling with someone trained in the therapist version of that protocol.

It's a free training and easy to get started.

But first we want to lay out the two common approaches that do not work well, that lead to this protocol.


Give an immediate referral, usually on the phone, without offering your pastoral presence to a hurting couple or individual.


Try brief marriage counseling, maybe a couple of sessions that don't go well with crisis couples, and then try to refer them. 

The couple is already demoralized and now feels they have to start over again. And you're not feeling so good either.   

Bill Doherty, Ph.D., has been a marriage therapist, teacher, and researcher for over 40 years—after a stint in a seminary.  In recent years, he has developed a new way to help couples who have fallen through the cracks of our counseling system: crisis marriages where on spouse is leaning out of the marriage and the other wants to save it. The new approach is called Discernment Counseling, and this is the website where therapists get their training, in an online, 20 plus hour course.