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Considering Separating or Filing?

Couples Counseling Associates
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All inquiries and sessions are strictly confidential

Consider Discernment Counseling First!

Thinking about divorce or separation? Discernment counseling is short term, and the focus is not on solving marital problems but on sorting things out.

Unlike traditional couples or marriage counseling that assumes that both people are willing to work on the marriage, discernment counseling helps people decide whether to work on their marriage or keep moving towards ending the relationship.

Unlike individual counseling that usually takes one person's side, the discernment counselor works to understand both partners, even if they see things very differently.

Pre-divorce or Discernment Counseling Could Reduce Legal Fees

Who is discernment counseling for?

Discernment Counseling is for people who are considering breaking up or filing but are not completely sure if it's the right path for them. They want to take one more look before making a permanent decision with long term consequences.

It's also for individuals or couples who want to think through the process of separation and are interested in talking to someone who is unbiased and objective and can help figure out how to go through this process with dignity.

If you are interested in discernment counseling but your spouse is not interested at this time, you can come by yourself and we can still help.

What does discernment counseling involve?

The discernment counselor helps individuals and couples decide whether to try to restore their marriage to health, move towards ending the relationship, or take a time out and decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. The counselor respects the reasons for separation or divorce while trying to open up the possibility of restoring the marriage to health.

The counselor emphasizes the importance of each party seeing his or her own contributions to the problems and the possible solutions. This will be useful in future relationships even if this one ends. Discernment counseling is considered successful when people have clarity and confidence in their decision.

When a decision emerges, the counselor helps the parties either to find professionals who can help them draft a constructive separation agreement (as opposed to a destructive one) or to formulate a reconciliation work plan to create a healthy, successful marriage. In some cases, couples decide to take a time out from the discernment process and return later.

How many sessions are there?

Discernment counseling involves a maximum of five counseling sessions. The first session is usually 2 hours long, and subsequent sessions are 1.5 to 2 hours.

When is Discernment Counseling NOT suitable?

Discernment Counseling is not appropriate when:

There is a danger of domestic violence.

There is an Order of Protection from the court.

One spouse is coercing the other to participate.

The above ideas regarding discernment counseling are inspired by Dr. William Doherty and based on his "Couples on the brink" project.

Therapists at Couples Counseling Associates can be helpful for couples who find it difficult or impossible to repair their relationship.

When one or both members of the couple decides that it is in their best interest to end the relationship, we can help to sort things out with civility and dignity, not anger.

This is never a easy decision and many issues need to be considered in order to have the best possible outcome in a difficult situation.

Pre-Divorce Counseling

When couples decide to get divorced, they may need help navigating the difficulties that arise. Getting divorced is a process, not an act, and requires forethought, planning, and a cool head.

It is difficult to go through this process alone and not always possible or helpful to discuss details with friends or relatives, who may be inclined to take sides.

Therapists at Couples Counseling Associates can help navigate this process and even draft temporary separation agreements.


Post Decree and Co-Parenting

If you have trouble communicating with your ex-spouse Couples Counseling Associates in Chicago can help

Counseling can be helpful after a marital relationship ends. You can come by yourself even if you ex is not interested at this time. A separation initiates a series of changes in the lives of parents and their children.

New challenges need to be met for which there are few road maps.

Family researchers have found that expert counseling can be helpful to navigate new family roles, new relationships and reduce stress (particularly when there are children involved), these changes often bring.

Legally drafted co-parenting agreements alone are often not enough to help reduce stress, and increase the resilience family members need to lead satisfying lives.

Our therapists can help you  find answers to questions about how we work.

Post-decree meetings with one of our associates may reduce legal fees

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An expert marriage counselor can help explore the following issues for the couple or the family:

Negotiation of household arrangements involving children

Conflicting loyalties

Inclusion or exclusion of new romantic partners

Establishing or changing routines and rituals

Relationship between spouses

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© 2018 Couples Counseling Associates

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Sara Schwarzbaum


Founder, Couples Counseling Associates

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312-416-6191 ext. 202

Liz Garvey



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312-416-6191 ext. 207

Linda Lazzara



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312-416-6191 ext. 205


 Michael Villarreal:

773 789-9775