020: Discernment Counseling

Podcast Guest: Bill Doherty

020 Discernment Counseling

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In this Episode

Episode Transcript
On today’s episode Dave and Liz invite Dr. Bill Doherty, internationally recognized marriage expert, back to the Stronger Marriage Connection podcast to discuss the power of discernment counseling.  Join us to learn how couples facing crisis can avoid divorce and strengthen their marriage by utilizing discernment.

The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of the Utah Marriage Commission.”

0:00 – Introduction: Who is Bill Doherty?

2:32 – Why traditional therapy may not work for ambivalent couples

4:24 – Mixed agenda couples

6:25 – Goals of discernment counseling: clarity and confidence

9:10 – Navigating the three paths of discernment counseling

11:57 – Discernment counseling testimonials

14:17 – An assessment of discernment counselors

16:56 – Where should I put my effort in my relationship?

18:19 – Change in the marital relationship

19:27 – The benefit of a “solid self”

21:00 – How often are people thinking about divorce?

23:46 – Co-creating our marriages

24:25 – How to bring up that your marriage is in trouble without condemning your partner?

26:17 – Vulnerability without attack

29:58 – Assessing divorce ambivalence

32:36 – Insights into divorce

34:04 – Where can I go for help with discernment counseling?

36:09 – What to look for in a therapist

38:18 – What should I expect in a therapy session?

39:44 – Divorce can be avoided if approached with humility, commitment, & compassion

40:16 – Divorce ideation is relatively common - it doesn’t mean you’re doomed

41:29 – Accountability & responsibility make a difference in relationships

About Dr. Bill Doherty

Bill Doherty is a Professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. A long-time marriage and family therapist, he is an expert on challenges couples face in the modern world, on navigating marital crisis and avoiding divorce, and on using family rituals to enhance the quality of family life. His books for the public include The Intentional Family and Take Back Your Marriage. In recent years, Bill has taken this couple's work to the national level via co-founding Braver Angels, an initiative working to decrease the political polarization that is dividing the country. Among his awards is the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Family Therapy Academy.


Dr. Bill Doherty Links






Insights and Invites


Dave: Consider yourself normal if divorce ever crosses your mind. You are not doomed. It’s not time to panic.

Liz: We must be accountable and responsible. Only then can we start to make a difference in our relationships.

Doherty: Most divorces are unnecessary and can be prevented if approached with humility, commitment, and passion to heal what you've co-created.


  • If you are the “leaning in” spouse, bring your best self forward to the crisis by really trying to hear and understand the pain your partner is in. Denial, begging, and/or pleading will not work in discernment counseling. To do this, write down one way you can improve conflict with your partner and provide a plan for change.
  • Sit down with your partner this week and determine the state of your relationship. How are things going? Could they be better? How can you strengthen your current connection?
  • If you determine you are in need of therapy, choose a therapist or counselor who provides structure and connection and is supportive of marriage and commitment.

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