This is a question that impacts how many marriage therapists choose to practice. I will admit that my personal bias is to keep couples together. At the same time, I believe counselors have a legal and ethical responsibility to keep their biases out of therapy. Examples of therapists showing their biases could be those who are adamantly against divorce for any reason, or some therapists recommend divorce pretty quickly if they see a relationship that isn’t happy. You may need discernment counseling if you are trying to decide if you should stay or leave.
My approach is to follow the client’s goals. For example, if clients have strong religious objections to divorce and don’t want to talk about it, we won’t (unless there is extremely serious unhealthy behavior). On the other hand, some couples come in wondering if they make sense as a couple and if what they have is healthy. They often want a frank discussion. If kids are involved and couples wish to have a conversation about divorce, we can talk about how to navigate that scenario in a way that best supports the kids and make sure all options have been considered.
I may say that what I see isn’t healthy and talk about the evidence for how couples in a particular state are likely to fare over the long run. I try to give an honest answer as to what couples are up against. Some couples may need a year of therapy to maybe have the chance of a long-term, happy relationship. It is up to the couple to decide what makes sense for them. I provide evidence and results of observations and assessments.
Some couples go into counseling fearing that they will be told to break up. That explicit language is not used here, nor would you have to listen to anyone who told you that. The choice of whether to stay together is yours. You may be encouraged to focus on becoming close to your best version of yourself first before making a decision and given guidance on how to do that. If you want someone to tell you precisely what to do with the rest of your life, you will not get that. You will only get guidance and facilitated discussion. You are the experts on your own life and have to live with whatever decision you make, so you must make the decision. Do I ever recommend divorce? No, not directly. I follow the client’s goals and support them in whatever direction they are looking.
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