couple kissing at a couple retreat in California for couples therapy
There is no law against anyone saying they conduct a "couples retreat" in California."
But if I'm in the chair, and someone is going to pull my teeth, I'd like to know that somebody, somewhere  trained him or her as a dentist. Moreso if it's my intimate relationship.

Use my guidelines to choose a great couple retreat in California for couples therapy

It's a confusing panorama of choices when you search "couple retreat California." Some are simply romantic spots offering you an unforgettable vacation in Big Sur or Sonoma. This are the "getaway ' type couples retreat with secluded beaches, quaint seaside villages, and breathtaking island scenery. These are wonderful places to "get in the mood" for love.

But what if you've had too many vacations in idyllic locations, only to fight instead of feeling romantic?

Then you'll need a different type of couple retreat: a couples therapy retreats to transform your bond into one worth enjoying that great Californian escape.

Instead of choosing simply picaresque beaches or breathtaking vistas, look for skilled and licensed professionals as well. Fina as clinical get-away, choose based on objective criteria. Be a wise consumer. We've compiled a list of the "hard to find" best weekend therapy intensives in the state of California, both in northern California and southern California below.  

We've included both group California couples retreats and intensive couples therapy retreats in California that are both harder to find and require advanced clinical training in skilled couples therapy. We've broken them down by category, to help you search easily.

I've outlined Three Questions and Four Criteria you can use to cut through the noise and find the right fit.

Very few that meet my FOUR STRICT CRITERIA.

Three Questions To Ask Yourself to Select the Right Couple Retreat California

1.  "Do I want my Couples Retreat CA to be a private retreat? Or should it be a group experience?

That decision will create focus. I'll review both types of options here. Group retreats are less expensive, usually costing between $500-$800 per couple, but offer general information with group exercises. Most do not require personal disclosure, however. Private couple retreat California are expensive and cost-wise are all over the map. They can range from $3000 to as much as $8500 for a weekend. These are targeted help change your marriage.

2.  "Do I want a religious or spiritual retreat or one that has spirituality as a central component?”

If you are looking for a religiously based or spiritually based retreat, there are many talented religious trainers who advertise just this type of group experience. It’s perfect for many couples. There are reputable ones to choose from.

You will find a Group Couples Retreat California run by "Distressed-to-Best" couples facilitators - couples that have, themselves, been through the program and turned things around. They can be both educational, religiously inspirational, and entertaining.

 There are religious programs like The Retrouvaille Program, originally a Catholic program, now invites any couples to attend. You must, however, be married. Another couple retreat in California are run by Pastors. Scott River Lodge is one such Pastor-led Retreat holding a Couples Retreat in California.

Advanced Tip:  Some religious retreats require you to be legally married or heterosexual. Be sure to ask directly if this is a requirement.

On the other hand, some couples prefer to not have any mention of spiritual growth during their weekend.

One Salon article called: “My Escape from Marriage Retreat Hell” was written by a couple who went to a retreat that advertised itself as “ecumenical,” but found it quite biased.

Be sure to ask questions about whether prayers, or spiritual or religious service will be a part of your California couples retreat, to be sure it’s a good fit for your family.

3.  "Do I want this Californian Couples Retreat primarily to have fun, for learning, or to get therapeutic help?"

If you are looking for a group couples retreat in California, your second question is the "fun factor," versus whether you're expecting serious work. If you're looking for a package of yoga, massage, and meditation, or one with group games and a little advice tossed in, that will be quite a distinct set of experiences for you than if you both need to do some serious therapeutic repair of your relationship. 

Couples Retreat California:  
Private Marriage Retreats & Couples Therapy Retreats


  1.  LICENSING:  They have to be licensed in California and conduct their Couples Retreats IN California. Any Board of Behavior Sciences professional license will do. If an organization, they insist on qualifications.
  2. TRAINING:  They have to say what level of training they have in any science- or evidence-based work. More is better. Certification is even better. Exceptions are made for professionals who've moved our field of couples therapy forward. (If you wrote the book, you don't have to take the test...)
  3. PRACTICE:  They have to regularly conduct Couples Retreats. Just saying:  "I'll do it if someone asks..." isn't sufficient.
  4. WEBSITE:  You have a working website where all this information can be found. It's the 21st century folks.

You may not find these clinical California Couples Retreats on review sites or even on the first 10 pages of Google. And despite being in the "Google Graveyard" they are run by qualified clinicians with advanced training from Science-based Institutes devoted to helping couples.

Disclosure:  My Clinical Team at Couples Therapy Inc. conducts a Couples Retreat California and we show up in top search engine results and reputable review sites...These professionals are included. 

Why do I bother telling you about my competition?

First, there are few of them. And believe me, I look. My FOUR CRITERIA are tough, but reasonable.

The good ones, my competitors, do great work and should be acknowledged. Most therapists who are well-trained suck at marketing. And they do it very, very badly.

Which is not to say they are terrible therapists, just that they are terrible marketers of their fine clinical work. Put in "Couples Retreat California" in a search engine. Chances are, you won't find them easily.

I think that's a shame.

I call these therapists my "Worthy Competitors," and if they're doing everything right, I'm helping them to share the limelight:  Right here, on this page.

They don't pay me to do it. In fact, I have to get around to telling them they're here, because most of them won't know otherwise. They're too busy helping couples!

It's not an ad disguised as an article.

I really have something to say.

A. Private Retreats

"The key element for a therapy-oriented couples retreat offered in California are the therapist's credentials, pure and simple. You're entrusting your family's future to this person. Choose wisely."

Four criteria for Facilitating Private Couples Therapy Retreats:

1.   "Do you have a license to practice behavioral medicine in California?

(Meaning: a psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor...)

Ask them for their profession and license number. Then look it up here:


It's grueling to get a license to practice psychotherapy in California. I know, I recently got one. And even being a psychologist licensed for decades in another state, I found it a long, tough slog.

Two high-ranking review sites list what they claim are "The BEST Marriage Retreats", but most of the leaders on their lists had no licenses!

Don't rely on the website. If they list their license number, look it up. If they don't list it, ask them for it, and then look it up.

Advanced Tip:  Not all doctors of psychology are allowed to practice behavioral health in the state of California. Many are research psychologists, professors, authors, educators, etc.

Several other couples retreat facilitators specified that they had licenses in other states but didn't mention a California license. One only had an expired MFT Intern's license! I kid you not!

You should be fully informed whether a retreat facilitator you are looking at can help your marriage, based upon objective criteria such as a valid California license to practice behavioral health. "Marriage Retreats" are not a protected title, like "psychologist" or "counseling." That's a huge loophole in the law because anyone can and do claim that they hold private couples retreats which have healing properties. 

But my argument is simple: If you claim to have the power to "heal" or "transform" my marriage, let me know if you are legally able to practice counseling or psychotherapy in the State of California. Make that clear. Then let me, as the consumer,  decide if you have a valid basis for your claim.

2.  "Do you have specialized training in Couples Therapy? Will this Couples Retreat be evidence-based work?"

As challenging as it may be to attain a license to practice in California, it's not sufficient.

To develop real expertise in conducting couples therapy, you need more specialized training.

In a state abundant with trained psychotherapists, there were remarkably slim pickings of those who conduct California couples retreats after searching the top ten pages of Google.

Because it's impossible to know what "trained in X model" means, I skipped over anyone who didn't specify a particular level of training such as: "Completed Externship in EFT" or "Completed Levels I & II in Gottman."

With slightly over 30 certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists in California listed on the Gottman site and a bit over 100 therapists listed who have certification in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, I was convinced I'd find many private couples retreats offered in California.

Other than the ones offered through Couples Therapy Inc., I found very few.

Advanced Tip:  Gottman Method Couples Therapist often refer to their intensives as "Marathon Therapy."  But not everyone offering "Marathon Therapy" is certified as a Gottman Couples Therapist.

3.  "Do you have experience doing Couples Retreats in California or is it a "Me Too" add-on?"

Practice makes perfect. Without clinical skills and trainings, you can do these California Couples Retreats for a century and still do them poorly. There's a learning curve to get skilled at this unique way of providing couples therapy. This is true even if you are good at practicing weekly couples therapy. It's one of the reasons my new clinicians offer lower rates for the first six months after they join Couples Therapy Inc.

4. "Do you have a website where I can read about your Couples Retreats California?

Sorry, but currently if you don't have a website, you can't easily be found. If you don't need a website, chances are you are so busy with referral business that you have no openings.

Either way, you must have a website to meet my criterion.

My List of Hard-to-Find Science-Trained Couples Retreats in California

It's rewarding to find that so many of the "hard to find" science-based practitioners who conduct couples retreats in California are now ranking in the search engines. It's a recognition that is well deserved. Still, a few aren't getting acknowledgement for the great work they do.  Here they are*:


Couples Therapy Certifications

Jenny Fang, M.S., AMFT (CA #93959)
Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County)

Couples Therapy Inc.

Advanced Training in the Gottman Method;
Externship in Emotionally-focused Couples Therapy;
The Developmental Model Level I Training.
Prepare-Enrich Inventory Counselor Certification

Havi Kligfeld, LCSW (CA# 27171)
Beverly Hills/Hollywood (Los Angeles County)

Couples Therapy Inc.

Advanced Training in the Gottman Method; Ackerman Institute 4-year Externship;. Attended Columbia and Brandeis. 

Dr. Kathy McMahon Psy.D.
Lic. Psychologist (CA# 29205)

Gottman Certified Couples Therapist;
Sex Therapist;
Advanced Training in Emotionally-Focused Couples; Developmental Model Levels I & II and Trainer; Discernment Counseling

Dr. Mark Schwartz, Sc.D., LMFT

Lori Galperin, MSW

Marriage Therapy Institute/ Harmony Place - Monterey (Monterey County)

Sex Therapy: Trained by Masters & Johnson directly. Later ran their Institute.

I trained with Lori in sexual trauma decades ago. She knows her stuff.

Aly Makena, LMFT (#53820)
Quincy, CA (Plumas County)

Rethink Industries

Advanced Training in the Gottman Method

None of this is to suggest that you must have a license to hold a Couples Retreat in California. 

There is no law against anyone saying they conduct "Couples Retreat California."

Anyone with aspiration and business acumen who has attended a "personal development seminar" or is moved by a flash of insight can develop and offer a proprietary, interactive program and call it a couples retreat. They can become self-proclaimed program facilitators creating and scheduling activities and exercises to help you to "rewrite your story."

It's interesting to have your "Angel Guide" promise to "hold you at a higher vibration" until you're able to get there yourself. Or remain in a mystical "field of resonance for five days" and be "permanently life-altered."

But if I'm in the chair, and someone is going to pull my teeth, I'd like to know that somebody, somewhere trained him/her as a dentist.

All of this is available to you at a Couples Retreat in California!

Do you have an obligation to tell your potential clients that you aren't licensed to practice as a behavioral health professional when they come to you for help with a troubled marriage?

Couples Retreat California:

B.  Group Retreats

Want a Fun Couples Retreat in California?

If you're looking for a package of massage and margaritas, with a little advice or couples games tossed in, that will be quite a diverse set of experiences...

"HIGH FUN FACTOR" IN Couples Retreat California

A high "fun factor" couples retreat won't usually be run by people clinically trained, and that should be less of a consideration for you.Your hosts can be yogis, TV celebrities, motivational coaches, spiritual guides, fitness experts, "Angel Guides" or those in business development or nursing. You want it to be fun, but you also want to know that there is some organization, structure, and planning to maximize your enjoyment. Or if not, this retreat is qualified, by your particular standards, to endow you with spiritual teachings, inner wisdom, authentic happiness, or a healthier body.

"Retreats" also means pure "getaway." 

Look for luxury accommodations, captivating landscapes and top-shelf yoga teachers, fitness trainers, meditators, masseurs, and food to enrich the body and soul.


"Low" doesn't mean "no" fun. It just means that's not the sole focus. Both workshops listed below explain the science of couples therapy. My Team Members offer both.

For example The Art & SCIENCE of Love Weekend Couples Workshops held in Corte Madera, Marin is held by a licensed professional Timothy West, Ph.D., MFT. For under $700,  you'll get a wonderful group introduction to the science of intimate relationships (40 years in the making!), great handout materials, and a weekend that will put you in a solid position to stop there or practice the techniques in a more structured clinical setting later.

A second fabulous option is a Hold Me Tight Workshop, this one held in San Francisco, Tiburon, or Big Sur, by licensed therapists Dr. Sam Jinich and Dr. Michelle Gannon. Sam is a Certified Trainer, Supervisor and Therapist in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Michelle is a Certified Supervisor and Therapist. For $750, you'll get another opportunity to really examine your attachment to one another. This work is truly evidence-based studying couples for decades.

Advanced Tip:  If the agency or practitioner is offering a psycho-educational retreat, ask them to send you an outline of the goals and objectives of their training, as well as a breakdown of activities. This should be readily available to you.

Preparing for a Science-oriented Group Retreat

Here are a few books you can read:

  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman (1999) is a great introduction to the Gottman Method and a preview of coming attractions in your workshop.
  • Hold Me Tight or Love Sense by Sue Johnson (2008, 2013) are also smart choices if you're considering an EFT (Emotionally-focused Couples Therapy) weekend.

These locations or dates don't work? 

See a Complete List of EFT workshops HERE and a complete list of workshops for Art and Science of Love HERE.

For Christian-based programs, ask about books or bible passages they'd suggest studying.

I have no doubt that it's possible for lay people to do a competent job at a whole host of healing arts. But that is your choice to make. Even as a skilled clinician looking specifically for credentials, it was incredibly hard to tell reading my competitor's websites who had them and who didn't...