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william doherty

William Doherty, PhD


Couples on the Brink: To Divorce or Not?
Saturday October 17, 2015
9:00 - 4:30       $160/$137 until 9/25/15      6.5 CE hours


The dirty little secret of couples therapy is that we have great models and protocols for couples who want to actively work on their marriage. But what happens when one person is mostly out the door and the other is desperate to save the marriage?

The most critical life decision most therapists deal with in their everyday practice is helping people decide whether to dissolve a marriage or try to save it. Most couples have mixed agendas about divorce—one wants to save the marriage while the other is ambivalent about therapy.

These couples are often frustrating because there is no clear goal for couples therapy. Standard approaches often fail us because they require at least a nominal investment in working on the relationship. This workshop will teach a protocol for offering clients a one- to five-session consultation that helps the “leaning-out” partner make a decision that has integrity for self and others, while helping the “leaning-in” partner bring his or her best self to the crisis and maximize the chance that the marriage will survive and improve.

This innovative new approach will be demonstrated with actual case videos to carefully detail the protocol for Discernment Counseling. Dr. Doherty will highlight the typical therapeutic mistakes made in working with mixed agenda couples. He will offer extensive examples of how to effectively structure this process, showing couples who decide to work on the marriage versus those who move directly to divorce.


In this workshop, you will learn how to:

  • Engage the leaning-out partner who is ambivalent about any counseling process as well as the leaning-in partner, without colluding to change the other’s mind
  • Identify the common mistakes therapists make in working with mixed agenda couples (one leaning out of the relationship and the other wanting to save it)
  • Identify recent research findings on the openness of couples in the divorce process to considering the option of reconciliation
  • Discuss a protocol for working with partners together & separately on how to proceed with marital reconciliation or divorce

William Doherty is a master couples therapist, speaker, trainer, researcher, educator, and community organizer. He is Professor of and Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program and Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota. A sought after speaker for both therapists and lay audiences, he is author of 13 books on families and family therapy, including Soul Searching, Take Back Your Marriage, and Take Back Your Kids. He cofounded the Doherty Relationship Institute to spread training in Discernment Counseling to therapists, mediators, and family lawyers.