Ambivalence Counseling

Making a decision is exceedingly difficult sometimes. Ambivalence Counseling can help.
Discernment Counseling

What if I’m Not Sure about Couples Counseling?
Ambivalence Counseling, otherwise known as Discernment Counseling, may be for you. There are few things that cause anguish more than deciding whether or not to pursue a divorce. Because there are so many competing needs and so much uncertainty, many people stay frozen in the problem for months, and sometimes even years. Making a decision is exceedingly difficult sometimes.


Who is Ambivalence Counseling for?

Ambivalence Counseling is useful to individuals who are unsure whether they want to pursue working together with their partner.


How is Ambivalence Counseling different from Couples Counseling?

The goal is clarity and confidence about a direction for the relationship, based on a deeper understanding of the relationship dynamics and each person’s contributions to the problems.
The counseling results in one of these three paths:

  • Ending the relationship
  • Total commitment to working on the relationship for a set period of time, followed by reassessment
  • Staying the course and deciding later if there are compelling reasons to do so

The sessions consist of one to five individual sessions, for one or both of the partners. The focus is to move from ambivalence to a conscious decision about moving forward.

In Ambivalence Counseling, also known as a Cost-Benefit Analysis, there is a big emphasis on what each partner can learn about self from the problems that have befallen the marriage rather than placing blame on the partner.

Ambivalence counseling is NOT suitable when:

  • One partner is being battered or threatened to stay in the relationship, or domestic violence exists, or when there is an Order of Protection from a court.

  • One partner has made a final decision to end the relationship and only wants counseling to postpone saying so. This only prolongs suffering.

What Happens After Ambivalence Counseling?

The counseling process is designed to help people figure out what they have been doing to contribute to the wear and tear of the relationship. If each one is willing to make some real changes, then the therapist offers intensive relationship therapy for a set period of time. Three to six months is typical. After this intensive time of working, the couple looks again at whether or not to divorce, but this time there is so much more awareness about the relationship’s chances for survival.

Even if couples opt to separate or divorce, making the decision to “consciously uncouple” (Katherine Woodward Thomas’s helpful concept) can drastically:

  • Improve communication post-divorce about custody and financial issues
  • Prime you to be more successful in future relationships
  • Relieve anguish, knowing an all out effort was undertaken.

If you feel that this kind of therapy could be helpful to you in determining your next step, call Suzanne today. Based on how you answer some questions she asks you and helps you understand yourself, you will feel surer of what you need to do next.

For The Record

Ambivalence Counseling is loosely based on Discernment counseling, which was developed by Bill Doherty, PhD, as part of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Program.